By Laleye Dipo in Minna
For the third time in three weeks, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reversed itself on the issue of who won the Agaie House of Assembly constituency election in Niger State.
The election was conducted like others by the commission on March 9, this year.
At first, the electoral body declared the election “inconclusive” and fixed March 23 for a rerun election only a week later announced that the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Yahaya Abdullahi, won the contest with 18,026 votes as against the 17,920 votes garnered by the All Progressives Congress (APC) challenger, Alhaji Abdullahi Umar.
However, the electoral commission again changed its position on Wednesday when it declined to issue the certificate of return to the “victorious” PDP candidate, Abdullahi.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Prof. Sam Egwu, defending the latest action by the commission claimed that Abdullahi, who was said to have won the election, was “declared winner under duress”.
“The winner of the Agaie State House of Assembly seat was declared under duress therefore the result cannot stand. Any aggrieved party to INEC’s latest position on the 9th March election can go to court,” Egwu said in a note of finality.
A top official of the PDP, who was at the ceremony held at the Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi International Conference Centre who did not want his name in print, expressed sadness at the action of the commission.
“You see, we have told you that the whole election is a sham. What other evidence do you need to believe us?” the source said before submitting that the party would meet “to take a decision on our next line of action”.
At the event, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello and his deputy, Alhaji Ahmad Mohammed Ketso, who were elected for a second term, were given their certificates of return by a national commissioner of the commission, Prof. Anthonia Simbine.
Egwu gave certificates of return to 25 assembly members-elect after one of those elected was not physically present and the refusal of INEC to give the document to Abdullahi who would have been the only PDP member in the 27-man house.