Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is under pressure to review the just concluded 2023 general elections where evidence of malpractices has been established.
Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have asked the commission to ensure that there is evidence of electoral malpractices and that the commission should review allegations of voter suppression and vote buying based on provisions of the law.
The CSOs are Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Transparency International (TI) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC). A report released by their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, said INEC should review elections where they are confirmed to be rigged. “INEC must review all evidence of electoral malpractices presented before it,” Rafsanjani said in the report compiled by the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).
The CSOs said that insecurity, voter suppression and vote buying characterised the conduct of the just concluded gubernatorial election. TMG said it deployed 768 roving observers across 768 local government areas in the country to observe the March 18 governorship and state assembly elections, adding that voter suppression and vote buying was the order of the day.
TMG noted improvements by INEC around logistics delivery and functionality of the BVAS, stating however that the same cannot be said about security on election day, as the 2023 polls turned out to be one of the most violence-ridden elections in Nigeria’s recent history.
Its report signed by its chairman, Rafsanjani, TMG said, “In the build up to the elections, there were reports of voters’ suppression and intimidation with threats of consequences as issued by well-known loyalists of some highly ranked politicians in the country. The failure of the security operatives to apprehend and prosecute issuant of such threats, further emboldened them to unleash mayhem on citizens on election day.
“The gubernatorial elections were further challenged by incidents of voter apathy in many states across the country following diminished confidence in the electoral umpire as a result of the outcome of the presidential election. This becomes a major drawback on the nation’s electoral process considering the increasing spate of voter education in the country.”
The CSOs said the failure of the police to respond to voter intimidation in the build up to the elections emboldened political thuggery and election violence that permeated the governorship elections in Nigeria.
He noted: “The police have the authority to stamp out these individuals no matter who they are connected to. The police must move to arrest those individuals and bring them to justice to serve as a deterrent in future elections.
“All arrested electoral offenders must be prosecuted in public knowledge while investigations continue to arrest those not in the police net yet. Furthermore, the sponsors of those thugs who unleashed mayhem on innocent Nigerians who only sort to express their constitutional guaranteed rights must be fished out and prosecuted in public knowledge.
“INEC must review all evidence of electoral malpractices presented before it. EFCC and ICPC should continue with their good work to reduce the commercialization of vote buying and arrest both the enablers, middlemen, and receivers during the upcoming elections.
“TMG commends INEC on lessons learnt from the presidential poll which has been brought to improve the state elections. As seen from the efficient logistic deployment and functionality of the technological introductions, Nigeria’s electoral system has the potential to bring about credible elections, it is to the extent which the commission is allowed to independently manage the elections that hinders credible elections in the country. INEC must strive to eliminate human interference especially with result management.
Meanwhile, provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 provide a window of seven days for reversal of declaration of results where a case of malpractice is established.
The section 65(c) states that, ” declaration of scores of candidates and the return of a candidate : Provided that the Commission shall have the power within seven days to review the declaration and return where the Commission determines that the said declaration and return was not made voluntarily or was made contrary to the provisions of the law, regulations and guidelines, and manual for the election.”
Section 65 (2) stipulates that, “A decision of the returning officer under subsection (1) may be reviewed by an election tribunal or court of competent jurisdiction in an election petition proceedings under this Act.”
Accredited INEC Observers Reject Results Of Kano Governorship Poll
Also, a coalition of INEC-accredited Observer Groups yesterday called for a supplementary election in Kano State, alleging that last Saturday’s governorship poll was marred by malpractices and other irregularities.
They rejected the declaration of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) candidate, Abba Kabiru Yusuf, as the winner of last Saturday’s governorship election in the state.
The observers accredited by INEC called on the commission to review the said declaration and conduct supplementary election in areas where over 270,000 votes were cancelled.
This, the election observers said, is in line with relevant electoral laws and is necessary for the peace and progress of the state in particular and Nigeria at large.
Stating their position at a press conference in Kano, team leader of the observer groups, Comrade Friday Maduka, and secretary, Alhaji Ali Abacha, urged INEC to use the BVAS machines to check the figures on the result sheets form ECBAs for all the local government areas.
Maduka said, “By so doing, they (INEC) will find that the entire results being brandished by NNPP and their cohorts are falsifed and thus cancel all the false results. INEC will not single out some state out of thirty-six states to satisfy a certain political godfather and his movement. The rigging was massive and mind-boggling. Where did they get those figures they are brandishing in Gwarzo LGA, Tudun Wada LGA, Bagwai LGA, Dala LGA and Fagge LGA, etc?
“INEC went against its rules by declarng a winner while collation of result was still ongoing. Also the margin of lead which is about 130,000 votes is less than the total canccancelled votes of over 270,000. Section 65 of the Electoral Act is very clear in cases like this. Therefore, the INEC hasty declaration of a winner in the Kano State Governorship election 2023 cannot be said to be fair to all the political parties involved.”
Recalling that INEC had done a review of results in the case of Abia state, Enugu state, Adamawa state and Tudun Wada/Doguwa Federal Constituency, where a winner was already been declared by INEC but later reviewed the entire process in line with relevant laws in respect to the margin of lead and cancelled votes, the observers asked INEC to also review all the local government results in the BVAS or cancel the election reesult in the entire local government areas where malpractices and obvious irregularities were observed.
The continued: “INEC should apply same rules to every state involved in this Gubernatorial Elections without bias and or preferential treatment to any individual or Political party. “In conclusion, we the Coalition of INEC accredited Observer groups therefore state that the Kano State Governorship election of 18” March. 2023 was marred by irregularities, violation of the Electoral Act and INEC Guidelines and does not meet up with the international best democratic practices and principles for free, Fair, credible and transparent peaceful elections.
“INEC should as a matter of national urgency, review the outcome of the election and have a retraction on its position and look in the direct of conducting a supplementary election in the affected areas of over 270 000 cancelled votes in line with our relevant electoral laws for the peace and progress of the state in particular and Nigeria at large.
“Finally, we condemn in strong term the post-election violence that greeted the state after the hasty declaration of a winner by INEC under the guise of victory celebration, resulting to loss of life and destruction of properties.
“We urge the various Security agencies in the state to thoroughly investigate the incident appropriately and bring perpetrators to book to face the full wrath of the-law while also appealing to the good people of Kano state to remain calm and law abiding by putting behind them the strings of violence.”
Coalition Asks INEC To Review Kaduna Guber Poll
Similarly, a coalition, Citizens Coalition for The Restoration of Kaduna Mandate, yesterday protested at INEC headquarters, calling for the review of the just concluded gubernatorial election in Kaduna State. The group said INEC officials and returning officers disregarded the use of BVAS bought with billions of naira by the federal government during the election.
Leaders of the coalition, Edward John Auta, spokesperson; Hadwyah Samuel, convener, and Bello Jallo, co-convener, who handed their complaint letter to INEC, appealed to Nigerians and the international community to rescue the people of Kaduna State by mounting pressure on the commission to immediately review the results of the governorship election in the state.
They said, “As you are aware, the governorship and House of Assembly elections took place across the 36 states of the federation on Saturday, 18th March, 2023. In Kaduna State, the exercise, as monitored by many observers, was short of a democratic process as the outcome did not reflect the choice of the people or complied substantially with the provisions of the law.
“Ahead of the 2023 general elections, INEC announced to the whole world that BVAS would be deployed to the elections to prevent multiple voting and also ensure the results of polling units are uploaded to the INEC IREV portal immediately after voting and collation at the polling units. It was also meant to serve as a point of reference in the event of a dispute during collation.
“Regrettably, while the results for most of the PUs were uploaded on the platform, the collation officers at all levels refused to consult the IREV portal despite numerous calls for it by opposition agents. A case in hand is the rejection of the Lere LG figures by opposition agents and call for the state’s chief collation officers to consult the INEC portal but were dismissed
“We also witnessed the arbitrary cancellation of results in strongholds of the opposition, and all efforts to draw the attention of the INEC officials to use the results already uploaded on the IREV portal to address the concerns of agents were also refused.
“In particular, the entire results of election in Kukui ward of Kagarko local government with six thousand and eighty-four (6084) number of registered voters and all permanent voters cards (PVC) collected were cancelled at the ward collation centre, despite protest against that by party agents, knowing that all polling units result sheets have been uploaded on the IReV. Our members observed how collation centers in Kaduna South, Igabi, Birnin Gwari, Zaria, Lere became cancellation centres.”
The coalition further alleged that manipulation of the elections in many areas was supervised and aided by some corrupt agents of the security forces. “In Birnin, Kachia, Kagarko, Lere, and Kudan LGAs, there were incidences of such fraudulent activities, which ultimately proved effective in altering the election outcome in favour of the APC candidate,” the group said adding that since the law provides for seven days to review, INEC should do the right thing.
“In view of the fact that the law provides for a 7-days window for INEC to review the results of an election where evidences of widespread irregular abound, we call on the commission to immediately commence the review of the results of the governorship elections in Kaduna State to ascertain the true winner of the elections.
“We demand that no certificate of return should be issued to the candidate of the APC or anyone for that matter unless this process is concluded and resolved in his favour”, the protesters told INEC.
CSOs Want INEC To Review Ogun Results Within 7 Days
Coalition of Civil Society Groups accredited to observe March 18 governorship election in Ogun State has faulted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for announcing the results of the poll rather than declaring it inconclusive due to the number of cancelled votes.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday, leader of the group, Chris Okike, said because the margin of victory is 13,852 and cancelled vote is 33, 750, the electoral umpire ought to have declared the exercise inconclusive in line with its enabling law.
Recall that incumbent governor, Dapo Abiodun of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was declared winner of the election having scored 276,295 votes as against the 262,383 scored by Ladi Adebutu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The CSOs maintained that by the Electoral Act 2022, “Where the difference between the winner and the loser is less than cancelled vote, the results should be inconclusive.”
Okike said INEC, therefore, erred in going ahead to announce results, calling on the electoral umpire to explore the seven-day window authorized by the law to review the results to avoid unpleasant consequences. Okike said, “We are a coalition of Civil Society Organizations, accredited by INEC for the 2023 general election. We monitored and evaluated elections in many states across Nigeria. “The recent outcry by many Nigerians across the nation cannot be overlooked. The just concluded election in Ogun State has amplified many errors.