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The World Moves against Nigeria’s Tainted Polls

The World Moves against Nigeria’s Tainted Polls

•US, EU, AU, ECOWAS, Commonwealth condemn lack of transparency by INEC 

•PDP, LP, two others stage walkout, more results come in 

•Collation process can only be reviewed after exercise, says Yakubu

•IG warns parties, candidates, others against inciting violence  

•Obi breaks record, Tinubu lu’le in Lagos

Kingsley Nwezeh, Adedayo Akinwale, Emameh Gabriel in Abuja and Segun James in Lagos

Forty-eight hours after the presidential and National Assembly elections ended in many parts of the country, there is palpable anxiety amongst the people as criticisms by by the United States, European Union, Common Wealth and  international observer groups trail the conduct of the exercise amid allegations of widespread of  irregularities, rigging and manipulations of the results.

For instance, yesterday, observers from the United States of America (US), the European Union (EU), African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Commonwealth, all noted the irregularities in the polls.

The International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) Joint Election Observation Mission, noted that inadequate communication and lack of transparency by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) created confusion and eroded voters’ trust in the process.

Although more results came in last night, pointing in the direction of a likely winner of the presidential election, agents of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Dino Melaye, his Labour Party counterpart, Hon. Umar Farouk Ibrahim, Action Peoples Party (APP), Chinemelo Ubah and the African Democratic Congress (ADC), yesterday, staged a walkout at the National Collation Centre in Abuja, alleging that the electoral process was flawed.

But, some other parties like the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Action Alliance (AA) dissociated themselves from what described as a charade.

INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, however said the process could only be reviewed after the exercise had been concluded.

This nonetheless, Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, yesterday, made history after he defeated his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart in his Lagos base.

The IRI and NDI in their preliminary statement on the Presidential and National Assembly elections, presented in Abuja by their leader, and former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda, said despite the much-needed reforms to the Electoral Act 2022, the election fell well short of Nigerian citizens’ reasonable expectations.

The foreign observers on the Nigeria 2023 International Election Observation Mission also urged the international community to sanction perpetrators of electoral violence in the ongoing general election in Nigeria.

Those who spoke on the occasion included, Former President of the Republic of Malawi, who is the head of the delegation, Banda, and Ambassador Mark Green, who is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Woodrow Wilson, an International Center for Scholars.

Other speakers included, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, a  former Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State; and an IRI Board Member, Constance Berry Newman, who was a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

They also included NDI Board Member, who is an American political leader, lawyer/ voting rights activist, Stacey Abrams and IRI Board Member, Dana White, a foreign policy and communications advisor.

Banda said, “The delegation observed that late opening of polling locations and logistical failures created tensions and the secrecy of the ballot was compromised in some polling units given overcrowding. At the close of the polls, challenges with the electronic transfer of results and their upload to a public portal in a timely manner, undermined citizen confidence at a crucial moment of the process.

“Moreover, inadequate communication and lack of transparency by INEC about their cause and extent created confusion and eroded voters’ trust in the process.

“The combined effect of these problems disenfranchised Nigerian voters in many areas, although the scope and scale is currently unknown. Despite these issues, Nigerians once again demonstrated their commitment to the democratic process.

“Voters displayed extraordinary resilience and resolve to have their voices heard through the ballot, and INEC administered a nationwide election according to the electoral calendar for the first time in the country’s recent history.”

“As the nation awaits the results of the February 25 polls and the Nigerian people prepare for upcoming gubernatorial elections, we urge political actors and their supporters to remain calm and exercise restraint.

‘The mission encourages INEC, the government, political actors and civil society to redouble their efforts to deliver on citizen expectations for transparent and inclusive elections, and to ensure that electoral outcomes are a credible expression of the voters’ will.”

On the other hand, Commonwealth observers yesterday stated that the country’s elections were, “largely peaceful,” despite administrative and logistical hurdles at many polling units.

Chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, delivered his team’s preliminary assessment of the electoral process at a press conference in Abuja, saying Nigerians were largely accorded the right to vote.

Delivering the group’s preliminary assessment, he noted that as voting hours extended into the night due to late openings, some polling units were ill-equipped with proper lighting to facilitate voting and counting in the dark.

Considering the challenges, he encouraged the electoral commission to conduct a thorough post-election review of the electoral process to draw lessons and consider setting up appropriate mechanisms to implement the recommendations of observers.

The chairperson also noted an improvement with the enactment of a new Electoral Act in 2022, which gave the electoral commission more autonomy, legal backing for the use of electronic accreditation of voters and frameworks for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the elections, among other things.

“We congratulate all Nigerians for their determination, patience and resilience displayed throughout the electoral process. We call on all those with grievances to address disputes through prescribed legal channels,” Mbeki said.

In her preliminary report, the EU, stated that, “Nigerians went to the polls in highly anticipated presidential and National Assembly elections that INEC kept on schedule despite a volatile and challenging environment. Fundamental freedoms of assembly and movement were largely respected, yet the full enjoyment of the latter was impeded by insufficient planning, insecurity and the prevailing Naira and fuel shortages.

“Abuse of incumbency by various political office holders distorted the playing field and there were widespread allegations of vote buying. Media provided an extensive coverage of the three leading campaigns, while disinformation interfered with voters’ right to make an informed choice on election day. The EU EOM is continuing its observation of the ongoing collation and tabulation of results throughout the country.

“INEC’s operational capacity was hampered by the ongoing fuel and Naira shortage. Insecurity prevented it from accessing some Local Government Areas (LGAs), notably in the South. Attacks on INEC premises, including just days before polling, hindered preparations in affected areas, while instilling fear in voters.

“Overall, stakeholders had expressed confidence in INEC’s independence, professionalism, and voter information efforts, but this decreased ahead of elections. INEC lacked efficient planning and transparency during critical stages of the electoral process, while on election day trust in INEC was seen to further reduce due to delayed polling processes and information gaps related to much anticipated access to results on its Results Viewing Portal (IReV).

PDP, Labour Party, Others Fault Process, Stage Walkout

Melaye had earlier observed that the result of Ekiti State presidential election presented on Sunday was characterised by over voting.

Melaye and other party agents, however, demanded the cancellation of the Ekiti result and also asked INEC to show transmitted results state-by-state on the screen for all to see.

He emphasised that if the electoral body had transmitted the election results in line with the Electoral Act, political parties would have accessed the results on the commission’s portal.

But the INEC boss, Yakubu, explained that if the total number of votes cast and the number of accredited voters were compared, the only complaint would have been that of under voting.

His words: “Towards the end of the spreadsheet, we provided three columns. The first column is total valid votes and that is 308,171; Total rejected votes, 6,301; Total votes cast, 314,472, which is actually lower than 315,000 058. Let me recap. Total number of accredited voters 315, 058. Total votes cast – both valid and invalid, 314,472. There is no over voting.

“I repeat myself once again for clarity. If there is any figure different from what I have presented, and what came from the manual forms completed by the state collation officer for the presidential election, please discountenance that figure. It did not emanate from the commission.

“I saw some postings on social media to the effect that the election result was published on the 20th of February, five days ahead of the election. They took the results presented yesterday (Sunday) and took the total number of registered voters for Ekiti and concluded that the results were prepared several days before the election.

“All Nigerians will bear witness that it is this hall we presented the hard copies of the total number of registered voters in Nigeria on state by state basis and then the number of PVC collected. And that information as we speak is on the Commission’s website.

“So if anybody is trying to be clever by half by taking figures from somewhere and saying all these results were published, or released ahead of the election, that one can only pass for fake news. And I’m sure that we are responsible citizens not to fall for fake news.

“So, my first response is that for the election results presented for equities, there was no over-voting. Over-voting means the total number of votes cast is higher than the number of accredited voters. The number of accredited voters is in this particular case higher than the total number of votes cast,” he explained.

On whether what transpired at the polling units and what was uploaded or ought to have been uploaded to the IReV portal corresponded, the INEC chairman expressed satisfaction that the figures on this spreadsheet emanated from the process that transpired at the polling units.

Yakubu said the polling units were the only places where citizens voted, saying whatever was being done thereafter, was just a collation of results.

He added: “We have provided the votes scored by each political party. However, if any political party believes that the figures they have from the hard copies of the results, given by their polling agents at the level of collation, that if figures are inconsistent with what has been provided on the spreadsheet that we projected yesterday, that political party should forward the information to the commission, so that we can speak on the basis of facts.”

The chairman said while the electoral body was empowered by law to review results, he said the power was contingent upon one procedure – the process has to be concluded first before it would be reviewed.

“And to assure political parties that any evidence that you have of any alleged wrongdoing, at any level of the process, whether it is at the polling unit or collation level, please forward this information and I promise you as soon as the process is concluded, we will then do the review, as provided by law. On this note. I beg you, for us to proceed with the process,” he submitted.

Dissatisfied with Yakubu’s explanation, Melaye and three others staged a walkout, and addressed journalists afterwards, saying they were not at the collation centre to rubber stamp the fraud that had been perpetrated, because there was no result on the server.

His words: “We party agents, having observed that the national chairman of INEC is determined to rig the election by making sure that results are not uploaded by vehemently making a presentation that makes us look as if we are all here to rubber stamp the fraud. We are saying that we are not here to rubber stamp the electoral fraud that has been prepared by INEC and APC.

“He is now saying we should wait for the process to be completed, that there will be a review knowing full well that after the announcement, there can’t be any review. So, we are completely dissociating ourselves and that’s why we staged a walkout to express the unfortunate politicisation and commercialisation of our electoral process.

“We are saying INEC is compromised. APC has influenced INEC and we can see results are being changed. We have records of where elections did not take place and results are being prepared. We have records of where the BVAS were not used and results have been pronounced. What is difficult in the chairman to display the uploaded results so that we can compare it with that which is made by the state returning officers.

“They cannot upload results. They cannot show us the uploaded results because they know that what they are going to upload will be at variance with what will be presented to Nigerians. The electoral process has been rigged and we are disassociating ourselves from it.

“Our resolution is that the entire process be canceled. We are saying that the system has been compromised. INEC is compromised, we are saying the entire process be canceled.”

On his part,  the National Secretary of Labour Party, Umar Farooq Ibrahim, said the party has reliable evidence that BVAS machines were not used and in places where they were used, they were compromised.

He said, “We have aired our observations to the National Chairman of INEC and he has refused to listen to us. When we make observations, he wants us to accept the results that came from the collation center at various state.

“We do not agree with that. And we have empirical evidence that we have our agents, who have observed and they have informed us reliably that the BVAS machines have not been used, where they are used and where they are used they were compromised.

“And the results of the BVAS machine have not been uploaded to the server and we have observed on Saturday around the hour of 2pm. The portal has gone down…and he wants to us to accept what they are presenting here. And so on. The issue is the system truthfully being used.”

Relatedly, the Labour Party has said President Muhammadu Bubari and Yakubu, have failed in their promise to conduct a free and credible elections.

The party has therefore called on INEC to halt the announcement of election results and stick to the rules of engagement for the sake of national peace and unity.

Speaking at a press conference by the Director General of its Presidential Campaigns Council, Akin Osuntokun, in Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, the party warned that it should not be held responsible when Nigerians take to the street to protest against the outcome of the elections.

“The President promised Nigerians free and fair elections with the passage of the new Electoral Act and indeed has repeated this promise multiple times.

“The INEC Chairman also came before Nigerians and the Global community to promise free and fair elections and severally reiterated its readiness to conduct the elections.

“What has become glaring is that none of these promises have been kept. All the promises made about deploying a fail-safe system anchored on BVAS were broken,” Osuntokun said.

Consequently, the party has called “on INEC to suspend further announcement of the results, and follow its own guidelines or completely cancel the entire election and make plans for another election with strict compliance with the stipulated laws and guidelines.”

On his part, Ubah of APP said what they had been trying to do was for INEC to redeem itself, insisting also that the process was not transparent.

But, about 13 political parties had dissociated themselves from the walkout staged by the PDP and three other parties. The political parties insisted they were not part of the charade and as such were not pulling out of the collation process.

Some of the parties were Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Young Peoples Party (YPP), APC, New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Action Alliance (AA), Accord party, National Rescue Movement (NRM) and Boot Party.

The APC agent, Babatunde Ogala said the party had confidence in the process, and “we are not part of walkout or boycott as some have done.”

Peter Obi Floors Tinubu in Lagos, Wins Big

In the most shocking outing, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, defeated the strong man of Lagos politics, Bola Ahmed Tinubu in his Lagos State.

Obi won in nine local governments to defeat Tinubu and win the state.

The Labour Party candidate scored 582,454 votes to defeat Tinubu.

It was a major upset as Lagos had hitherto remained under the control of Tinubu since 1999.

Giving the total votes cast, the collation officer, Prof Adenike Oladiji, the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, said the LP candidate got 582,454 while APC got 572,606.

The total valid votes were 1,271,451 while the rejected votes were 64,278. Total votes cast was 1,335,729.

George: INEC’s Claim on Slow Results Transmission Shameful

A former Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, has berated INEC and its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu over claims that the transmission of votes to its server was slow, saying it would be disgraceful to go back to the dark age.

The PDP chieftain noted that, “It is the most despicable shameful act, after the certification of the veracity of the BVAS.”

He explained that such a claim by INEC was a way of taking the country back to the period of misery, when elections results were manipulated between the polling units and the collation centers.

While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for his boldness to getting things right by initiating and signing the electoral bill into law, George stated the director of ICT in INEC should be sacked.

He therefore called on the international community and observers on ground, monitoring this election, to rise and condemn the alleged self-destructive move.

IG Warns Parties, Candidates, Others against Inciting Violence

The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, yesterday, read the riot act to political parties, presidential candidates of the parties and their supporters to desist from inciting violence as INEC continued with the collation of election results.

A statement by the Police Spokesman and Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the warning was in furtherance of “the close monitoring of the ongoing 2023 electoral exercise and consequent upon a series of intelligence reports, and high expectations from all angles.

“The Nigeria Police Force has deemed it necessary to charge presidential candidates of all political parties, most especially APC, PDP, LP and NNPP, to caution their party stalwarts and supporters to avoid making inciting comments capable of unnecessarily heating up the polity and creating undue excitement amongst the electorate and the general populace in the country.

“The NPF, having assessed the trend of scaled-up expectations and psychological projections on the ongoing electoral process viz-a-viz collation of results, charges all presidential candidates, as leading and respected figures in their respective political parties, to seize the opportunity of this waiting period to emphasise the rule of law, respect for the constitution, and constituted authority amongst their supporters, as we all owe a duty to ensure that the nation does not fall into anarchy on the basis of interests and sentiments,” it said.

The police high command further warned against mounting undue pressure on the electoral process and INEC, the body constitutionally mandated with the conduct of elections and announcement of results.

While commending the general populace and electorate for their patience thus far and largely lawful conduct around the country, “the police, therefore, encourage presidential candidates to admonish their supporters to uphold the tenets of the peace accord recently signed for the smooth conduct of the 2023 general elections.”

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