Saturday, 23 November 2013

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Anambra Governorship election: INEC ignores calls for cancellation

The Independent National Electoral Commission has ignored calls for the cancellation of the Anambra State governorship election held last Saturday and instead fixed November 30 for the supplementary poll in areas where elections were cancelled. Below are all the exclusive from Punch Report.

Stakeholders including the All Progressives Congress and governorship candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party and the Labour Party had called for outright cancellation on the grounds that the election was not credible, free and fair. In addition, APC wrote a petition to INEC stating reasons why the election must be cancelled.

But addressing journalists in Abuja on Friday, INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, said there were no substantial evidences that would warrant outright cancellation of the governorship election.

He however admitted that the election did not satisfy the commission’s intention and the expectations of Nigerians.

He said, “I have looked at the petition by APC and have asked a team to also look at it; all the allegations contained there were a repetition made by the APC candidate (Chris Ngige) to which we had replied. Continue...

“Despite minor challenges, there is no substantial evidence that should warrant outright cancellation. Majority of the complaints cannot be substantiated. If the purpose of the petition is to convince us to cancel the election, I am sorry to say that there is no sufficient evidence to warrant the cancellation of the elections. Therefore we have decided that the supplementary election will hold on Saturday, Nov 30, 2013.

“INEC prepared for that election more than it had ever prepared for any other election in the past; there is no doubt that INEC’s operational capability could not be said to be its best but we did our best under very difficult circumstances.”
INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega
Jega also reacted to allegations that the register given to political parties was different from the one used in the elections, stating that INEC had reviewed the register and was convinced that the register was the same given to parties.

He said, “It is very unfair to accuse INEC of giving out a different register, we challenge the parties to come out with evidence that the register that we used was different from the one that was given to parties 30 days before the election.

“The only difference is the age.  On the disenfranchisement of a candidate (Tony Nwoye), this is quite regrettable as we had briefed the parties on how the number of registered voters came down from 1.8 to 1.7 based on our efforts to clean up the voters register as we were determined to discard the use of addendum register.

“They are not being fair to INEC as regards the register. Any politician with evidence should come out and prove it. Our investigation has shown that this candidate is on the manual register since 2011. It was on this manual register that he was allowed to vote in the April 2011 election.”

He said that a substantial majority of those alleged to have been disenfranchised if not all of them must have been people who might  have done multiple registration or did not have their names captured in the electronic register.

“The Electoral Act is very clear and our guidelines are very clear that if on presentation of your voter’s card and your name is not on the register, you will not be allowed to vote; our electoral officers were trained to allow those whose names were on the register to vote.

“I can speak emphatically that Nwoye who alleged that he was not allowed to vote, his name was on the manual register and since we were not using the addendum register and the manual register, he did not use the opportunity to get his name on the electronic register.”

The commission also acknowledged the imperfections in the Anambra State election, adding that the delay in the deployment of electoral officers and materials accounted for the poor conduct of the election.

Jega said, “We regret that in spite of the outcome of the election, the Anambra election has not been the best of elections, we regret that there is no other decision that could be taken by the commission other than to conduct a supplementary election in the areas where elections were cancelled.

“We recognise that the election we conducted in Anambra State is not perfect, but we are satisfied that the evidence adduced were not sufficient to warrant a total cancellation of the election.”

The INEC chairman also urged all the stakeholders to ensure that the elections are concluded on time, adding, “We have assured Nigerians that we are not partisan and we have the capacity to ensure that anybody that compromises the elections would be made to face the wrath of the law.”

Jega also disclosed that the Electoral Officer in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, Mr. Chukwujekwu Okeke, who was said to have been involved in electoral malpractices in Obosi, had been handed over to security agencies.

Speaking on the alleged use of students from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka he said, “That is a misunderstanding of our procedure because in all elections, we ensure that members of the National Youth Service Corps are presiding officers, and there are assistant presiding officers, and where there are insufficient number of the corps members, we had always complemented them with students from federal universities.

“We did it in Edo State, we did it in Ondo State and we also did it in the 2011 elections as there were no enough NYSC members to be presiding officers, even for us to get enough corps members to be presiding officers, we had to bring in some corps members from Enugu and Delta states.”

But in a swift reaction, both the APC and Labour Party said they would not participate in any supplementary election in the state.

The APC  in a statement  in Lagos on Friday signed  by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed,  said,  “We will not be a party to what is obviously a travesty of election by a self-discredited and conniving electoral umpire.’’

It said that it was shocked that INEC could even talk of organising a supplementary election, despite the weight of credible evidence it presented on the November 16 governorship poll in Anambra State.

It added, “This announcement has confirmed our worst fears that INEC is working in cahoots with the PDP and the presidency to ensure that no election ever counts in Nigeria.

“The INEC Chairman himself was the first to admit that a senior official of the commission compromised the election in one local government area in Anambra.

“We on our own as a party were able to establish that materials meant for several local governments that were the strongholds of our candidate were diverted; that out of the about 1.7 million registered voters in Anambra, only a little over 400,000 were accredited to vote; and that the voters’ register was apparently tampered with to remove many names and disenfranchise thousands of voters. “

The party said that the same electoral body that admitted that the election was compromised had turned around to validate it by its decision to organise supplementary election instead of cancelling it and holding a fresh one.

Also, the National Chairman of Labour Party, Chief Dan Iwuanyawu, in a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH, on Friday, said the November 16 election was a sham, adding that taking part in the “so called” supplementary election would be giving legitimacy to an illegal act.

He said, “I don’t think my party is going to participate; we have to summon an immediate meeting.  Jega should go and conclude the script he started implementing, he should go and satisfy the person who gave him the script.

He explained that political parties, politicians and the electorate behaved themselves and there were no reported cases of electoral violence except for the illegality perpetrated by INEC officials who compromised.

He said, “He (Jega) has only tried unsuccessfully to justify the charade that happened in Anambra on November 16

But the Chairman of the Labour Party in Anambra State, Mr. Sam Oraegbunam, told Saturday PUNCH  categorically that the party would not participate in the supplementary election.

He said, “We called for total cancellation of the election and the holding of a fresh one. There is no need to participate in the supplementary election. If it was total cancellation, then we would have participated in it,” Oraegbunam said.

However, the Anambra State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Ken Emeakayi, said the PDP would participate in the election.

“It is a directive from the national working committee and we are getting ready for it,” he said.

The Director General of the Tony Nwoye Campaign Organisation, Mr. Osita Ezenwa, however said the organisation would meet and take a decision. “We will meet to have a comprehensive assessment of what has been said by the INEC Chairman. We are consulting,” he said.

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