Controversy over inconclusive polls

Guardian Newspaper Headline (26th February,2019)

PDP rejects INEC’s poll results

  • PDP rejects INEC’s poll results as Buhari leads

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rejected the results of the presidential election collated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja yesterday .

Its grievance was that the results conflicted with the ones it had recorded from the election.

  • PDP party chairman said INEC results are doctored

The National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, made it clear at a press conference that “the PDP’s collation centres have all original results from every polling unit, in every ward, in every Local Government Area in Nigeria, of which the international community is well aware, implying all results currently being announced by INEC are incorrect thus unacceptable to our party and people.”

He accused officials of both the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and the All Progressives Congress (APC) of working with INEC officers to alter the course of history and disenfranchise voters through the cancellation and manipulation of figures for results already announced “at polling units, nationwide, in Local Government Areas (LGAs) where our party, the PDP, had commanding votes.” He noted that this must now be resisted by every well meaning Nigerian.

PDP further alleged that “the ruling party’s strategy has indeed been murderous, undignified, and disrespectful of the wishes of the electorate, our people and the international community who have been in solidarity with our nation as we attempt to strengthen our democracy and its institutions.”

According to the opposition party, “in full view of the watching world, and despite efforts by our great party and its agents to adhere to every laid down provision for the 2019 general elections, the APC in collusion with INEC has taken aggressive steps, mostly through inducements, manipulation and incarcerations, using the elements of state power, including the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Army in particular, alongside other organisations, including the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to silence the voices of our long suffering people; this is disheartening, considering the terms of the Peace Accord, which called for impartiality and non-partisanship by members of our security organisation with constitutional roles to play during this civic exercise.”

  • PDP alleged that Buhari coercively influenced the election results

The PDP alleged that “as results trickled in on Sunday, February 24th, 2019, clearly putting the PDP in the lead, the ruling party and President Buhari dispatched high-ranking officials to coercively influence the outcomes in different geopolitical zones in the country.

“With the INEC server hacked by agents of the APC to manipulate results, we can with certainty state that results from some polling units have, for example, been tampered with.

“As if these provocations are not enough, our agents and officials are constantly arrested and in many cases locked up for complaining that card readers were not in use in many northern states, implying that all results from the northern part of the country where card readers were not used should be voided in accordance with INEC guidelines.”

  • Buhari said he will rely on INEC for the final results

However, President Buhari, who is the APC candidate, said that rather than go by the rumour mill, he would rely on the INEC for the final results of the election.

The president who yesterday returned to Abuja from his hometown, Daura, Katsina State, where he had gone to cast his vote, expressed the hope that Nigerians would appreciate his administration’s efforts in making it possible for them to exercise their franchise in a peaceful atmosphere.

He told reporters on arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja yesterday that he would wait for the official declaration of results before making any comments on the election.

Asked what message he had for Nigerians, Buhari said: “l hope that Nigerians will appreciate that it was this government which made sure that they were allowed in security and peace to cast their votes for whichever party and candidates they wanted.”

On his impressions of the election so far, he said: “I don’t want to depend on rumours, we will rather wait for INEC to announce the results.”

By 12:45 a.m. today when the INEC concluded the collation of the results of the presidential election in 12 states, Buhari was leading Atiku. The collation was adjourned until 10:00 a.m. today.

  • Commonwealth Observation group said violence characterized the election

As the election results were being collated yesterday, some observer groups were releasing their reports on the conduct of the polls.

The Commonwealth Observation Group (COG) condemned the violence that characterized the exercise in some parts of the country.

At a press conference yesterday in Abuja to present an initial report of its findings, the group led by former President of the Republic of Tanzania, Dr. Jakaye Kikwete, called for prosecution of perpetrators of the violence.

Kikwete, who maintained that violence had no place in a modern democracy, insisted that “those responsible should be brought to book.”

According to him, Nigeria is a key member of the Commonwealth and the elections conducted across the country were significant exercises.

Kikwete said that it was observed that the Nigerian environment was highly charged with security breaches and records of violence in some parts of the nation.

He lamented that the observers deployed across various states, including Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Rivers and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) reported delay in the commencement of the elections in some areas.

He stated that even though INEC authorised the extension of time, the information was not properly managed, resulting in the disenfranchisement of many Nigerians.

Other observations include the intimidation of polling staff, inability of Nigerian election monitors to vote and malfunctioning of smart card readers in some areas across the country.

He, however, observed that the process of counting of ballots at the polling units was transparent.

“We acknowledge the important roles of the police and other security agencies in protecting voters. This was a highly contested election. There was an increase in the number of contestants.

“Although the atmosphere was tensed, general freedom of movement was observed. There was also an increase in the number of female contestants. About 500 women vied for elective positions,” Kikwete stated.

The group, which admitted that electoral reform is a gradual process, noted that there were lots of logistics problems which adversely affected the process.

It commended the youth corps members who served at the polling booths, saying they performed their duties with excitement.

According to the group, about 10.9 million persons, representing 13 per cent of all the registered voters could not vote.

On the pockets of violence witnessed in some areas, the Commonwealth said: “Election related violence and loss of life, which occurred in a number of places, is deeply troubling. Nigeria can do better. Violence has no place in a modern democracy. Those responsible should be held accountable. We encourage all political parties to honour their commitments in the national peace accord and reject violence.

“We welcome the passing of the Not Too Young To Run Act (2018) as a significant first step to enabling youth participation in all elective offices. We hope additional ways will be found to enable more young people to participate effectively in future elections as candidates and voters. We commend the youth of Nigeria, especially the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), for their invaluable contribution to the electoral process.”

The group said it was impressed by the hard work and dedication of polling staff, noting that many would have benefitted from more comprehensive training in polling procedures.

“In some places, the layout of polling units, including the positioning of voting booths, potentially compromised the secrecy of the ballot while its observers spotted incorrect labelling and failure to seal the ballot boxes correctly, including lack of signage within polling units which caused some confusion.”

The group said its final report would contain its recommendations that might be helpful to INEC and other stakeholders in strengthening Nigeria’s democracy.

  • Election Observation Mission also noticed INEC’s slow response to Election Violence

The Election Observation Mission (EOM) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led by former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, in its preliminary report, said it observed that INEC took a long time to respond to the public on the challenges that arose during the February 23 polls.

EOM also observed that there were disruptions due to the outbreak of violence in some places which resulted in the loss of lives and election materials. It said voters, however, generally comported themselves and exhibited amazing patience, tolerance and peaceful conduct during the exercise.

Sirleaf, who addressed stakeholders at the ECOWAS Commission Headquarters in Abuja, yesterday said that despite the widespread delays witnessed at the commencement of the polls, the voting process went on smoothly in the majority of polling units when it got underway.

She, however, noted that the smooth flow of the process was disrupted by malfunctioning of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) in a number of polling units. “In some cases, the situation caused agitation in some voters who had been waiting in queues for long hours, forcing some polling unit officials to result in manual accreditation.”

The observers noted an incident at Kofar Gayam in Nasarawa State where a presiding officer arbitrarily tried to end the process before all voters in the queue were able to cast their votes.

“This truncated the process for about an hour before normalcy was restored to allow voters to cast their votes. Our observers in Port Harcourt, Rivers State also reported that elections could not hold in the entire Akuku Toru and Bonny Local Government Areas (LGAs) and a number of polling units in Okrika LGA due to disruption of the voting process,” she said.

In its report, the European Union (EU) Election Observation Mission to Nigeria said operational shortcomings on the part of INEC marred the general election.

At a press briefing in Abuja yesterday, the EU observers said the challenges put undue burden on voters during the election.

The EU EOM chief observer, Maria Arena, said from its observation in 261 polling units and 94 collation centres across 31 states and the FCT, important polling procedures were not always followed and essential materials were missing.

She noted that though the electoral body operated in a complex security and politically charged environment, it also made remarkable improvements in some areas.

“On election day, the majority of polling units opened extremely late, leaving voters waiting for hours uncertain of when voting would begin. The delay due to lack of materials was compounded by an absence of public information from INEC about what was happening and whether the closing time would be extended.”

She said “as a result, there was confusion and we observed that some put off from voting.”

The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) said INEC did not manage the election efficiently, leading to significant shortcomings.

“The election has been a step back from the 2015 general election and actions should be taken to identify what has gone wrong and what can be corrected. Situation Room urges voters and stakeholders to exercise restraint to avoid further loss of human life and to seek legal redress if aggrieved.”

  • Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa said violence increased in 2019 as opposed to 2015

Another observer group, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), expressed concern on the rising incidence of violence in Nigeria’s polls, observing that incidents of violence recorded in the last Saturday elections far exceeded that of 2015.

The former Zambian President, Mr. Rupiah Bandan, who is the head of the EISA Election Observation Mission (EOM) to Nigeria spoke at a preliminary assessment of the conduct of the polls in Abuja.

According to Bandan, EISA EOM observed all election day procedures in 54 polling stations in eight states where observers were deployed, noting that the exercise was characterised by logistical and operational challenges, beginning with the late opening of the polls.