• Opposition party heads to tribunal in Benue
From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja, Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki and Scholastica Onyeka, Makurdi
Anger, rejection and protests against the governorship election of last Saturday has continued to spread in various parts of the country.
In Abuja, activities at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were grounded, yesterday, when protesters from Kaduna State, stormed the secretariat to demand review of the outcome of the governorship election that produced the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Uba Sani.
They equally urged the electoral umpire not to issue certificate of return to the Governor-elect until the review is completed.
In a petition signed by the protesters’ spokesperson, convener and co-convener, Edward John John Auta, Hadwyah Samuel and Bello Jallo respectively, the protesters claimed that INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) was not used as promised by the commission.
“In Kaduna State, the governorship and House of Assembly poll, as monitored by many observers, was short of a democratic process as the outcome did not reflect the choice of the people or complied substantially with the provisions of the law.
“Ahead of the 2023 general elections, INEC announced that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) would be deployed to the elections to prevent multiple voting and also ensure the results of polling units are uploaded to the IREV portal immediately after voting and collation at the polling units. It was also meant to serve as a point of reference in the event of a dispute during collation.
“Regrettably, while the results for most of the PUs were uploaded on the platform, the collation officers at all levels refused to consult the IREV portal despite numerous calls for it by opposition agents. A case in hand is the rejection of the Lere LG figures by opposition agents and call for the state’s chief collation officers to consult the INEC portal but were dismissed
“We also witnessed the arbitrary cancellation of results in strongholds of the opposition, and all efforts to draw the attention of the INEC officials to use the results already uploaded on the IREV portal to address the concerns of agents were also refused.
“Compromise by security agencies: It was also clear that the manipulation of the elections in many areas was supervised and aided by some corrupt agents of the security forces. In Birnin, Kachia, Kagarko, Lere, and Kudan LGAs, there were incidences of such fraudulent activities, which ultimately proved effective in altering the election outcome in favour of the APC candidate.”
They stated that in view of the fact that the law provides for a seven-day window for INEC to review results of an election where evidence of widespread irregular abound, the commission should immediately commence review of results of the governorship elections to ascertain the true winner of the elections.
“We demand that no certificate of return should be issued to the candidate of the APC or anyone for that matter unless this process is concluded and resolved in his favour.
“The commission cannot invest billions of taxpayers’ money into BVAS and still fail to take advantage of the opportunities it provides to protect the votes of the electorate and enhance the integrity of the elections.
“We demand immediate sack of the INEC Administrative Secretary, Mal Auwal Mashi, who colluded with the APC and supervised the rigging of the elections in the state. We also demand an investigation into actions Ladi, the Returning Officer (RO) for Lere LGA the RO for the State who allegedly colluded with the APC to alter the results in their favour.
“Failure to do as we have demanded will mean an endorsement of the election theft that happened in Kaduna State by the commission,” they warned.
In a related development, Ebonyi State chapter of the PDP has claimed that its candidate, Ifeanyi Odii, won the poll.
INEC had declared candidate of the APC, Francis Nwifuru winner after he polled 199,131 to defeat the PDP candidate, who polled 80,191 votes.
But Acting Chairman of the party, Ifeanyi Nworie, flanked by other leaders of the party at a press conference in Abakaliki, yesterday, alleged that the ruling party connived with the electoral body to rig the election in favour of the APC.
They also alleged that its members and supporters were harassed and intimidated during the elections.
In Benue State, PDP has decided to challenge the outcome of the election in court.
Addressing newsmen on the outcome of the election in the state, in Makurdi, acting Chairman, Mr Isaac Mffo, said the conduct of the election fell far below accepted standards.
“From the reports received and studied by the legal department of our party, we have arrived at the conclusion that the conduct of the elections fell far below the accepted minimum standards as obtained under our current democratic dispensation.
“It is, therefore, the decision of the Benue State Chapter of PDP that the outcome of the March 18th, 2023 elections be challenged at the Benue State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Makurdi.
“As a party, we had done our homework diligently in the build-up to the elections having campaigned thoroughly in all parts of the state in the course of which we touched base with the electorate.”
He said the PDP ran a campaign based on its track record of solid developmental performance since 1999 and most recently on the sterling achievements of the Ortom administration which are visible across all facets of the state.
They expressed hope that the mandate of the Benue electorate will be restored to the PDP as was rightfully given by the people on March 18th, 2023.