The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were at the jugular of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, weekend, accusing the electoral umpire of bias and favouritism in recent elections and planned supplementary polls.
The APC, which expressed worry over the forthcoming supplementary elections, INEC's decisions on Rivers and Bauchi states, accused INEC of favouring the PDP in its decision to continue collation of the governorship election in Bauchi, instead of holding a re-run in Tafawa Balewa Local Council as it earlier announced.
It alleged that Barr. Festus Okoye, chairman of INEC's fact-finding committee sent to Bauchi, is a friend of Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who hails from Tafawa Balewa Local Government.
In a quick respnse, Mr Okoye dismissed the APC's allegations as laughable because, as he said, he has neither met nor worked for Dogara, adding that INEC was not interested in who emerged governor in any of the states other than carrying out its constitutional duties.
Also, the PDP accused the electoral umpire of denying its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar access to election materials as ordered by the tribunal, and was working with the APC and the Presidency to frustrate it at the courts, an accusation the INEC dismissed as balderdash because it is yet to receive the court order.
This is as Dr Umar Ardo, a former special assistant to both President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar, advised the electorate in Adamawa State to boycott Saturday's supplementary election in the state, faulting the decision of the INEC to proceed with the exercise in spite of a court order to the contrary.
How INEC is favouring PDP in Bauchi - APC
In a lengthy statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the APC berated INEC as well as the PDP for what it described as an unholy alliance between both bodies regarding next Saturday's supplementary elections as well as the commission's decision on Bauchi and Rivers states.
"The electoral process was suspended in Rivers State in a very fraudulent circumstance," the party also added.
On the supplementary elections, APC listed its concerns about the various states where the exercise would hold.
On Benue, the APC claimed that its candidate, Emmanuel Jime, obtained the highest number of votes via the usage of the card reader but noted that "INEC declared the governorship election in Benue State inconclusive, citing an insufficient margin in votes obtained by the APC candidate, Barr. Emmanuel Jime, and the PDP candidate, Governor Samuel Ortom.
"Even though the PDP claims a bogus lead of over 81,000 votes, reports strongly established that this dodgy figure is an aggregate of 'votes' obtained by subterfuge, not from the numbers recorded by the card reader.
"There were cases in Logo, Gwer-West, Vandeikya, Guma, Buruku and Gboko Local governments where the card reader was not used. In Guma, a local government predominated by the APC, zero votes were allocated to our candidate by thugs loyal to the governor of the state, as agents of the party were chased away and election material diverted and ballot papers thumb-printed for the governorship candidate of the PDP."
In Rivers, the APC said it was concerned and deeply troubled by the "unholy alliance between Governor Nyesom Wike, PDP and INEC to prevent Rivers people from electing a candidate of their choice by imposing Wike, the PDP candidate on them.
"It was glaring that Wike was losing until INEC stepped in to halt the process apparently to save Wike from impending defeat. INEC must put a halt to this madness and brazen illegality.
"As a party that was solely at the receiving end of the killings in Rivers State, the APC believes that the proactive steps taken by security agents to checkmate a repeat of the 2015 killings and destruction, is commendable and should be applauded by all peace-loving people.
"We report that in most of the LGAs in the state, voting had concluded, results declared at the polling units and collation had begun before the abrupt suspension of the process. INEC does not have the power under our Electoral Act to suspend elections that have already been concluded.
"We suspect that INEC might be working to surreptitiously bring in cooked up results credited to Obio/Akpor LGA to skew the election in favour of Wike. We vehemently reject this anti-democratic move."
In Plateau, it said "our comfortable lead is unassailable" and urged its members, supporters and the entire Plateau electorate not to be complacent, "but remain focused as we prepare for the supplementary election that will give our performing candidate, Governor Simon Lalong a second term in office to consolidate on his first-term achievement."
In Kano, the APC said the PDP was deluding itself on its non-existent electoral chance in Nasarawa local government area, claiming that Kano will remain an APC state after the supplementary election.
The APC also boasted over its chances in Sokoto and Adamawa states re-run polls while rejecting the INEC decision on Bauchi.
INEC announced on Friday night that a new returning officer will resume the collation of the Bauchi governorship election results tomorrow. It also amended the cancelled votes in four polling units in Ningi local council from 25,330 to 2,533. The decision meant that the commission may announce the winner of the election thereafter.
INEC's Okoye is Dogara's man, says APC
"We reject INEC's decision on the governorship election results from Tafawa Balewa local government area in Bauchi State, as signed and announced by the electoral body's National Commissioner and chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye.
While the close relationship between Festus Okoye who chaired the fact-finding committee and Yakubu Dogara of the PDP is well known, hence inappropriate for the fact-finding exercise for Bauchi state, INEC has failed to adhere to the fundamental principle of fair-hearing by not inviting our agents during the hearing to ascertain the circumstances leading to the cancellation of the Tafawa Balewa local government election result.
INEC's decision is illegal as the electoral body and contravenes the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended
We reiterate that according to Nigeria's 1999 Constitution (as amended) and INEC Guidelines for 2019 General Elections, the electoral body is not empowered to reverse any decision taken at the Collation Centre by the Returning Officer appointed for that purpose.
Such decisions can only be reversed by a court of law, especially when INEC cannot approbate and reprobate.
Also, a national officer of the APC, Yekini Nabena, and the Bauchi State APC Chairman, Mr. Uba Nana, spoke in like manner.
At a press conference in Bauchi, Mr. Uba said: "The fact-finding committee chaired by Dr. Festus Okoye, the national commissioner and chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, denied fair hearing to APC as a political party whose agents were not invited during hearing of the facts leading to the cancellation of the results of Tafawa Balewa LGA. Any decision taken in violation of fair hearing is illegal, null and void."
Nana claimed that no justice can be done by the committee chairman, who is interested in the whole issues and the instant circumstances.
He said this was proved by the fact that PDP and Mr Dogara, on Facebook, pre-empted the outcome of the committee's finding before formal publication by INEC.
The APC chairman said that the decision of INEC based on the committee's report was already prayed for at the Federal High Court, Bauchi in Suit No. FHC/BAU/CS/18/2019 filed by Bala Mohammed and PDP against INEC.
"Unfortunately, the extant decision of INEC reversing the cancellation of Tafawa Balewa Results was earlier sought for but refused by the court in the said suit at interim stage. Now INEC has granted what was refused by the court of law in the interest of injustice," he said.
I've never met Dogara - Okoye
When contacted, INEC National Commissioner, Barr. Festus Okoye, denied any relationship with Speaker Yakubu Dogara, saying they had never had any dealing before.
He said: "That is very laughable. I have never met the Speaker in my life," adding that INEC has no interest in who emerges the governor of any state as its preoccupation is to deliver on its constitutional mandate.
"INEC has no interest in the outcome of the Bauchi Governorship Election. The interest of the Commission revolves around making sure that the procedures and processes leading to the declaration and return of the winners of election conforms to constitutional dictates, the law and the regulations and guidelines of the commission.
"The Reports of Investigation Committees and Fact-Finding Committees of the Commission are reports and can only become the findings and decisions of the Commission when considered and adopted by the commission.
"The Investigation Committee that considered the issues surrounding the collation of results for Tafawa Balewa Local Government interviewed the Registration Area Collation Officers, the Electoral Officer for Tafawa Balewa Local Government and located the critical documents relating to the election. APC, PDP, PRP and NNPP attended and canvassed their positions at the stakeholders meeting which was also attended by the Commissioner of Police and the State Director of DSS.
"The Investigation Committee was only charged with the responsibility of making determination on whether original and or duplicate result sheets at the Polling Units and the Registration Areas exist with which to regenerate the ones carted away and or destroyed by armed gangs during the collation process in Tafawa Balewa Local Government. APC, PDP, PRP and NNPP agents signed the results at the Polling Units and the Registration Areas.
"Moreover, the result from 7 Registration Areas out of 11 relating to Governorship election had been collated before the armed gangs disrupted the process. So, the issues were straightforward. The Commission will complete the collation process on Tuesday using original and or duplicate result sheets for Local Government Collation and that is the decision of the Commission.
"I find it out of place to respond to personal attacks and insinuations that are not backed with cogent and verifiable facts and evidence. I am 34 years post-call and the speaker of the House of Representatives is my junior.
"Other than seeing him on television, I have only seen him physically from a distance and only once in a workshop. I was never an ex-solicitor or a present solicitor to the speaker. Those making the allegation cannot produce one piece of paper I signed as a solicitor or one payment I received as a solicitor.
"It will serve the country better if people remain on issues and refrain from making wild allegations that have no substance whatsoever."
Why we didn't allow Atiku inspect election materials
Meanwhile, the INEC has clarified its decision not to allow the PDP presidential candidate inspect election materials.
Atiku headed to the court after losing the February 23 election to President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and filed an application to compel INEC to grant him access to materials used for the election and the court granted his prayer.
However, the PDP said INEC has refused to obey the ruling of the appeal court for Atiku to inspect documents and materials used for the election.
"There is a deliberate and wicked ploy by INEC, acting in cahoots with the APC to frustrate the people-backed resolve by Atiku Abubakar and the PDP to timeously file and mention our petition at the Presidential election Tribunal, and by so doing, ambush the case," Kola Ologbondiyan, spokesman of the party, said in a statement.
"It is imperative to inform Nigerians that upon obtaining the lawful order of the Court, directing INEC to forthwith, avail Atiku Abubakar and the PDP copies of all the documents and other materials used for the Presidential election, our legal team wrote to the INEC Chairman on the 11th and 12th of March 2019 respectively, causing the Order to be served on INEC and requesting access to the said documents and materials.
"Despite being served with the Order and several follow-ups, the leadership of INEC has refused to grant the PDP and Atiku Abubakar access to the materials and documents, notwithstanding the urgency of the matter.
"This action by the leadership of INEC has further exposed that it has been heavily compromised by the Buhari Presidency to rig the February 23, 2019 Presidential election and to frustrate the quest by Nigerians to reclaim the mandate from President Muhammadu Buhari and save the nation from the crisis of an illegitimate government."
The party accused the leadership of INEC and APC of seeking to frustrate the court option, seeing that "the documents and materials will expressly show that Atiku Abubakar clearly won the election by the votes directly delivered at the polling units across the country as well as expose how the commission and the Buhari Presidency manipulated the results for President Buhari."
We have not received court order - INEC
Asked to react, Rotimi Oyekanmi, spokesman of INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, told TheCable that INEC will comply with the court directive "if and when the commission receives the order."
His words: "It is common knowledge that since the declaration of the results of the presidential election, the commission has been busy with the multiple activities associated with the national assembly, governorship, state houses of assembly and federal capital territory elections.
"Only last Thursday, the commission presented certificates of return to senators-elect and House of Representatives Members-elects including PDP members. Nevertheless, the commission will comply when the due process is followed."
It's wrong for INEC to disobey court order on Adamawa re-run- Ardo
Dr Umar Ardo, in a statement, Sunday, in Abuja, Dr Ardo said: "I just read a news item that a Yola High Court has issued an order on INEC not to proceed with its March 23 scheduled rerun election in Adamawa State but the commission is ignoring the order, stating that the court lacked jurisdiction over the federal establishment and would therefore go ahead with the rerun election.
"In my opinion, if it is actually true a court indeed issued an order and INEC refused to comply then INEC is clearly at fault. It is not only wrong but is a clear path to anarchy. Because if a court of competent jurisdiction gives an order, and it is duly served, then we are all duty bound to obey, no matter how fallible that order may be. This is an irreducible element of due process of rule of law on all citizens, bodies and authorities in society. To come up with any self-interpretation of law as excuse of disobedience is simply self-serving, to say the least. The court obviously knows the provisions of the law and the extent of its jurisdictions when it gave the order. Under the Nigerian constitution, it is not for INEC nor for anyone else's for that matter, but for the court's, to interpret the law", he said.
According to him, since the electoral umpire would not respect the court order, the Adamawa electorate would do well to also boycott the exercise.
"Consequently, if indeed a court has issued an order to INEC and it is duly served, I strongly advise that INEC complies with the order if it does not want to throw our society into anarchy. INEC not complying will only further complicate issues and project the commission as pursuing a predetermined agenda. If INEC has an issue with such an order it should appeal against it within the due process of law, but to ignore it blatantly just because it doesn't agree with it is the highest act of impunity. If we all ignore and act against court orders that we don't agree with, then we'll have no society to cohabit in. I am sure neither the court nor the society would congratulate INEC for disobeying court order. That is my candid opinion and advise to the commission.
"But if INEC insist on disobeying this order then I advise all concerned political parties and the Adamawa electorate, as law abiding bodies and citizens, to boycott the exercise, not to indulge in INEC's act of impunity and allow the commission to trample the order all by itself", he stated.
Dr Ardo, who who was for several times a governorship aspirant on the platform of the PDP, was first appointed in 1999 to the office of the Vice President as Special Assistant (States and Local Government Affairs).
He was reappointed as Special Assistant (Research and Strategy) to the President and Commander-in-Chief in 2003.
Supplementary polls: Buhari won't influence, change results----Presidency
Meanwhile, the Presidency, last night, cautioned against what it described as "a lot of the hate spewing, incitement to violence and the polarizing statements by so-called political leaders."
The Presidency also said it rejected unfair and ridiculous criticisms of President Muhammadu Buhari's apparent disinterest in the upcoming elections in some states by party members who wrongfully assume that the President will abuse power by changing results to favour them.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu in Abuja, stated that past Presidents of Nigeria were known to interfere in inconclusive elections, and that it was the reason why party members appear to be upset that the same thing was not happening again in the present situation in the country.