The Independent National Electoral Commission recently confirmed that Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, did double registration, an offence that is sanctionable, writes Yekini Jimoh

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is in the news again and as usual, not a palatable one. The latest development followed the confirmation by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that he registered twice for voter card. At the Kogi governorship election tribunal, the governor’s Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja, standing as a witness, told the tribunal that his principal did not register to vote in Kogi, but Abuja.

However, while the three INEC workers involved had been relieved of their duties, INEC said the governor would have been prosecuted but for the immunity he currently enjoys. According to INEC’s record, Bello did his first registration in Abuja on January 30, 2011, while he did the second and illegal registration on May 22, 2017 at the Government House, Lokoja.

After the registration, the governor’s camp, in the bid to prove that the governor had succeeded in registering in Kogi State, went to town with pictures of the registration process, backed by a press release signed by the Director-General of his media team, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, explaining why the governor had to re-register in Kogi.

Fanwo said, “The governor’s efforts to transfer the card from Abuja to Kogi have not been successful hence the need to seize this golden opportunity to get registered in Kogi State. The governor has to register to be able to move his PVC to Kogi State. He urges every Kogite of the eligible age of 18 and above, who has not registered to seize this opportunity by registering in order to be able to participate in the processes that lead to the choices for who to lead or represent them.”
Bello has however denied any involvement in double registration as he appeared in one of the private television denying the INEC allegation.

A group, Kogi For Change, in a statement issued and signed by its chairman, Mallam Omeiza Yakubu, said it would take legal action in view of the illegality of Mr. Bello’s action.
“We got really concerned when we saw the picture of the Governor (Yahaya Bello) being registered by an INEC official inside his office. Is the Government House a registration centre?
“What happened to the INEC law that forbids double registration since the governor is already registered in Abuja? Then the question arises: Is the Government House the Ward or Unit of Alhaji Yahaya Bello? Was he not supposed to register in his Unit? Or is INEC going to create a special voting point for him inside his office during the next election?
“The impunity that unleashed the governor on the state is at work again and we are not going to take it lightly.

As a matter of fact we have decided as a group to take the matter to talk. It is a criminal offence to engage in double registration,” the group said. Speaking, the Senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye said if it were to be a civilised society, where leaders respect themselves and the people and where there is value, “I think the best thing is for him to resign honorably. But you know our society is such that they will always believe they can have their way by maintaining the immunity believing that after the expiration of his tenure in office, he will find a way of escaping the wrath of the law.

“Our leaders lack integrity. After the illegality has been confirmed and sacking of three INEC officials involved, he has succeeded in putting the affected INEC officials back to the labour market. There is nothing better than for him to honourably resign,” he said. A former running mate to the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the late Prince Abubakar Audu, in the last governorship election in Kogi State, Hon. James Faleke, has asked Governor Bello to resign, even as he commended INEC for confirming to the general public that the governor did double registration.

“I commend INEC for standing firm. It is unfortunate that the offender himself is not remorseful and has succeeded in making three INEC officials lose their jobs. It will serve as deterrent to others. I sympathise with the families of the three INEC staff just as I sympathise with all Kogites for suffering the senseless rulership of Yahaya Bello. This is a shame to our state; it is a shame to Kogi. In the history of Nigeria, this is the first time the illegality by a governor is affecting an ordinary citizen,” he stayed.

Faleke, therefore, advised the governor to resign honourably.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kogi State chapter, on the other hand has said PDP had been vindicated. Publicity Secretary of the party, Bode Ogunmola, noted that the governor acted illegally. “Double registration is an offence under our laws and we are happy that INEC is doing the needful now. The governor doesn’t know the law and unfortunately, he has surrounded himself with amateurs, if not, ordinarily, his Attorney General should have been able to advise him that double registration is an offence.

“Definitely he cannot be in contention in the next election. INEC declared that if not for immunity they should have gone ahead with his prosecution. Don’t worry, we are going ahead dusting our books and our legal department is up to the task and when we get to the bridge, we will tell him where he belongs.
“Normally, he wasn’t an elected governor. Nobody voted for him actually. His coming was an aberration and we have always hammered on that and now that the people are saying he should step aside, he should obey the clarion call of the people of Kogi State.

“He is getting every foot wrong. He is not paying salary, he is not paying pensioners, the only project he commissioned this year is his personal house, he has not done any other thing outside that. If you cannot carry a load why not step aside and allow people that are prepared to take over to come in and do the needful? So, we are in support of the masses calling for him to step aside and go back to his transport business,” he said.

Some legal practitioners, who spoke to THISDAY on the matter, saw the action of the governor as an affront. Samuel Idako, a lawyer, said the double registration by the governor was illegal. “By virtue of our electoral law, nobody is allowed by law to register two times or more. The law is that you registered only ones. The implication is that it’s a violation of electoral law, which by the grace of God the law will take its course by way of prosecution, because it is a criminal offence.

“However, as far as the governor of Kogi State is concerned, he is covered by immunity today. He can only be prosecuted after his tenure. He can be prosecuted after his tenure,” he reiterated.
Another lawyer in the state, Shuaibu Ibrahim, said his fate depends on what the electoral law says about double registration. “It depends on the electoral law. If the law prohibits double registration, then he could be seen to have committed a wrong under that law. It depends on the provision of the electoral law,” he said.