Tension Mounts As INEC Adjourns Presidential Collation Till Monday 11am

The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has adjourned the final collation of the Presidential Election results to Monday by 11am. Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu announced this on Sunday evening, while formally declaring open the National Collation Centre.

“From today, the collation centre is hereby declared open until the final determination of the 2019 presidential election. During the course of proceedings, there may be interludes or adjournments and these will be announced by the Chief Returning Officer. At the moment no State Collation Officer is around. Some of them are expected tonight. Accordingly, proceedings are hereby adjourned. We will reconvene by 11am tomorrow Monday 25th February for the collation of results”, he declared.

INEC had earlier announced that the process has been concluded in Ekiti, and the State Collation Officer was being expected in Abuja but he didn’t arrive as at 7pm. Some of the officers would come by road while others would come by air depending on their proximity to Abuja.

“Meanwhile, collation of results from yesterday’s elections continue nationwide. Almost all the states have concluded RA Collation and are now collating results at the LGA level. Some have commenced state level collation. We expect the state collation officers for the Presidential elections to start arriving at the National Collation Centre later today and early morning tomorrow. Accordingly, the National Collation Centre will be officially declared open today at 6pm. Collation will commence as soon as the results arrive from the states. On this note, I wish to state that Ekiti State has already concluded the process. The state collation officer for the Presidential election is, as we speak, on his way to Abuja with the result of the Presidential election for Ekiti”, Yakubu had said.

According to him, the collation officer has also made returns in the National Assembly elections in Ekiti state. He said though the commission was generally satisfied with the way Nigerians conducted themselves during the exercise, it was disheartening to note the killing of one of its ad hoc staff in Rivers by political thugs.

“While in all these attacks, electoral staff sustained injuries, we have unfortunately recorded the first fatality in Rivers state. An ad hoc staff, Mrs Ibiseki Amachree was hit by a bullet while returning from election duty in Degema. May her soul rest in peace. We condemn this attack and have lodged a comprehensive report with security agencies for expeditious investigation and prosecution of those involved”, he said.

This was as the INEC boss said the commission has also handed over one of its Electoral Officers in Imo to the Police for election duty infractions.

“All election duty personnel have sworn to an oath of neutrality. We have reports of possible dereliction of duty by some electoral officials. They refused to activate or deploy the smart card readers. The failure to fully account for materials for the elections, absconding from duty and a host of other infractions. In Imo state, one of our Electoral Officers had already been handed over to the Police. We will not tolerate violations against, or by our own officials”, he warned.

Already the opposition parties, led by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its ally, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), have started raising eyebrows over INEC’s slow pace of release of results. They have called on the electoral body to release the presidential elections results without further delay, and also announce Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the winner in the presidential elections.

CUPP alleged yesterday that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) office of INEC was working on altering the outcome of the presidential election in Abuja, so as to help President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) score the mandatory quarter of the votes cast. But the APC responded last night that the main opposition party’s claim was outlandish and warned that the nation would be thrown into crisis.

The electoral body INEC has reiterated its commitment to protecting the sanctity of the ballot and the integrity of the choices made by Nigerians at the polls. Yakubu stated that the commission reviewed the processes and challenges arising from the conduct of the elections as well as information harvested from its various citizens’ contact platforms.

The chairman said that the commission acknowledged that there were places where personnel and materials did not arrive on time, resulting in delays in opening of polls, but noted that the commission responded by extending the voting period to compensate for the initial loss of time.

He added that reports indicated that many citizens who would have otherwise been disenfranchised had the opportunity to vote. The chairman also noted that in spite of the INEC’s best effort to enhance the functionality of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs), it experienced technical malfunctions in some locations, stressing that through the deployment of 8,809 Area Technical Support (RATECHS) engaged by the commission as ad hoc, many of these glitches were successfully rectified, which enabled voting to take place seamlessly in the affected PUs nationwide.

The chairman said the elections would be re-conducted in areas where violence was recorded and where the commission was unable to conduct a legitimate election, and some of those took effect on Sunday. Yakubu said that INEC was also aware of incidence of intimidation, abduction, hostage-taking and violence unleashed on election officials in Akwa Ibom and the burning of a vehicle conveying materials used for Saturday’s election in Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi.

“Some Youth Corps members serving as ad hoc staff were also attacked in Osun,’’  he disclosed that the commission received reports of voters who presented genuine PVCs read by the SCRs but were not allowed to vote because their names were not on voter register.

According to him, “We have been confronted by such a situation in one of the off-season elections conducted by the Commission. For this reason, we made a clear provision in our draft Regulations and Guidelines to allow such voters to vote.

“However, when the draft was discussed with stakeholders, the clause was rejected on the grounds that it will encourage voting by identity theft. We dropped it,” he said.

The chairman also disclosed that the commission’s attention had also been drawn to the omission of the logo of the African Action Congress (AAC), from the ballot paper for Lagos East senatorial district.

“We have checked our record and confirmed the inadvertent omission. We have contacted the Chairman of the party to acknowledge the error. The omission is inadvertent, and it is one out of 23,316 nominations for elections into 1,558 constituencies,” he said.

Asked on his view about performance of the security agencies, Yakubu said it was not yet the right time to assess the performance of any institution involved in the election. He said that he was not aware of cancellation of election result in the FCT, or anybody forcing his way to collation centre to change election result in Rivers.

Meanwhile, the PDP yesterday accused Buhari and the APC of planning to alter the result of the presidential election.

 The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said that intelligence available to the party showed that INEC was delaying the announcement of results, following directives by the Buhari Presidency and APC, who are bent on altering the figures, from the polling centres and allocate fictitious figures for Buhari, particularly in northern states.

He stated, “Curiously, INEC server is now shut down, results are no more being transmitted, and the reason is to enable the APC to inflate figures from six designated states.

“We already have reports of how APC governors in the northern states have been making desperate effort to tamper with the results of the elections in their respective states, with the view to award conjured votes to President Buhari.

“In Kogi State, Governor Yahaya Bello, has been making frantic moves to change results to suit APC’s intent and purposes as against the wishes of the people, expressly delivered at the polls.”

The main opposition party, therefore, called on international observers and election monitors to insist on a transparent process of transmission of results and the monitoring thereof. Ologbondiyan said that the Minister of Transportation and the Director-General of the Buhari Campaign, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, used the military to hold an INEC official in River State, Mrs. Mary Efeturi, hostage and insisted that she would not be released until she alters the results in favour of Buhari

The PDP called on INEC chairman to note that in this age of Information Communication Technology, Nigerians already have the results as delivered at the polling centres and any attempt to alter any figure will be faced with vehement resistance.

“In delaying the announcement of the results, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu is allowing the APC to turn him into a villain and directly pitching him against the people. He should, therefore, extricate himself from the rejected APC and be on the side of the people by immediately announcing the results as already delivered at the polling units and declare, the people’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, the winner.”

The CUPP yesterday alleged that it is in possession of irrefutable evidence that some APC governors in the North-west and North-east geopolitical zones, were working to inflate the number of votes scored by Buhari in those regions so as to neutralize the lead of Atiku in the other four zones. The coalition also claimed that INEC is under serious pressure to cancel elections in areas APC lost.

In a statement issued by CUPP spokesperson, Mr. Ikenga Ugochinyere, the coalition alleged that APC almost secured the collaboration of the Nigerian Army, which had allegedly begun to give cover to its chieftains and compromised electoral officers to hold back the results from the areas and to later attempt to smuggle in the inflated results.

According to him, “Having confirmed from their situation room that the numbers do not add up and that President Buhari also failed to secure the constitutional 25% of the votes cast in each of two thirds of the states of the federation, the president and his party are mounting pressure on the Enugu State Governor and the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, including other South-east states to alter some results so as to award at least 25 per cent of the votes to the president.”

It noted that the president did not secure the 25 per cent votes in any of the states of the South-east in 2015, adding that the administration was also plotting frantically to declare the results of the FCT as inconclusive, so as to order a rerun where they will use security and thugs to intimidate the people.”

The opposition parties called on the electoral commission not to cancel any results already declared where no incidents were recorded, adding that the credibility of the election must be maintained and not tarnished because of the undeserved ambition “of a man who failed woefully in office.”

CUPP also revealed that its presidential situation room had completed the compilation of polling unit result sheets and tabulation of all results, and might be compelled to release these results to the public to forestall INEC from playing the games the APC is prodding them to play.

“Our candidate won in a vast majority of the almost 120,000 Polling Units across the country. We wonder how INEC would now cancel results of elections where even agents of the ruling party signed and where they lost,” it said, adding: “The attempt to foist on Nigerians an illegitimate president through inflation of electoral figures has failed.”

Meanwhile, the APC presidential campaign council has alleged that the PDP was making moves to claim victory at last Saturday’s presidential election by publishing fake results. The Director of Strategic Communications, APC Presidential Campaign Council, Mr. Festus Keyamo, said it was aware that an emergency meeting of the main opposition party had been summoned for Monday somewhere in Abuja, to map out plans on how to issue fake election results and to prepare grounds for protests.

The party accused one of the PDP campaign spokesmen, Alhaji Buba Galadima, of pre-empting INEC by tipping PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku as the winner.

“We call for the immediate arrest of Alhaji Buba Galadima, as PDP and Atiku’s campaign perfect plans to release fake presidential results ahead of INEC; plans to mobilise hoodlums for choreographed protests,” it said.

The APC statement said that “top on the agenda of the PDP’s meeting is to activate the last strand of their Dubai strategies that have since collapsed like a pack of cards: they plan to release fake results of the presidential election later today (Sunday), or early Monday morning that they claim to have compiled themselves.

“Our information is that they aim to create crises and confusion that will lead to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar claiming victory in a day or two from today, ahead of the official announcement of the results by INEC.

“Then, what would follow will be some carefully choreographed protests by pockets of hoodlums in some parts of the country. The aim is to curry the sympathy of our foreign friends and push us to the Venezuela situation.”

The National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, accused PDP of making outlandish statements on the outcome of the presidential polls. Mr Onilu made this known in a statement, warning the opposition to desist from actions that could precipitate crisis.

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