The Independent National Electoral Commission has shrugged off demands by various stakeholders, including political parties, to pause the ongoing collation and declaration of the results of Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections over allegations of electoral manipulation and compromise.
The Peoples Democratic Party and Labour Party at the National Collation Centre in Abuja on Monday protested the failure of the commission to ask its officials to upload the results on the INEC portal from the polling units.
They complained about widespread discrepancies in the results of the polls and asked the electoral commission to halt the proceedings at the collation centre and address their complaints.
But following the refusal of the INEC Chairman, Mahood Yakubu, to heed the parties’ calls, some opposition parties on Monday staged a walkout during the announcement of results at the National Collation Centre, International Conference Centre, Abuja.
The walkout was led by the PDP which had queried the commission over observed alleged discrepancies in the released results and its failure to upload the election results on its portal for public view.
The PDP agent, Senator Dino Melaye, led the opposition parties out of the collation centre in protest against Yakubu’s refusal to acknowledge and act on their observations and demand.
The other parties included the Action Alliance, African Democratic Congress and Social Democratic Party.
However, nine political parties later came back to the centre about two hours after leaving the hall.
The agents of the parties also claimed they were not part of the walkout.
The parties include African Action Congress, Social Democratic Party, Peoples Redemption Party, Boot Party, Accord Party, National Rescue Movement, Youth Progressives Party, Allied Peoples Movement and New Nigeria Peoples Party. The All Progressives Congress did not join the protest.
Before the incident which disrupted the proceedings, the INEC chairman had shut down a motion by Melaye to adjourn the collation process until polling units results were uploaded on the INEC Results Viewing Portal.
While alleging that the entire process had been compromised by INEC, he sought for the cancellation of the entire presidential election results.
Addressing journalists after staging the walkout, Melaye claimed that the PDP, LP and others were demanding the cancellation of the entire presidential election result.
He said, “We as party agents having observed that the national chairman of INEC is determined to rig the election by making sure that results are not uploaded by vehemently making a presentation that makes it look as if we are all here to rubber stamp the fraud that has been cooked between INEC and APC.
“We are saying that we are not here to rubber-stamp the electoral fraud that has been prepared by INEC and APC. We are Nigerians and we all know that there is nowhere on the server that results have been uploaded and the INEC chairman is now saying we should wait for the process to be completed before he will review knowing full well that once a declaration is done, there can’t be any review but by the courts.
“So we completely disassociate ourselves and that’s why we staged a walkout. All the political parties here have staged a walkout to express the unfortunate politicisation and commercialization of our electoral process.
Speaking further, the former lawmaker stated, “We have records of where the BVAS were not used and results have been pronounced. What is difficult for the INEC chairman showing the uploaded results so that we can compare and interrogate that with a presentation that is made by the state returning officers?
“But they cannot upload results. They cannot show us uploaded results because they know that what they are going to upload will be at variance with what they are presenting to Nigerians.
“So, the electoral process has been rigged. INEC has rigged the 2023 elections, and we are completely disassociating ourselves from it and we know what to do next.
“All of us that staged a walkout; our resolution is that the entire process be cancelled. That is our demand.”
Hours after the incident at the collation centre, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who endorsed the candidacy of the LP standard bearer a few months ago, raised the alarm that danger is lurking around the country over the alleged compromise of the electoral process.
Obasanjo, therefore, appealed to the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to prevail on the INEC chairman to stop the ongoing collation and announcement of results and rectify the allegations raised against the electoral process.
The ex-president’s position was endorsed by the PDP and LP on Monday.
Obasanjo in a letter titled, ‘’Until last Saturday night, February 25, 2023, the good and noble plan and preparation for the elections seemed to be going well. For the Independent National Electoral Commission , a lot of money was spent to introduce the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and the server for immediate transmission of results from polling units.
‘’It is no secret that INEC officials, at operational level, have been allegedly compromised to make what should have worked not to work and to revert to manual transmission of results which is manipulated and the results doctored.
“The chairman of INEC may claim ignorance but he cannot fold his hands and do nothing when he knows that the election process has been corrupted and most of the results that are brought outside BVAS and server are not true reflection of the will of Nigerians who have made their individual choice.
“At this stage, we do not need wittingly or unwittingly to set this country on fire with the greed, irresponsibility and unpatriotic act of those who allegedly gave money to INEC officials for perversion and those who collected the blood money.’’
The elder statesman appealed to Yakubu to ‘’if his hands are clean, save Nigeria from the looming danger and disaster which is just waiting to happen.’’
According to him, if the chairman could postpone elections by four days to the election, he can do everything to ‘’rectify the errors of the last two days – no BVAS, no result to be acceptable; and no uploading through servers, no result to be acceptable.’’
Obasanjo also pointed out that the results should be declared void and inadmissible where the BVAS and servers had been manipulated or rendered inactive.
“Whereas BVAS and servers have been manipulated or rendered inactive, such results must be declared void and inadmissible for election declaration. Chairman INEC, I have thought that you would use this wonderful opportunity to mend your reputation and character for posterity,’’ he noted.
Asking Buhari to address the situation and save the nation, the former military leader stated, “Your Excellency, President Buhari Muhammadu, tension is building up and please let all elections that do not pass the credibility and transparency test be cancelled and be brought back with areas where elections were disrupted for next Saturday, March 4, 2023, and BVAS and Server officials be changed.’’
Obasanjo further advised the electoral commission to constitute a committee comprising electoral officials, political parties and the Nigerian Bar Association to proffer solutions to the allegations of electoral malpractice.
The letter read partly, ‘’To know which stations or polling units were manipulated, let a Committee of INEC staff and representatives of the four major political parties with the Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association look into what must be done to have hitch-free elections next Saturday.
Speaking on the election result at a joint press briefing with the PDP presidential campaign council in Abuja on Monday night, the PDP spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, stated that it was clear from the votes as cast at the polling units that the party’s flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar, substantially defeated the APC presidential, Bola Tinubu, ‘’in line with the expressed aspiration and will of Nigerians.
He said INEC deliberately refused to commence the collation of results 48 hours after the election.
He said INEC cannot continue to announce results that were yet to be transmitted as expressly stated in the relevant sections of the Electoral Act.
According to him, the alleged deliberate delay by INEC paved the way for the “reported compromise, alteration, falsification and switching of election results in favour of the APC in Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Ondo, Ekiti, Kebbi, Ogun and other states where our candidate was in clear lead.”
He added, “The PDP therefore rejects the manipulated election results as announced by INEC while cautioning that INEC is pushing Nigerians to the wall by announcing manipulated results.
‘’We are aware that INEC embarked on extensive and illegal cancellation of election results in many States of the country. For instance, in Sokoto State over 200 Polling Units results where the PDP is in clear lead have also been canceled thereby disenfranchising over 200,000 registered voters.”
The party said it found it curious that the INEC chairman was insisting on proceeding with the announcement of election results which were not transmitted directly from the polling units to the INEC server/website as required by the Electoral Act.
Ologunagba said the PDP, informed Nigerians and election observers already have the results of votes cast at the polling units across the country, adding that it has all the results in its database.
But reacting to Obasanjo’s advice, the All Progressives Congress presidential campaign council said he had no moral standing to call for the cancellation of election results in areas where the BVAS and servers were manipulated or rendered inactive.
The Chief Spokesman for the APC PCC, Festus Keyamo, described the ex-president as ‘’a partisan politician whining because the results didn’t favour his anointed political godson.’’
According to him, Obasanjo has no moral grounds to make such a call following his antecedents in the last couple of months.
He said, “Obasanjo has no integrity to speak on the matter because his candidate lost. He was partisan and once you are partisan, it takes all the moral argument away from anything you say.
“He is not an elder statesman in this matter. He is a partisan man who wants to impose one of his candidates. I don’t need to abuse him or say any derogatory words. He is partisan. That explains everything.
“He is not even different from Dino Melaye or other guys who walked away in anger when a candidate lost. For this purpose, Obasanjo is a child-statesman, not an elder statesman. I have nothing more to add.”
Keyamo also alleged that the LP and the PDP were desperately shopping for a legal option to scuttle democracy and throw Nigeria into constitutional crises.
The INEC spokesman, Festus Okoye declined to comment on Obasanjo’s letter.
When contacted, he simply questioned the authenticity of the letter and when told that the ex-president authored the letter, Okoye failed to respond.
Abdulsalami peace panel
Also, the National Peace Committed jointly chaired by a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.), and Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah has called on the INEC to investigate the grievances being expressed by Nigerians against the presidential election.
The group also appealed to INEC to take all the time it required to ensure deliverance of results that could inspire the confidence of the Nigerians in line with international best practices.
Abdulsalami made the recommendations in a statement titled, ‘A call for calm: Please give peace and the process a chance,’ obtained by journalists in Abuja on Monday.
He reminded Nigerians that the world has invested a lot of good will towards the country in the elections, adding that all the citizens deserved to be rewarded by a process that ensures that their votes truly count.
The statement read, “Nigerians must be reminded that the world has invested a lot of good will towards us in these elections. We have taken note of the dissatisfaction among voters who braved all harsh weather elements to perform their civic duties. All citizens deserve to be rewarded by a process that ensures that their votes truly count.
“We appeal to INEC to heed the grievances being expressed, to take the necessary steps to escalate investigations of all allegations of infractions and to ensure that justice is clearly done to all citizens who went out to vote.
“We have received reports of the culture of voter suppression manifested across the country through the application of targeted violence, disruption of processes, inducement of voters, intimidation, deliberate frustrations of voters and the challenges of the election equipment.
“We are pleased that INEC has accepted these lapses and promised to rectify these lapses. We appeal to the security agencies to collaborate with INEC in their investigations of these weighty allegations. Concerns about the failures of the INEC Result Viewing Portals across the country must be thoroughly investigated to ensure transparency.
In the spirit of the Peace Accord which all the candidates and their party chairmen signed on February 23, the NPC begged the presidential candidates, and their parties to take full responsibility for the statements made by their spokespersons and agents.
‘’We appeal to all our citizens to remain calm while INEC continues with its process to its conclusion. Finally, let us all stand together trusting in the will of God.
“We appeal to INEC to take all the time it requires to ensure that it delivers results that inspire the confidence of our people and meet time tested international standards,’’ the committee stated.
Meanwhile, the Electoral Observation Mission of the European Union, on Monday, presented a damning assessment of the election, stating that it was marred by cases of abuse of incumbency, widespread allegations of vote buying, disinformation of voters, and a lack of planning in critical stages of the electoral process.
The Chief Observer of the Mission, Barry Andrews, presented a preliminary report of its observations at a press conference held at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
He disclosed that the mission had a total of 110 observers, including 11 core team members, 14 long term observers, and 96 short term observers, including delegates of the European Parliament.
Andrews stated, “Fundamental freedoms of assembly and movement were largely respected, yet the full enjoyment of the latter was impeded by insufficient planning, insecurity, and the prevailing naira and fuel shortages. Abuse of incumbency by various political office holders distorted the playing field and there were widespread allegations of vote buying.
‘’Overall, stakeholders had expressed confidence in INEC’s independence, professionalism, and voter information efforts, but this decreased ahead of elections. INEC lacked efficient planning and transparency during critical stages of the electoral process, while on election day, trust in INEC was seen to further reduce due to delayed polling processes, and information gaps related to much anticipated access to results on its Results Viewing Portal.’’
Andrews noted that the introduction of the BVAS and IReV for the 2023 elections was perceived as an important step to ensure the integrity and credibility of elections.
However, he observed that delayed training of technical personnel, an inadequate mock testing exercise, and a lack of information on the election technologies diminished expectations and left room for speculation and uncertainty.
While commending the citizens for their turn out at the polls, Andrew stated that the EU would continue to monitor the collation of results as well as the March 11 governorship and state assemblies’ election, and would present its final reports three months after the end of the election processes, in order not to interfere with the process.
Meanwhile, the Head of the European Parliament Delegates, Miss Evin Incir expressed concern that less than 10 percent of the total candidates in the elections were women, stating that “the next government and parliament should heed to the manifestos of the main political parties of Nigeria, which call for affirmative action, such as quotas.”
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has defeated closest rival, Tinubu of the APC with 109,913 votes in Bauchi State.