- Opens collation centre, says collation ongoing nationwide
•Monitoring Rivers situation closely
• PDP, CUPP accuse APC of plotting alteration of results
•Ask Atiku be declared winner
•Claim outlandish, replies ruling party
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last night postponed the commencement of announcement of results of last Saturday’s presidential election till this morning at 11, saying collation of results were still ongoing at state levels.
The postponement was announced by the commission’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at the opening of its National Collation Centre in Abuja.
The postponement heightened anxiety over the delay in the release of the results of the elections, including that of the National Assembly contest, which outcomes state resident electoral commissioners began to make public piecemeal last night.
Already the opposition parties, led by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its ally, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), have started raising eyebrows over INEC’s slow pace of release of results.
In fact, both of them have called on the electoral body to release the presidential elections results without further delay, claiming that their candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had by their reckoning, won the contest.
Specifically, CUPP alleged yesterday that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) office of INEC was working on alteration of the outcome of the presidential election in federal capital, saying the plan was to help President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) score the mandatory quarter of the votes cast. Atiku, it said, delivered a comprehensive defeat to Buhari in the nation’s seat of government.
But the ruling party responded last night that the main opposition party’s claim was outlandish and warned that the nation would be thrown into crisis.
The INEC chairman, who addressed stakeholders last night, laid down the procedures for the collation and announcement of results, explaining that while the National Assembly elections results would be announced at the senatorial and federal constituencies at the state levels, the state collation officers are expected to announce the presidential results at the state INEC offices and proceed to file them with the National Collation Center Secretariat in Abuja for final announcement by the INEC chairman, who is the returning officer for the contest.
He spelt out the guidelines and the code of conduct for representatives of the political parties at the centre.
He, however, said none of the result was available in Abuja, forcing the INEC boss to adjourn till 11a.m. today.
He said that results were still being expected from all the states of the federation, adding that after collation at the state INEC offices, results must be accompanied by state Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) and security agents to the collation centre in Abuja.
As at the time of filling this report, the commission said some state collation officers for presidential election were on their way to Abuja.
Earlier while addressing a press conference the chairman of INEC said that the commission was happy with the general peaceful and patriotic conduct of citizens in Saturday’s elections, saying Nigerians had demonstrated extra-ordinary resilience and abiding faith in democracy and the electoral process.
The electoral body reiterated its commitment to protecting the sanctity of the ballot and the integrity of the choices made by Nigerians at the polls.
Yakubu stated that the commission met late Saturday night to review the processes and challenges arising from the conduct of the elections based on reports received from the state offices nationwide as well as information harvested from its various citizens’ contact platforms.
The chairman said that the commission acknowledged that there were places where personnel and materials did not arrive on time, resulting in delays in opening of polls, but noted that the commission responded by extending the voting period to compensate for the initial loss of time.
He added that reports indicated that many citizens who would have otherwise been disenfranchised had the opportunity to vote.
The chairman also noted that in spite of the INEC’s best effort to enhance the functionality of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs), it experienced technical malfunctions in some locations, stressing that through the deployment of 8,809 Area Technical Support (RATECHS) engaged by the commission as ad hoc, many of these glitches were successfully rectified, which enabled voting to take place seamlessly in the affected PUs nationwide.
The chairman said that in areas where violence was recorded in some states, and where the commission was unable to conduct a legitimate election, it would be re-conducted in the affected areas.
Yakubu also revealed that one of the commission’s Electoral Officers (EOs) had been handed over to the police for alleged electoral infractions.
He stressed: “For our part, all election duty personnel have sworn an oath of neutrality. We have reports of possible dereliction of duty by some electoral officials in refusing to activate or deploy the SCRs, the failure to fully account for materials collected for the election, absconding from duty and a host of other infractions.
“In Imo State, one of our EOs has already been handed over to the Police. We will not tolerate violations against, or by, our own officials. The duty of upholding the choice made by Nigerians in democratic elections must never be compromised.’’
Yakubu said that INEC was also aware of incidence of intimidation, abduction, hostage-taking and violence unleashed on election officials in some states like Akwa Ibom and the burning of a vehicle conveying materials used for Saturday’s election in Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi.
“Some Youth Corps members serving as ad hoc staff were also attacked in Osun,’’ he said, disclosing that the commission received reports of voters who presented genuine PVCs read by the SCRs but were not allowed to vote because their names were not on voter register.
According to him, “We have been confronted by such a situation in one of the off-season elections conducted by the Commission. For this reason, we made a clear provision in our draft Regulations and Guidelines to allow such voters to vote.
“However, when the draft was discussed with stakeholders, the clause was rejected on the grounds that it will encourage voting by identity theft. We dropped it,” he said.
The chairman also disclosed that the commission’s attention had also been drawn to the omission of the logo of the African Action Congress (AAC) from the ballot paper for Lagos East senatorial district.
“We have checked our record and confirmed the inadvertent omission. We have contacted the Chairman of the party to acknowledge the error. The omission is inadvertent and it is one out of 23,316 nominations for elections into 1,558 constituencies,” he said.
Asked on his view about performance of the security agencies, Yakubu said it was not yet the right time to assess the performance of any institution involved in the election.
He said that he was not aware of cancellation of election result in the FCT, or anybody forcing his way to collation centre to change election result in Rivers.
PDP, CUPP Accuse APC of Plotting Alteration of Results
Meanwhile, the PDP yesterday accused Buhari and the APC of planning to alter the result of the presidential election.
The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said that intelligence available to the party showed that INEC was delaying the announcement of results following directives by the Buhari Presidency and APC, who are bent on altering the figures, from the polling centres and allocate fictitious figures for Buhari, particularly in northern states.
He stated, “Curiously, INEC server is now shut down, results are no more being transmitted and the reason is to enable the APC to inflate figures from six designated states.
“We already have reports of how APC governors in the northern states have been making desperate effort to tamper with the results of the elections in their respective states with the view to award conjured votes to President Buhari.
“In Kogi State, Governor Yahaya Bello has been making frantic moves to change results to suit APC’s intent and purposes as against the wishes of the people, expressly delivered at the polls.”
The main opposition party, therefore, called on international observers and election monitors to insist on a transparent process of transmission of results and the monitoring thereof.
Ologbondiyan said that the Minister of Transportation and the Director-General of the Buhari Campaign, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, used the military to hold an INEC official in River State, Mrs. Mary Efeturi, hostage and insisted that she would not be released until she alters the results in favour of Buhari
The PDP called on INEC chairman to note that in this age of Information Communication Technology, Nigerians already have the results as delivered at the polling centres and any attempt to alter any figure will be faced with vehement resistance.
“In delaying the announcement of the results, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu is allowing the APC to turn him into a villain and directly pitching him against the people. He should, therefore, extricate himself from the rejected APC and be on the side of the people by immediately announcing the results as already delivered at the polling units and declare, the people’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, the winner.”
Stop Delaying Election Result, Announce Atiku’s Victory, CUPP Tells INEC
The CUPP yesterday alleged that it is in possession of irrefutable evidence that some APC governors in the North-west and North-east geopolitical zones were working assiduously to inflate the number of votes scored by Buhari in those regions so as to neutralize the lead of Atiku in the other four zones.
The coalition also claimed that INEC is under serious pressure to cancel elections in areas APC lost.
In a statement issued by CUPP spokesperson, Mr. Ikenga Ugochinyere, the coalition alleged that APC almost secured the collaboration of the Nigerian Army, which had allegedly begun to give cover to its chieftains and compromised electoral officers to hold back the results from the areas and to later attempt to smuggle in the inflated results.
According to him, “Having confirmed from their situation room that the numbers do not add up and that President Buhari also failed to secure the constitutional 25% of the votes cast in each of two thirds of the states of the federation, the president and his party are mounting pressure on the Enugu State Governor and the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, including other South-east states to alter some results so as to award at least 25 per cent of the votes to the president.”
It noted that the president did not secure the 25 per cent votes in any of the states of the South-east in 2015, adding that the administration was also plotting frantically to declare the results of the FCT as inconclusive so as to order a rerun where they will use security and thugs to intimidate the people.”
The opposition parties called on the electoral commission not to cancel any results already declared where no incidents were recorded, adding that the credibility of the election must be maintained and not tarnished because of the undeserved ambition “of a man who failed woefully in office.”
CUPP also revealed that its presidential situation room had completed the compilation of polling unit result sheets and tabulation of all results and might be compelled to release these results to the public to forestall INEC from playing the games the APC is prodding them to play.
“Our candidate won in a vast majority of the almost 120,000 Polling Units across the country. We wonder how INEC would now cancel results of elections where even agents of the ruling party signed and where they lost,” it said, adding: “The attempt to foist on Nigerians an illegitimate president through inflation of electoral figures has failed.”
APC Says PDP Planning to Announce Fake Results
Meanwhile, the APC presidential campaign council has alleged that the PDP was making moves to claim victory at last Saturday’s presidential election by publishing fake results.
The Director of Strategic Communications, APC Presidential Campaign Council, Mr. Festus Keyamo, said it was aware that an emergency meeting of the main opposition party had been summoned for Monday somewhere in Abuja to map out plans on how to issue fake election results and to prepare grounds for protests.
The party accused one of the PDP campaign spokesmen, Alhaji Buba Galadima, of preempting INEC by tipping PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku as the winner.
“We call for the immediate arrest of Alhaji Buba Galadima as PDP and Atiku’s campaign perfect plans to release fake presidential results ahead of INEC; plans to mobilise hoodlums for choreographed protests,” it said.
APC alleged that the PDP has summoned emergency meeting in Abuja to announce its own version of the results of the presidential election.
The APC statement said that “top on the agenda of the PDP’s meeting is to activate the last strand of their Dubai strategies that have since collapsed like a pack of cards: they plan to release fake results of the presidential election later today ( Sunday) or early Monday morning that they claim to have compiled themselves.
“Our information is that they aim to create crises and confusion that will lead to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar claiming victory in a day or two from today ahead of the official announcement of the results by INEC.
“Then, what would follow will be some carefully choreographed protests by pockets of hoodlums in some parts of the country. The ultimate aim is to curry the sympathy of our foreign friends and push us to the Venezuela situation.”
In the same vein, the National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, in a statement accused PDP of making outlandish statements on the outcome of the presidential polls, warning the opposition to desist from actions that could precipitate crisis.