Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is currently replacing all the servers in its headquarters and offices in all states of the federation in a desperate bid to obliterate the actual results of the 2019 presidential election transmitted from the polling centres across the nation.
But in a swift reaction, the electoral body has described the allegation as baseless, adding that it would not engage in media war with the party.
The party in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the PDP had been well briefed on how the INEC leadership and officials of the Buhari presidency became jittery and resorted to the desperate measure, after they realised that the servers have information of Atiku Abubakar’s victory at the election.
To this end, the main opposition party insisted on forensic examination of all relevant documents and equipment used for the presidential election.
Ologbondiyan stated: “This is completely reprehensible and further exposes the culpability of INEC in the manipulation and rigging of the 2019 presidential election.
“Our party also has details of how the INEC leadership and the presidency agents procured and detailed computer experts to the commission’s offices to switch the servers, mutilate vital information in the system and attempt to erase all trails of transmitted results to the main server.
“What INEC and the Buhari presidency do not understand is that computer software and applications leave traces, signatures as well as footmark. Forensic investigation of the system will reveal the real votes transmitted from the polling centres, which show Atiku Abubakar as the winner of the election.”
The party noted that it has also been informed about how the INEC leadership, several weeks after the election, used some compromised officials of the commission to manipulate voter registers in some states by ticking names of individuals who did not participate in the presidential election, as having voted.
It noted that this was with the view to using such to cover the fictitious results it wrote for the APC, stressing that the party would continue to be at alert as it stands with Nigerians to reclaim its stolen mandate at the tribunal and no amount of manipulations by INEC would detract from this national resolve.
Reacting, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said that the commission would allow the legal process to run its full course.
He stated: “The allegation is baseless and uncalled for. The commission has maintained that it will not join issues with the PDP in the media on a petition that the party had already filed in court, in respect of the 2019 Presidential election.
“Rather than issuing press statements and addressing press conferences on the same petition on a daily basis, the PDP should allow the legal process to run its full course.”
Election Monitors Show How INEC Aided Rigging
A coalition of civil society groups, under the platform of the Centre for Transparency And Advocacy (CTA), which deployed election monitors across the country for the 2019 general elections, yesterday in Abuja presented its final report, accusing some electoral officers and returning officers of collaborating with politicians to subvert the electoral process in several places.
It also tasked INEC to review the dirty role played by some of its officials especially, the returning officers and EOs, fish out the bad eggs and deal with them according to law.
But the group also reported that there were cases of RECs and INEC Returning Officers, who against all odds stood up for the right thing to be done, commending ‘’the gallantry of several State RECs who, even in the face of threats and violence, insisted on playing by the rules.’’
It said:‘’We commend the RECs of Rivers, Abia, Enugu, Bayelsa, Imo, and Akwa Ibom States for ensuring that the elections in their states were credible.”
An INEC National Commissioner, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, in company of her colleague, Alhaji Mohammed Kudu Haruna, who attended the event, however, promised to study the report, saying ‘’If you don’t work in INEC, you don’t know what the staff go through.’’
CTA said that the electoral body must come to terms with the fact that it cannot deliver credibly on its mandate if it has within the organisation a sizeable number of people working against its intentions.
‘’It must now carry out a thorough house cleaning exercise before any future election’’, the election monitoring group added.
On the collation and declaration of results at the various levels, CTA said that most of its observers reported that they were able to access the Form EC60 known as the people’s result from their respective Polling Units but were prevented from entering the Local Government Area Collation Centres by security personnel.
Overall, the group said that there were reports of malfunctioning card readers, attributing the challenges to the fact that the staff handling them did not know how to use them.
According to the report, ‘’In some cases, the battery packs up were not properly charged; they were exposed to sunlight for long periods of time and the backups were too few to go round. We had reports of the card readers failing to authenticate fingerprints after validating PVCs in some polling units.
‘’However, there were reports of ad-hoc staff having challenges using the card readers in some areas. Most of these incidences though were quickly resolved.’’
Accessing the security arrangement for the elections, CTA added that security personnel deployed to polling units were inadequate, adding that in terms of their response to incidences that occurred in their Polling Units, they were grossly inefficient.
‘’In many places, the security personnel turned a blind eye to breaches by overzealous party agents and their thugs either because they had been compromised or they feared that they would be overpowered by these agents and their thugs.
‘’Observers witnessed the active involvement of some military personnel in the disruption of elections in several Polling Units. For instance, in Akwa Ibom, police and military men overran a Polling Unit and held ad-hoc staff and observers hostage and seized their phones.
‘’In Delta state, some observers were not allowed free passage even after full identification. There were reported cases of the security personnel chasing away observers and other stakeholders at collation centres across the country.
‘’In the history of elections in the country, the level of interference of the security personnel in our elections has never been this brazen. ‘’However, we must commend some of the officers and men of the security agencies who stood out to protect Nigerians and the ballot, worthy of mention is Commissioner of Police Kano State, CP Mohammed Wakil even though he was removed from office’’, the group further reported.
The report further revealed that the politicians, their agents and thugs constituted the greatest menace in the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
It stated that from ‘’brazen acts of vote buying, violent attacks on perceived opponents, intimidation and abduction of INEC officials, snatching and destruction of ballot boxes and papers to burning up of INEC offices and electoral materials in Plateau, Anambra, AkwaI bom, Imo, Benue and Abia states, the political parties and politicians showed their desperation for power.
It further stated, ‘’The resultant losses of lives and property in such places as Lagos, Rivers, Kogi, Plateau and so on and the widespread violence that attended these were recorded by our observers as perpetrated by politicians and their political thugs.
‘’The recruitment of thugs by the political class from one part of the country to another before the elections evidenced by the arrest of young men travelling en masse at Uyo was as never seen in the history of our elections.
‘’The violence that followed the elections was as a result of the hate speeches by the political class at campaigns and the conduct some of the party primaries ended in violence.
‘’Most political party agents seen on the field did not have proper identification tags from INEC, the parties printed their own tags for their agents. It has become a recurrent problem of the political parties not following the guidelines for party agents’ accreditation.
The group, which deployed hundreds of monitors for the election monitoring said that ‘’vote buying was a sore point’’ in the participation of citizens in the elections, stating that it was a case of willing buyer (politicians) and willing seller (voter).
While leaving general prosecution of electoral offenders to the security agencies and the legal authorities, the group recommended that INEC has to show its strong determination to stop electoral offenders by robustly prosecuting members of its staff found to be involved in electoral malpractices.
‘’This will send out the signal to any staff and prospective staff members that the institution of INEC will never tolerate electoral malpractices in any form’’, the report added.
Making an introductory remark at the event, Ms Faith Nwadishi, the Acting Executive Director, CTA, said INEC proved ‘’quite independent in the way and manner it responded to the unexpected challenges throw its way by the political class.
‘’We saw how it bravely prevented the ruling party from fielding candidates in Zamfara and Rivers in its determination to follow the rules no matter whose horse is gored. Eventually, its actions were vindicated by the courts – even at the highest judicial level by the Supreme Court.
More crucially, on the ground, during election and voting day, it refused to be intimidated by threats and violence unleashed on its officials and ad-hoc staff.
‘’Indeed, INEC’s brave conduct may have saved our nation from conflagration because it was obvious that elements of the political class, including elements of the ruling class, were bent on mayhem if they didn’t get their way’’, she added.
INEC to Propose More Reforms of Electoral System
Meanwhile, INEC has said that it would review some aspects of the electoral system in the country to correct observed anomalies.
As part of its own review processes, the commission said it will carry out a comprehensive review of its processes and procedures used for the conduct of the 2019 elections beginning from May.
Speaking at the Civil Society Coalition Situation Room to review the just concluded 2019 general election, the INEC Commissioner for Information, Publicity and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, said the commission will propose far-reaching changes in the following areas: conduct of party primaries, and timeline for the disposal of pre-election matters.
According to Okoye, the commission will make proposals towards reforms as the crises and challenges arising from the conduct of party primaries have remained a sour point in the electoral process.
He also explained that the present timelines proposed for the disposal of pre-election matters have not solved the problem of certainty in the electoral process.
Okoye said that in the next four months, the commission will produce a report on the 2019 general election.
He listed the issues for review in the conduct of the elections to include deployment of personnel and materials, opening of polls, voting processes and performance of equipment; counting, collation and declaration of results, operation of the national situation room and election management and support centre; issues and challenges around violence, and the disruption of electoral process.
Others include, kidnapping of key election staff, non use of smart card readers; audit of key processes and procedures; reverse logistics; storage of election materials; addressing electoral offences; handling of election petition and review of election observation report and recommendation.
According to Okoye, following the comprehensive review of elections, the commission will work with the National Assembly and propose alterations to the constitutional and legal framework on critical issues that pose challenges to the conduct of the 2019 elections.
He said the commission will also follow closely the pronouncements and judgments of the various courts and tribunals on novel constitutional and electoral issues and incorporate them into its proposal and electoral reforms.
The Convener of Situation Room, Clement Nwankwo lamented that the 2019 elections left much to be desired in the minds of Nigerians.
He said many Nigerians would want democracy to be reflected by people making choices but that “where circumstances are contrived and where people are forced to lose the opportunity of making those choices, then democracy is endangered.
“As we speak today, our electoral system is in danger caused by those who do not want people to make choices; who do not want to get into power by the choices that people make. And as citizens of this country, we have a responsibility to pull this back and save our country,” he said.
He said the situation room called for an inquiry into what happened with the 2019 elections and correct things before the next election in 2023.