*Confirms THISDAY story that govs are desperate to win by all means
*Says naira redesign policy greatly reduced kidnapping
Nume Ekeghe in Lagos, Kingsley Nwezeh and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The presidency, yesterday, insisted that the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections, won by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Bola Tinubu, was a free and fair exercise despite misgivings in some quarters.
Presidential spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, who appeared on the Morning Show, an Arise News breakfast show, however, confirmed THISDAY’s lead story of yesterday that some governors were trying hard to win tomorrow’s election by all means possible, but expressed confidence in the ability of the security agencies to contain any threat to the process.
Shehu also said the raging controversy over the mode of transmitting election results was solely at the purview and liberty of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), although the commission had assured Nigeria and the world from the get-go that it would embrace the electronic transmission of results.
According to him, the presidency believed that the presidential election was free and fair and an improvement on the previous exercise with 98 per cent of Nigerians casting their votes without intimidation and oppression.
Further dwelling on the THISDAY lead story that some governors were determined to win by all means, he noted that the security situation in Nigeria had improved following the recent naira redesign, which he claimed aided in reducing kidnapping in recent times.
Reiterating that the federal government was committed to ensuring a free and fair election tomorrow, he said the security agencies were aware of the desperation of some governors and reassured the people that there would be a fair and secure election across Nigeria.
“The BVAS machine is to accredit voters before the exercise and I want to say the new equipment has done this excellently well and it has helped the country for the first time to rid the process of multiple voting and fake voters. Yes, there were glitches, because it was supposed to transmit results to the main server.
“It failed to do this not because INEC was unwilling or government didn’t want this to happen. The minister of the digital economy, Prof Isa Pantami announced 16 million attempts were made at hacking on the particular day of the election. The important thing is the integrity of the election was preserved. Therefore, we ended up with the most improved election we have had so far.
“I’m not a lawyer but from our own understanding of what INEC is supposed to do. The Electoral Act 2022 clearly says INEC has the liberty to choose the mode of transmission, therefore, it’s not by law that this transmission must be done electronically. Yes, it can be done. It’s an option but INEC doing it manually doesn’t take away from the credibility of the election,” he said.
Quarrying the disparity of his figures and what the minister said as well as the statement from INEC, which stated that, there were no attacks, he said, “I’m supposed to believe the Minister of the Nigerian government. Please, bring the two together, the minister of the digital economy and let them resolve this issue. I’m simply a spokesman for the Nigerian president. And I’m not into all of those details.
Shehu insisted that there has been a decrease in kidnapping and banditry in Nigeria as a result of the naira redesign policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), saying, “These kidnappings and all of that is going down and it is helped greatly, especially lately by the new policy by the central bank to change our currency note.”
On the gubernatorial and state assembly elections slated for this weekend, including and the security threats and possible collusion with ‘desperate politicians’ he said he knew the security agencies, having seen the developing stories knew what to do.
“On the specific issue of the election on Saturday, I do know that the law enforcement agencies would be reading THISDAY newspaper front page and they will be deciding on what to do. For the part of the president, I want to say that this government is elevated and is well above scandal or conspiracy on matters of outcomes, and processes of this election.
“The president is determined that he will bequeath the legacy of the best election ever, and we’re not disappointed so far. Going back to the last election and it has shown clearly that governors are not god in our affairs in the country. You know, it used to be assumed that when you finish being governor, you automatically walk into the Senate and take a seat there.
“About four or five of them have been shown that no, you don’t take Nigerians for granted. So, Nigerians are determined and the sense I have is that law enforcement is ready for just everyone, including people who want to share money in order to win.
“INEC has made it clear that if anyone is caught sharing cash, they will go to jail, the same day, and I hope that they act this out. So, what we need to do is give Nigerians the assurances that they need and that they just need to come out and exercise their own franchise.
“Nobody should intimidate them. Clearly, I understand and accept the fact that there is desperation on the part of some of the governors to win at all costs. But I tell you that law enforcement is ready also to ensure free and fair elections at all costs.”
Addressing alleged violence during the presidential poll, he added that there were only a few isolated cases but that the election was an improvement on previous exercises.
His words: “The talks about violence, I have seen a few of these reports and I do not deny that but to say that this election has been characterised by violence, nobody can justifiably say so. Yes, a few isolated cases but all of the things we saw were significant departures from the past.
“For this, I believe this country has every reason to be thankful to the law enforcement agencies, because they were effective and they made sure that 98, 99 per cent of Nigerians voted in a free environment without fear or any sort of intimidation.”