Nigeria body calls for holding polls as scheduled

ABUJA - Nigeria's highest advisory body on Thursday said the country's elections should proceed as scheduled earlier, noting that this decision was taken after over seven hours of deliberations in capital city Abuja.

"The council, satisfied with assurances from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies about their readiness, agreed that the elections can proceed," Rochas Okorocha, the governor of the southeastern Imo State, told the media after the meeting of the National Council of States.

The National Council of States is an advisory body chaired by the incumbent President.

Its other members include past presidents, serving vice-presidents, governors, retired chief justices, security service chiefs and other important statesmen.

Tension had risen over the possibility that the council might advise against holding the elections, even as council decisions are not binding.

Some people say a decision for postponing or cancelling out the elections would serve the interests of those clamoring for poll shift.

Okorocha said, however, that the elections might not be held in some local councils, especially those now under the control of the militant Boko Haram movement in northeastern Nigeria.

INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, is expected to address the media in the coming days to officially declare his commission ready for the crucial ballot.

Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan is facing former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari in an election that is expected to be the most competitive since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.

Nigeria's main opposition party APC welcomed Thursday's decision of the National Council of States, describing it as a "triumph of the nation and its people over parochial individual and political interests."

The party had repeatedly fingered the ruling PDP and the President in the campaign for poll shift - a claim rejected by both.

"We congratulate our people for the decision of the Council of States," the party said.

"This is a sure sign that Nigerian people are ready to sacrifice to back their country from the locusts which have turned it into a barren land," Garba Shehu, a party spokesman, said in a statement.

He added that his party was heartened that a major crisis of political and constitutional nature had been averted, noting that this crisis would have made Nigeria the "laughing stock of the civilized world."

The ruling party has not reacted to this development yet, although it stated Wednesday that it was never behind the call for poll shift or the interim government, as had been alleged by the APC.

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