Nigeria News

Rejection of polls: INEC heads to A’court over BVAS re-configuration, as parties fight dirty

…Atiku, Ayu lead protest to INEC headquarters in Abuja

…Atiku knocks INEC Chairman, alleges he allowed himself to be used in subverting will of Nigerians

…You dug your own grave, respect your age, retire honourably from politics — Tinubu to Atiku

…Protest, struggle for justice — Sowore

…Atiku suffering from neglect of G5 Govs’ warnings, disregard of zoning principle — Wike

Olaseinde Gbenga, Abuja; Barth Ndubuwah, Port Harcourt, Editor

As knocks trail the conduct of the February 25, presidential/National  Assembly polls, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja for an order to allow it reconfigure its Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for the March 11 State elections.

The Commission’s resort to the Court was in reaction to pray it to vary the orders it granted for candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi to be allowed to inspect sensitive materials that were used for the presidential election.

INEC, in its legal process dated March 4, urged the appellate court, which will sit as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, to vary the order to enable it to reconfigure the BVAS it used for the presidential poll.

The Commission told the Court that the configuration was necessary since the BVAS would also be deployed for the next round of elections, which include the governorship and state assemblies elections billed for Saturday, as well as other rescheduled elections.

According to INEC, without a prompt variation of the inspection order granted to Obi and Atiku, especially the aspect restraining it from tampering with formation contained in the BVAS, it would be difficult for it to proceed with the scheduled elections.

Recall that the Court of Appeal in Abuja last Friday granted leave to the presidential candidates of the LP, Obi, and his PDP counterpart, Atiku, to have access to all the sensitive materials used by INEC for the conduct of the Feb. 25 presidential election.

A panel of the appellate court led by Justice Joseph Ikyegh made the order after hearing two separate ex parte applications the two aggrieved presidential candidates filed alongside their political parties.

Specifically, the applicants urged the court to compel INEC to allow them to obtain documents used for the presidential election to aid their petitions against the outcome of the presidential election.

They sought “an order granting the applicants’ permission to do electronic scanning and make photocopies of voter registration and ballot papers used in the conduct of the election for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held on the Feb. 25.

“An order granting leave to the applicants to carry out Digital Forensic Inspection of BVAS machines used for the conduct of the Feb. 25 election for the Office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

The plaintiffs also sought an order restraining INEC “from tampering with the information embedded in the BVAS machines until due inspection was conducted and Certified True Copies of them issued.”

The Court, in its consideration, ordered INEC to allow the applicants to inspect all the electoral materials used in the conduct of the presidential election.

The court permitted the appellants to do electronic scanning and or make photocopies of voter registration and ballot papers used in the conduct of the presidential election.

“That leave is hereby granted to the applicants to carry out Digital Forensic Inspection of BVAS machines used for the conduct of the Feb. 25, 2023 Election for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the court ordered.

Cited as respondents in the matter were INEC, the declared winner of the presidential election, Bola Tinubu, as well as his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Both applications were predicated on Section146 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022, Paragraph 47 (1, 2 &3) of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act of 2022, as well as under the inherent jurisdiction of the Court as referenced by Section 6 (6) A & B of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

While Obi, in his application marked CA/PEC/02M/23, which was moved by his team of lawyers led by Mr. Alex Ejesieme (SAN), sought six principal reliefs, Atiku’s lawyer, Mr. Adedamola Faloku, sought seven prayers from the tribunal.

Both PDP and LP had since rejected the outcome of the election and vowed to challenge it in court.

Recall INEC in early hours of last Wednesday had declared Tinubu, candidate of the APC, as the winner of the election and President-elect of the presidential poll held on February 25.

According to the results announced early Wednesday morning by the INEC, Tinubu of the APC polled 8,794,726 to defeat  Atiku of PDP with 6,884,520 votes, while Peter Obi of Labour Party and Sen Rabiu Kwakwanso of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) recorded 6,101,533 in third position and 1,496,687 votes (4th position) respectively.

The margin between Tinubu who polled 8,794,726 votes and Obi who polled 6,101,533 is over 2.6million votes. Atiku, 76, who has now run for presidency race six times, polled 6,984,520 votes, ahead of Obi who polled 6,101,533.

Tinubu, Atiku, and Obi led in 12 States each, while Kwankwaso of NNPP led only in one State (Kano).

Recall during the collation process there had been protests against INEC, with demands that the Commission upload the results on the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV).

In a related development, agents of the PDP and other opposition parties had staged a walk out of the International Collation Centre in protest. Demostrations had trailed the development by demonstrators demanding INEC to electronically upload the results against manual collation adopted by the Commission.

Meanwhile, in his reaction, Atiku had last Thursday rejected the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the presidential polls, arguing that the level of “manipulation and fraud that attended this election was unprecedented in the history of our nation.”

Atiku last Thursday, in his first media briefing in Abuja, after the poll, described the process as flawed – “a rape of democracy” which he said “must be challenged.”

Under the Electoral Act 2022, any candidate dissatisfied with the return made by the INEC, shall within 21 days after the date of the declaration of the result of the election, file a petition before the tribunal.

An election tribunal shall deliver its judgement in writing within 180 days from the date the petition was filed.

Atiku leads protest, knocks INEC Chairman

Meanwhile, in further reaction, Atiku and his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa on Monday led a protest at the national headquarters of INEC in Abuja.

Recall NewsDirect had reported on Monday plans by the party to stage the protest, following a notice of invitation extended to State Governors of the PDP which include Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, Godwin Obaseki of Edo, Ademola Adeleke of Osun, Douye Diri of Bayelsa, Bala Muhammad of Bauchi, and Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa.

Aside were Board of Trustees (BOT) members, National Executive Committee (NEC) members, PDP Senators and House of Representatives Members, National Working Committe (NWC) members of the party, Deputy Director Generals (DDGs), Directors, Deputies and Assistant Directors of National Campaign Managemet Committe (NCMC); Members of the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) of the party.

Sighted on Monday at the protest were the party’s national chairman, Ayu, spokesperson of the PDP Presidential Campaign Committee (PCC), Dino Melaye, other party stalwarts as Uche Secondus and Abiye Sekibo.

Recall that Ayu and Okowa had earlier indicated that they will lead other stalwarts and members of the party in a protest at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja on Monday against the outcome of the presidential election.

Furthermore, Atiku has lambasted the Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, describing his promise to deliver credible governorship elections next Saturday as “medicine after death.”

Atiku also called Yakubu’s assurances worthless and unconvincing, adding that they are a belated attempt at face-saving after conducting the “worst” election in Nigeria’s history.

The former Vice President stated this in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Public Communication, Mr. Phrank Shaibu.

The statement came as the leadership of PDP and its PCC said they were still searching and consulting for a legal team that would handle the petition of Atiku’s petition at the presidential election tribunal.

The party said the filing of his petition would start immediately after inspection of the election materials.

PDP said it had called a national protest for Monday in Abuja against the declaration of the candidate APC, Tinubu, as president-elect by INEC.

Yakubu had at a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) promised to ensure the strict use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) during the remaining polls.

He said INEC staff found to be negligent during the presidential election would be barred from participating in the March 11 governorship election.

Recall the INEC chairman had earlier said, “All staff found to be negligent, whether they are regular or ad hoc officials, including collation and returning officers, must not be involved in the forthcoming elections. RECs must also immediately initiate disciplinary action where prima facie evidence of wrongdoing has been established.”

But in his reaction, Atiku described Yakubu’s assurances as useless and vain after supervising “the most fraudulent elections Nigeria had ever witnessed since independence.”

He said Yakubu should not try to deceive Nigerians again after the “shambolic” performance of INEC in the February 25 presidential poll.

Atiku, however, commended the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, for admitting that the elections were far below the expectations of Nigerians.

Leonard had said that many Nigerians were angry and frustrated with the process and outcome of the elections.

Leonard, in an op-ed, ‘The Elections of February 25’ called on INEC to address promptly the challenges that can be resolved ahead of the March 11 gubernatorial elections, and to undertake a broader review of the problems that transpired during the last elections and what can be done to fix them.

The statement by Atiku reads, “The INEC chairman is nothing but a hypocrite. After promising to upload the results from polling units in real time, he allowed himself to be used, or he used himself in subverting the will of Nigerians. It will shock you to note that seven days since the election ended, the full results have still not been uploaded on INEC’s result viewing portal.

“The election was so bad that it failed to meet the expectations of Nigerians as restated by several foreign media outlets and observers as well as Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard of the US. Rather than apologise, the INEC chairman is trying to shift blame.

“After INEC’s abysmal performance at the scam election of February 25, he is now trying to save face, insisting that errant staff would be punished and would not be deployed in the March 11 governorship poll.

“This is arrant nonsense. Is INEC planning on training new staff within five days that will replace the so-called errant ones? Is he going to recruit new staff or deploy some from outer space?”

Atiku added that Yakubu should be man enough to admit his “failure.”

Atiku also said in the statement, “A fish rots from the head down, and that is what has happened at INEC. Rather than suspend any staff, the INEC Chairman is the one that needs to step aside as his first act of contrition.

“Already, over 300,000 Nigerians have signed a petition on Change.Org to demand that the US, UK, and Europe place a visa ban on the INEC Chairman. This shows you the general feeling of Nigerians. Yakubu should hide his face in shame.”

Atiku on Monday had declared resolve that the protest, which saw his party supporters wearing black, would last for a very long time, and may be convened every or any other day.

…You dug your own grave, respect your age, retire honourably from politics — Tinubu to Atiku

Meanwhile, reacting to Atiku and his party’s protest on Monday, President-elect, Tinubu, told  Atiku to respect himself and stop following court jesters like Dino Melaye to dance ‘skelewu’ (a Nigerian hip hop dance) and causing traffic nuisance to residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Describing the action as a new low and a theatre of the absurd, Tinubu said it was strange that a former vice president of the country could be so idle as to disturb the public peace.

Director, Media and Publicity, at the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, APC-PCC, Mr Bayo Onanuga, in a statement, said when Atiku told the world last week that he would seek redress in court over the outcome of the February 25 presidential election, little did the PCC know that he did not plan to be guided by his own promise.

“Going by his political antecedents, it was rather not surprising that Atiku, days later, led a band of protesters, nay jesters in Abuja, to the headquarters of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

“What was on display today by Alhaji Atiku and his motley crowd was a new low from the perennial election loser.

“With Atiku staging a theatre of the absurd, we fail to see how a march to INEC by a scanty crowd will provide any victory window for him and his fragmented PDP.

“The only recourse open to Atiku after the electoral umpire declared Asiwaju Bola Tinubu President-elect, is the Election Petition Tribunal.

“Instead of Atiku and his party to wisely spend their time to gather the so-called evidence they hope to present before the courts, they are busy dancing ‘skelewu’ on the streets and causing traffic nuisance to residents of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, who were going to work on a Monday morning.

“We don’t expect a former Vice President of Nigeria, a statesman and a presidential candidate to be so jobless as to have time to disturb public peace over an electoral outcome he had already said he would challenge in court,” he said.

He also admonished Atiku “to respect his age and the high office of the Vice Presidency of Nigeria he once occupied.”

The APC PCC added that, “He should stop being teleguided by Dino Melaye, who disclosed scandalously that N400 billion was wasted on the election, which was clear at the outset that Atiku was bound to lose.

“Atiku should avoid being misdirected by other court jesters in his party, who continued to campaign after the election, still spewing their inanities against the President-elect. They are mere comic characters in a travelling theatre group.

“INEC headquarters is not a court where the prayers of Alhaji Atiku can be answered.

“No amount of theatrical display will give him succour. The honourable and lawful path to take is for Atiku to get his lawyers to plead his case in court.

“He should stop throwing tantrums like a baby whose candy was taken away over an election he clearly lost due to his own poor judgment; mismanagement of his own party and violation of power rotational arrangement between the North and the South.

“The PDP presidential candidate dug his own grave, in his last election and, absurdly, he is trying to rewrite the script of his own utter failure.

“We wonder how Atiku and his party hoped to win, when he himself admitted that Peter Obi, his running mate in 2019, ran away with traditional PDP votes from the South-East and South-South.

“It is preposterous that while Atiku is disturbing public peace, chanting phantom electoral victory, Peter Obi is making same claim.

“We think both men have embarrassed themselves enough and it is time they both resolved who between them is the supposed winner that will challenge our party’s victory in court.

“We advise Atiku to retire honourably from politics and move to his abode in Dubai.

“At 77 in November, Atiku does not have age on his side again.

“He has participated in his last election and hopefully, he has learnt worthy lessons, never to place his selfish interests above party and established principles in his party and the polity.”

Protest, struggle for justice – Sowore

Meanwhile in reaction to the protest by Atiku and his party on Monday, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the just concluded February 25 polls, Omoyele Sowore, said it was good to see Atiku fight for electoral justice, arguing “everyone must engage in civil disobedience to extinguish the monumental injustice.”

“After all, activism is not different from politics. Good to see @atiku @OfficialPDPNig fight for electoral justice, everyone must engage in civil disobedience to extinguish the monumental injustice perpetrated by @inecnigeria, except that for us revolutionaries we don’t get the privilege to have the Department of State Services and police bodyguards to protect us during protests like this, they usually unleash the police, soldiers and the DSS on us with absolute cruelty!” he tweeted on Monday.

Atiku suffering from neglect of G5 Govs’ warnings, disregard of zoning principle — Wike

Meanwhile, in his reaction, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike said the inability of Atiku to win the presidential election was a consequence of ignoring the warnings of the G-5 governors of the PDP.

Wike a strong stalwart of the G-5 governors and his counterparts, Samuel Ortom (Benue), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State) fell out with Atiku and Ayu on the presidential race, particularly on the demand for the resignation of Ayu as the national party chariman and the call for his replacement by a southerner.

Wike on Monday stated that it was too early in the day for people to begin to  forget that the eventual fate that befell PDP was avoidable if the national leadership of the party had heeded the several appeals and demands on them to adopt the principle of equity, fairness and justice as they approached the presidential election.

Wike stated this at Okomoko Community Field while inaugurating the Chokocho-Igbodo Road, in Etche Local Government Area of the State.

According to him, it is now settled that the presidency has returned to the South because the North is completing its eight years at the presidency.

“Our constitution says in Section 7 (3)c that there shall be rotation of public offices; of appointive and elective. You took the chairmanship of the party. You took the presidential candidate slot of the party and we came to you, saying this is against the spirit of our constitution.

“Give us back the chairmanship, you said no, that you must have it all because you have won. I said be careful then, and nobody wants to remember all those things when we were shouting,” he said.

Wike stated that while others are demonstrating against the outcome of the presidential elections, he is in Rivers State inaugurating projects and satisfying the development needs of the people.

The Governor explained that there was no time he ever criticised either the Labour Party Presidential candidate, Obi, or the APC candidate, Tinubu, during the campaigns.

Wike said he rather campaigned, unapologetically, to true lovers of Nigeria to vote for a southern presidential candidate in the spirit of equity, fairness and justice.

He said, “That is what we have argued for, that the North has had it for eight years, therefore the South should have it for eight years. So, I am not here to persecute anybody.

“As far as I am concerned, anybody from the south is where I stand. That is what we agreed as Integrity Group that we must make sure that the south emerges as the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Speaking further, the Governor insisted that he is one of the apostles who stood firm that power must rotate and it was based on the conviction of equity, fairness and justice.

He told Etche people that he has no problem with anybody who had either voted for the Labour Party or the APC because the outcome of the presidential election is that Nigeria has a southerner elected as the next president.

Taking a swipe at the governorship candidate of APC in Rivers State, Governor Wike said Tonye Cole lacks the character to steer the affairs of the State.

“People are terrible in politics, those who cannot stand for what they say. When I say something, you can go home and sleep, knowing that I said something.

“Look at the APC candidate (Tonye Cole), he posted on social media, congratulating Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, but within one hour, he pulled it out. Is that a man? Is that character? I don’t understand. This is a man who all of them, both their leader, even some of them who claimed they are in PDP, all of them in this State voted against a southern presidency.

“They voted Atiku Abubakar. The same people now turned around to say, support me (Tonye Cole), it’s only Wike that did not support Obi.

“Look at people who don’t have character. Are they the ones you want as Governor of Rivers State? I have character, go to anywhere, I have character. There are characters whom you cannot trust,” he said.

Commenting on the Chokocho-Igbodo road, Governor Wike said it is one of the several promises that he made to Etche people that has been fulfilled.

While awarding the contract for the construction of the 3KM long section of the road to connect Etche to Imo State, Governor Wike urged the people to reciprocate the development they have benefitted by voting for Sir Siminialayi Fubara, PDP gubernatorial candidate of the State for continuity.

He urged the people of the State to ignore manipulated audio and video being circulated on social media by those he described as depraved minds to mislead unsuspecting general public.

Providing the description of the project, Rivers State Commissioner for Works, Dr. George-Kelly Alabo said the 27.12 KM long road, awarded in December 2021 was completed within the agreed 12 months.

He explained that the road is 11.3 meters wide, has binders across with 1.5meters of shoulders, 8.3meters of carriageway, 22.01 KM long drains, has 16 culverts and 6 discharge points that take runoff water to designated places.

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