BBC Investigations, Like Premium Times Show Obi, Not Tinubu Won in Rivers Contrary to Wike’s Loud Claims

•Results from IRev in Rivers alone may not have altered outcome of presidential poll

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

Just like a recent Premium Times findings, a BBC investigation yesterday indicated that it had found evidence suggesting some results from Nigeria’s February 25 presidential election were manipulated, with significant anomalies in Rivers state, a key battleground during the poll.

The BBC stated that from its investigation into the issue, Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), won the election in that state, rather than the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, contrary to claims by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, that he worked for the victory of the former Lagos governor.

Stressing that though not sufficient to change the overall national outcome of the election, the international broadcast organisation noted that there are also questions over the identity of an election official who read out some of the unexplained results.

For the first time in a Nigerian election, BBC recalled that photographs of the polling station results sheets were published online by the electoral commission, which made it possible to add up all the polling station sheets and to compare them with the results declared at the state level.

But after adding up the voting tally sheets from over 6,000 polling stations in Rivers state, where many of the opposition complaints had been made, BBC stated that while the official result in the state gave a clear majority to  Tinubu of APC, its tally suggested that Obi of LP had actually received most votes in the state by a wide margin.

“We found an increase of just over 106,000 in Mr Tinubu’s vote in the official declaration when compared with our polling station tally – almost doubling his total in the state. In contrast, Mr Obi’s vote had fallen by over 50,000,” the report added.

However, it noted that although it searched through the election website for every single one of the 6,866 polling stations in Rivers state, it was not able to obtain results from all of them.

The BBC explained  that some were incorrectly uploaded, others were missing, even after a month from the date of polling, stressing that for about 5 per cent of polling stations, the photos of tally sheets were too blurred to read.

“ It’s reasonable to assume that the official count would have included these as they would have had the original documents,” the report stated.

In another 17 per cent, BBC said that there were no results at all. “Many of these would have been places where no voting took place due to security issues or the non-arrival of voting materials. Others had technical problems preventing officials uploading the documents,” it posited.

In terms of the biggest discrepancies, the BBC reported that two areas stood out, the first being Oyigbo local government area, where it found that the vote for Tinubu was six times larger in the officially announced results compared with the its polling station count. “Peter Obi’s votes had been cut in half,” it stated.

According to the BBC report, the second local government area where it found major discrepancies was in nearby Obio/Akpor where the official result for  Tinubu was 80,239 votes, but it counted just 17,293 votes from polling station tallies.

“The count for Mr Obi was announced officially as just 3,829 votes, but the BBC counted 74,033 votes for him on the tally sheets,” it said.

BBC said its investigation also raised doubts over the person of an Oyigbo election official, Dr Dickson Ariaga, who announced his name and that he worked for the Federal College of Education in Omoku.

While other results matched those on the collation sheet the BBC had obtained, it stated that when he reached Mr Tinubu’s APC, instead of saying 2,731 as written on our photograph of the sheet, Ariaga read out “16,630”.

“Then for Mr Obi’s party (LP) the figure changed again – instead of the 22,289 seen on the sheet, he announced “10,784”, more than halving his vote,” it stated.

Indicating that there was some mystery surrounding Ariaga, it said it sent a reporter to the Federal College of Education in Omoku, about two hours drive north of Port Harcourt, where he’d said he worked when introducing himself.

“The Deputy Provost Moses Ekpa told the BBC: “From our records, both from our payroll and from our human resources, there is no such a name in our system and we don’t know such a person.”

When its findings were put to Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it noted that Johnson Sinikiem, INEC’s regional spokesman in Port Harcourt, told the news medium that due to a “gross shortage of time and personnel” INEC had needed to take on some people without verifying their identity documents.

“If he had presented himself as a lecturer from (the college in Omoku) and it’s otherwise, then he is dishonest,” the INEC’s regional spokesperson was quoted as saying.

“We also approached INEC’s headquarters in Abuja for a response to our findings of discrepancies in the results in Rivers state. We were told that they were unable to comment due to ongoing legal challenges.

“This is just one case in one state in southern Nigeria where the evidence points to the results having been manipulated,” the BBC said.

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