•Resumes collation in Rivers April 2, to declare final results between April 13, 15
•FG orders closure of land borders in Adamawa, Benue, Sokoto
•Army, Police vow to deal with trouble makers
•INEC up to mischief, says APC; No need for Bauchi make-up polls — PDP
•IGP deploys 5 DIGs, 3 AIGs, 15 CPs — Pg 4
By Kingsley Omonobi, Clifford Ndujihe, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Peter Duru,Joseph Erunke, Omeiza Ajayi, Dirisu Yakubu, Davies Iheamnachor, Umaru Yusuf, Abdulmumin Murtala
ABUJA —Against the background of judicial intrigues by political interest groups, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday opened up on its plans to hold supplementary governorship and legislative elections in 18 states tomorrow where the polls had been declared inconclusive.
The commission, however, set new timelines to conclude governorship and state legislative elections in Rivers State.
National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye told journalists in Abuja, yesterday, that INEC will resume collation and announcement of results in Rivers State between April 2 and 5, hold supplementary elections on April 13 and release the results on or before April 15.
The supplementary governorship election will hold in six states namely, Bauchi, Kano, Benue, Plateau, and Sokoto. State House of Assembly elections will also hold in 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The supplementary governorship election in Bauchi State will, however, not hold in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area upon a court order.
The state House of Assembly supplementary elections will hold in Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Lagos and Kaduna states.
It will also hold in Kano, Kogi, Nasarawa, Osun, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
Also, the Federal Government has ordered the closure of land borders in Adamawa, Benue, and Sokoto states during the supplementary polls.
Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, disclosed this in a statement, yesterday, in Abuja.
He said the closure of the borders is with effect from Friday noon to Sunday noon, adding that the aim is to restrict movement across the borders of the affected states during the election.
“The public is to take note and ensure compliance,” he said.
APC flays INEC on Rivers
However, INEC’s decision on Rivers has been lampooned by the All Progressives Congress, APC, just as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus kicked against moves to hold supplementary governorship polls in Bauchi, tomorrow.
To avoid a repeat of the violence, ballot-snatching and other forms of manipulations that led to the polls being declared inconclusive, the military and Police read the riot to trouble-makers, yesterday, vowing to deal with anyone who foments trouble during the re-run elections.
When activities on Rivers started
Okoye said the activities on Rivers began on March 19, when the commission had engagements with major stakeholders. It will continue with an inter-agency meeting between the commission and other relevant agencies on March 29, in Rivers State. On March 30, the commission will meet with critical actors after which the headquarters of the commission will release a guideline for the continuation of the process.
Between March 25 and March 31, the commission said it will embark on the revalidation of observers both in Abuja and Rivers State while April 13 has been set aside as a tentative date for any supplementary election that might arise. Accordingly, declaration of the final results would be made between April 13 and 15, while issuance of the certificate of return is slated for April 19.
“There will be the resumption of collation and announcement of the results and this will take place between April 2 and 5, and it will take place in Port Harcourt. Then on April 13, there will be supplementary elections where necessary then thereafter, there will be an announcement of all results between April 13 and 15. And tApril 19, will be the date for the Issuance of all outstanding certificates of return,” he said.
INEC up to mischief in Rivers – APC
Meanwhile, Rivers APC said INEC’s announcement that it would complete the governorship and state House of Assembly elections in the state between April 2 and 15 was mischievous.
Spokesman of the party, Chris Finebone, in a statement, yesterday, said that INEC had not shown enough justification that it is not up to rigging the poll in favour of the PDP.
He said: “To the APC, INEC is up to some mischief clearly pointing to a clear determination to rig the overall result of the March 9 elections in favour of Governor Wike (Nyesom) and the PDP. The signs are visible enough to the blind and loud enough to the deaf. All the shenanigans so far exhibited by INEC only go to confirm that fear.
“As a major stakeholder in the Rivers State political space, APC received with mixed feelings INEC’s timeline for concluding the governorship and state assembly elections that started on March 9 and the reasons are simple.
“INEC has not shown sufficient good faith in the way it brought the collation to an abrupt stop without cogent, verifiable and convincing reasons. The supposed umpire went ahead to announce that collation for 17 LGAs had been concluded as against the records provided by our situation room. And to make matters worse, INEC refused, failed or neglected to name the said 17 LGAs where it claimed collation had been concluded.
“Secondly, INEC curiously announced that it has dropped four LGA Collation Officers confirmed to be PDP card-carrying members without the umpire clearing the air about the status of the LGA results the four ad hoc personnel supposedly collated.”
Bauchi supplementary elections go on
On Bauchi, Okoye said INEC would hold the supplementary polls tomorrow regardless of court orders to the contrary.
He said, “It should, however, be noted that the litigation and consequential order only affects the collation of results for the governorship election in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area. Consequently the supplementary election will proceed as scheduled for March 23 in the other 15 local government areas of Bauchi State as well as in the Kirifi local government constituency election in Kirifi local government area.
“While the commission has complied with the policy to obey all court orders, in deference to the rule of law, it has also taken urgent steps to vacate the order and dismiss the action,” he disclosed.
Similarly, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi, the Bauchi State Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, said the electoral commission will hold the polls in 36 polling units spread across 29 wards in 15 Local Government Areas of the state. According to him, 22, 759 registered voters are expected to participate in the exercise.
He gave a breakdown of the affected local government areas and number of polling units as Alkaleri, one ward, two polling units (PU) ; Bogoro, one ward, one PU ; Darazo, three wards, four PU;
Dass, one ward, one PU and Gamawa, one ward, one PU.
Ganjuwa has two wards, two PU; Giade, four wards, four PU; Itas Gadau, one ward, three PU; Jama’are, two wards, two PU and Katagum, two wards, three PU. Others are Kirfi, two wards, two PU; Misau, one Ward, one PU; Ningi, four wards, five PU; Shira, one ward,one PU and Toro, three wards and four PU.
Also, a Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed Monday to determine whether or not the INEC should proceed with the collation and announcing of result of the governorship election that was held in Bauchi State on March 9.
Justice Iyang Ekwo adjourned to deliver judgment in the suit the APC and its candidate, Mohammed Abubakar, who is the incumbent governor of the state, lodged to stop further collation of results by INEC.
The court had on Tuesday, issued an order of interim injunction against INEC, following an ex-parte motion that was filed by the plaintiffs.
It ordered all the parties to maintain status quo ante, pending the final determination of the suit.
No basis for supplementary election in Bauchi – Secondus
The PDP National Chairman disagreed with the INEC over its decision to conduct supplementary governorship election in Bauchi State while all results have not been collated.
In a letter addressed to Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, and dated March 21, the PDP said such decision contradicts provisions of the Electoral Act as well as the INEC guidelines for the conduct of the elections.
Mohammed Kyari, the returning officer of the Bauchi governorship election, had declared it inconclusive after the number of canceled votes exceeded the margin of victory between the two leading candidates, with results from Tafawa Balewa LGA pending.
But while INEC had fixed Tuesday for collation of the remaining results, a federal high court in Abuja issued an order stopping the process pending the determination of a suit brought by Mohammed Abubakar, the governor of the state.
Notwithstanding, INEC said it would proceed with a supplementary election earlier scheduled for Saturday, while awaiting the decision of the court on the collation process.
In the letter, Secondus, asked INEC to suspend the supplementary election pending the collation of results.
The letter read: “It is important to note that rerun or supplementary election can only be ripe and determined upon conclusion of collation of all the results from the 20 local government areas in the state and the margin between the winner and runner up is known.
“This is the provision of the law as provided in the regulation and guidelines for the conduct of elections, specifically paragraphs 33 (a) and (e) and 34 (e).
“By the combined effects of the paragraphs, the commission shall wait to determine the margin of lead between the two leading candidates of the governorship election after collation of the overall results of the election before deciding to embark on the supplementary poll. Hence there is no basis for a supplementary election at the polling units canceled.”
Those planning to truncate process ‘ll be dealt with – Military, police
To ensure hitch-free make-up polls, the Nigerian military and the Police, have warned those planning to truncate the process to bury the thoughts. The security agencies reiterated their joint commitment to the peaceful conduct of the forthcoming supplementary elections.
Spokespersons of the Defence Headquarters, the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Air Force and the Nigeria Police Force, spoke in Abuja, yesterday.
The joint press briefing came a day after the military authorities expressed disappointment with the role allegedly played by the police, accusing the latter of betrayal.
Reading a prepared speech to newsmen on behalf of the military and the police, Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said: “In the interest of the general public, we want to seize this opportunity to assure that the military and the police are not at loggerheads as may have been erroneously portrayed.
“The two security agencies are working in synergy to guarantee peaceful and secure environment for all law abiding Nigerians to exercise their civic right of voting.
“In keeping to this mandate, we want to reiterate our joint commitment to the peaceful conduct of the forthcoming supplementary elections scheduled for March 23, 2019.
“While the support and cooperation of the media and the public is highly solicited, any person or group of persons who attempt to truncate the elections will be made to face the wrath of the law irrespective of status.”
On why military personnel were deployed, they said: “Additionally, threat analysis conducted in those states prior to the elections identified them as flash points for electoral violence hence, the need for extra security deployment.”
Army raises committee to probe alleged misconduct of personnel
The security agencies while expressing concern on accusations against some military personnel deployed in previous elections, explained that “to ensure transparency and accountability in the conduct of Nigerian Army personnel deployed for election security duties during the 2019 elections, the Nigerian Army has set up a nine-member investigative committee comprising senior military officers, headed by Major General Tari-Timiye Gagariga to investigate all allegations of misconduct against Nigerian Army personnel during the elections.
“The committee’s terms of reference include thorough investigation of the reported activities, actions and inaction of personnel of the Nigerian Army in all the States that contravene extant rules of engagement and Code of Conduct in internal security operations duties during election.
“It is also to investigate all reported infractions or violations against security agencies, particularly the Nigerian Army. We assure Nigerians that appropriate punitive measures will be applied to those found culpable in accordance with the military justice system,” they added.
Recalling the numerous positive roles played by the military during the elections, they said: “We are however, equally aware of some of the unfortunate security challenges witnessed during the elections which have generated public outcry and condemnation.
“The alleged involvement of some security agents in some of these unfortunate incidents is of serious concern to the military and police high commands.
“While we appreciate the fact that some of these issues may be as a result of the overzealousness of some personnel, it is instructive to note that some of these incidents were instances of impersonation by political thugs clad in military and police uniforms.’’
Recalling that sometime ago a container load of military uniforms and accoutrements was impounded by the Nigeria Customs Service on Aba-Port Harcourt Road, while similar interception was made at Kirikiri Lighter Terminal in Lagos, appealed to the general public to volunteer useful information to aid security agencies in this regard.
Court stops INEC from conducting Adamawa governorship rerun
Meantime, Justice Abdulaziz Waziri of an Adamawa State High Court in Yola, has ordered INEC not to conduct the governorship supplementary re-run slated for tomorrow.
The judge said the polls should be put on hold until he rules on an application for an interlocutory injunction barring INEC from conducting the polls and then adjourned the matter to Tuesday to give the ruling.
A political party, the Movement for Restoration and Defence of Democracy, MRDD, and its candidate, Eric Theman, had asked the court to cancel the election on the grounds that the party’s logo is not on the ballot paper.
Lead counsel to INEC, Tanimu Inuwa, SAN, however, prayed the court to discharge the injunction on grounds that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the case. He cited section 25 subsection 1 of the Constitution, saying that “INEC being a federal organ, challenging its decision should be through a federal high court not a state high court.”
He said the issues being canvassed before the court touched on the conduct of elections and that section 285 subsection 2 of the Constitution places conduct of an election in the purview of election tribunals. He said that MRDD has no locus standi to approach the court because it has not fulfilled all the electoral process, adding that it has no interest in the case.
Counsel to the PDP candidate, Ahmadu Fintiri, Barr. Joseph K Gadzama, SAN leading other counsel had filed a motion for Fintiri to be joined in the suit. Also counsel to PDP, Okechukwu Udeze, SAN, leading others, also applied for PDP to be joined in the suit.
Adeyemi Pitan, counsel to MRDD and Eric Theman, however, opposed the motion of the two parties on grounds that the two applications were not served on him in due time.
INEC ready for rerun in Kano, to be supported by three additional RECs
In Kano, the REC, Prof Riskuwa Shehu, said three RECs would join him, assuring that the commission is ready for the re-run polls, tomorrow. He stated that the rerun election will take place in 28 local government areas with 75 registration points in 207 polling units whose results were all canceled.
A total of 128,324 registered voters are expected to participate in the rerun elections in all the affected areas.
Prof Riskuwa explained that the cancellations of the votes in the LGAs were as a result of violence and over-voting. 15 LGAs with 116 polling units were cancelled due to violence, while 23 LGAs with 91 polling units were cancelled as a result of over-voting.
Meanwhile, all sensitive and non sensitive materials have been received accordingly and the commission will begin distribution of the materials to the affected areas Friday morning.
However, the rerun election is going to be supported by three additional RECs from Zamfara, Ogun and Kebbi in persons of Dr Asmau Maikudi, Prof Ganiyu Raji and Barr Ahamad Bello Mahmud respectively. Security measures have also been enhanced to ensure a hitch-free rerun election in the state.
Benue Police Command to get more men from other states – CP
Benue State Police Command is to receive additional personnel from other states to enhance the patrol of all routes and flash-points and also protect INEC staff and all electoral materials in Saturday’s rescheduled governorship and State Assembly elections in the state.
State Commissioner of Police in charge of elections in the state, Mr. Umar Muri who made this known, yesterday, said as part of measures to check any form of crisis during the poll, there would also be restriction of movement of persons and vehicles across the state on the day of the election.
INEC chair taking orders from military — PDP
Also, the PDP accused INEC chairman of taking directives from the top military authorities to work in favour of the APC in Saturday’s supplementary governorship elections. This is even as the party alleged that the Presidency held a meeting with INEC and security agencies where the plot to hijack the process was hatched.
Addressing newsmen at the party’s national secretariat, yesterday, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan expressed optimism that the party would coast home to victory in all states where the polls would hold on Saturday.
He said: “It is highly provocative that the INEC Chairman, Professor Yakubu, is now taking orders from the military to cancel elections and alter results for the APC, instead of asserting the independence and impartiality of INEC under our laws.
“Our party is informed of how a top Army officer, at the meeting, directed the INEC Chairman, Professor Yakubu, not to ever declare Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike as winner of the Rivers State governorship election, even when it is clear to all that he won the election.”