James Sowole in Abeokuta
A group of lawyers, under the aegis of Concerned Indigenes of Ogun State (CIOS) yesterday, gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a six-day ultimatum to review the declaration of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dapo Abiodun as the winner of Saturday’s election in the state.
The group issued the ultimatum in an open petition to INEC, saying the declaration of Abiodun was against the requirements and provisions of the Electoral Act.
The petition of the group coincided with the protest led by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Hon Ladi Adebutu, to the INEC Headquarters in Ogun State, over the declaration of Abiodun, as the winner of the poll.
The protesters, marched from the PDP State Secretariat to submit a petition, demanding re-run elections at polling units where elections were cancelled on Saturday.
The protesters who were chanting anti-INEC songs were armed with placards with inscriptions such as: “INEC should save our democracy”, “INEC betrayed the people of Ogun”, “Electoral fraud will not stand”, INEC should respect people’s wish”, “INEC should stop being biased” and “Ogun election was inconclusive, INEC correct yourself”, among others.
But, the protesters were denied access into INEC by heavily armed security operatives comprising men of the Nigerian Army, the Police and the Nigeria Securiry and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
Addressing journalists at the entrance of the INEC office, Adebutu insisted that, they would not leave until officials of the electoral commission attend to them.
Adebutu said the party had submitted several protest letters to the commission demanding the review of the results of the Saturday’s election and re-run where elections were either cancelled or disrupted.
He said, it was regrettable that security agencies were being used against the wish of the people, warning that the development could degenerate into another #Endsars protest.
Adebutu said, “We are here to protest, but unfortunately we have been confronted by the Nigerian Army, shooting sporadically to the air, in the hope that they will disperse us, but we are resolute, we are going to stay here until we are addressed by officials of INEC.
“Our contention is that the measures by which other states have been treated and they are allowed to have venoms, Ogun State should be measured in the same vein.
“Adamawa had run-off, similarly, Kebbi had run-off, why is Ogun State being denied run-off? We are not particular about whatever interest is guiding this, we are only asking for our rights.
“We have submitted several letters protesting this decision and we are asking that these gentlemen allow us access to INEC to submit an additional letter, but unfortunately we don’t understand what is happening, rather than allow us access, they are shooting sporadically in the air in the hope of scaring us away and we are not going to be scared.
“This is our fundamental human right …a democratic process, please beg them we don’t want another #Endsars, we don’t want another bloodshed in Ogun State, please beg them for us. It is our right that we should protest and exercise our right.”
Also addressing journalists in Abeokuta, the coordinator of the lawyers’ group, Femi Oniyide, alleged that, the election was fraught with violence, manipulation and irregularities.
According to him, election results from 100 polling units in 14 local government areas of the state were either cancelled or election not held due to violence and malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS).
He alleged that, “31,000 voters were disenfranchised due to violence, ballot box snatching and burning of ballot papers with non-use of BVAS.”
Oniyide said, the State Returning Officer, Prof. Kayode Adebowale, acted with impunity by not obeying the law guiding the declaration of a candidate as the winner of an election.
He said he margin between the votes of the APC candidate and the voters disenfranchised, “through cancellation is so huge and should not have been overlooked by the presiding officer.”
He said, the Returning Officer should have declared the election inconclusive in line with Section 24 subsections 3, 4 and 5 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Oniyide said, “We demand by this open petition, that INEC should within six days from today, the 21st of March, 2023 review the ultra vires declaration and return of Professor Kayode Adebowale, the Returning Officer in the governorship election of Ogun State made on Sunday, the 19th of March, 2023 against the requirements and provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
“This brazen act of impunity by the Returning Officer must not be allowed to stay. We must not let the present mantra in our election vocabulary of ‘Go to Court’ become a revolving evil genie that may truncate our hard earned democracy.
“Due process must be followed in that fairness and justice must be seen to be done on the part of INEC, before our people lose trust in our democracy.
“We hereby plead with INEC not to allow politicians destroy our democracy and our judiciary. We cannot afford to put our judges at the brutish end of our election process.”