Army uncovers plot to disrupt polls

Sun Newspaper Headline (18th February,2019)

Polls postponement

  • Polls postponement: INEC under pressure over suspended campaigns

Ahead  of the February 23 rescheduled presidential and National Assembly elections, a showdown appears imminent as political parties dare the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over electioneering.

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had last Saturday, during an interactive session with stakeholders, in Abuja, where he explained why the polls were postponed, said political parties cannot resume campaigns despite the shift in date.

In specific response to a question from former Aviation minister, Osita Chidoka, who represented Uche Secondus, national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Yakubu said since campaigns for the election ended last Thursday, parties could no longer resume campaigns.

However, in a daring move, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it would resume its campaign, which it had earlier  closed on February 14, before the elections were postponed  by one week by INEC.

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday night,  the opposition party  said it is set to reopen  its campaign,  following  the postponement of the polls to February 23.

Consequently,  the PDP urged its members to await further directives on when it would resume its campaigns.

The party stated that INEC erred  to have prohibited open campaigns  after it had postponed  the elections.

According to the opposition party, “such administrative pronouncement was erroneous, directly in conflict with the provision of the Electoral Act and is not backed by any other law in our country.

“Our position is predicated on the clear provision of section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act which stipulated that ‘for the purposes of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day’.

“The clear import of this provision, in the current situation, is that given the postponement of the election to February 23, 2019, the 24 hours requirement for closure of all public campaigning falls at midnight of February 21.

“The PDP reminds INEC that whenever its administrative pronouncement conflicts with the Electoral Act, such administrative pronouncement must bow before the law. “

Earlier, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) had also faulted the INEC boss and directed its 51 members to resume campaigns.

CUPP, in a statement by its national spokesman, Imo Ugochinyere, yesterday, dismissed Yakubu’s position on campaign as unconstitutional and directed all its members to resume campaigns and mobilisation of voters for the February 23 presidential poll.

The CUPP, which premised its position on the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), argued that since the presidential election had been shifted to Saturday, political parties were at liberty to resume campaign till midnight on Thursday, which is 24 hours prior to election.

He said: “In view of the provisions of Section 99 of the Electoral Act, the over 51 member parties of the Coalition of United Political Parties hereby direct all members to return to the campaigns fields and recommence campaigns and end by midnight of Thursday, February 21, 2019 as required by law.

“Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act provides that public campaigns shall end 24 hours prior to the day of polling.

“It is, therefore, wrong to expect that political parties will stop campaigns on February 14 for polls that will open on February 23.

“It is unlawful and statutorily wrong to curtail the clear intendment of this section of the Electoral Act which is clear and unambiguous.

“Campaigning until 24 hours prior to the day of polling is a statutory right of parties and cannot be taken away, curtailed or abridged by any executive fiat.

“INEC cannot, on its own accord, limit the period of campaigns as it is regulated by law.

“Member parties are hereby directed to continue campaigns from today (Sunday) and focus on voter re-mobilisation and ensure that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is elected and declared winner of the presidential election.”

 In a recent development,  PDP, yesterday,  claimed there were evidences that the Federal Government and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have been sabotaging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in a orchestrated plot to engineer a staggered presidential election.

The PDP in a statement by Kola Ologbondiyan,  claimed it had it on good authority that INEC  National Commissioner in charge of Health and Welfare,  Amina Zakari and another  top official in the electoral commission allegedly assisted the Presidency and ruling party in scuttling last weekend’s election.

The party  noted that this is because President Muhammadu Buhari  was determined to have a staggered election where security agencies will allegedly be used to subvert the will of the people at the polls.

“These APC elements in INEC engineered actions that affected the distribution and delivery of INEC sensitive materials to designated locations, thereby frustrating the electoral process.

“We also have details of how a hired a team of data hackers corrupted the voters register, with a view to causing mass confusion and voters suppression on the election day.

Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has appealed to its supporters  who sacrificed time, resources and convenience to perform their civic duty to elect their leaders but were disappointed by the postponement not to be deterred.

 A statement jointly signed by Babatunde Raji Fashola and Hadiza Bala-Usman, Directorate of Election Planning and Monitoring; and Directorate of Contact and Mobilization, respectively, said the party’s disappointment was “doubled due to the fact that unlike some who were apparently privy to this postponement in advance, we found out alongside the public a few hours before the polls opened.

 “However, we Nigerians are a determined and resilient people and we will not let the shortcomings of INEC deter us from exercising our franchise.

 “Therefore, we ask you all to stay calm, stay determined and come out en masse on February 23rd to vote for APC, President Muhammadu Buhari and all APC Senators and House of Representative candidates.”

 “We urge all Nigerians to convert their disappointment to determination and ensure that their previous sacrifice does not go to waste.”

“Nigerians would have been shocked that many registered voters in possession of Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) would have arrived their polling centers on election day, only to discover to their amazement that their names have disappeared from the register in their units,” it stated.

The PDP added: “Intelligence available to us further details how agents of the Buhari Presidency infiltrated the distribution system and ensured that sensitive election materials do not arrive at the designated locations, with the views to stalling elections in several states and pave way for a staggered election.

“This is in addition to deliberate swapping of sensitive election materials between different states and local governments so as to muddle up the process and stall election in affected areas. In some of states like Edo, sensitive election materials did not arrive at their designated points on APC interruption.”