​2019 general elections: activist frowns at alleged declaration of results under duress

•Urges  INEC to save  Nigeria’s democracy and deal decisively with offenders

Comr. Sheriff Mulade

A Global Peace Ambassador and human rights advocate Comrade Mulade Sheriff has expressed total disappointment over the just concluded general elections in Nigeria.

The peace advocate who expressed worry while speaking with journalists in New York City, USA, said it is highly regrettable to observe the way and manner public office holders displayed their desperate attitude, intimidated,harassed INEC Returning Officers and forcefully ordered that they declared them winners or pay with their lives, describing it as a national and international embarrassment.

Speaking further, he said; “ the success of any election depends on efficient conduct, which includes accreditation, voting, counting, collation and results declaration, saying, Collation and declaration of results are critical stages in the election process”.

“It is important to state that failure to complete the collation and transmission of results in a quick, transparent and accurate manner can jeopardize public confidence and the credibility of the elections, as it will most likely affect candidates and political parties perception of the final results. 

In the just concluded elections, situation have arisen where the integrity of a well-run electoral process is severely compromised as experienced during collation and declaration of results”.

“A number of polling centers had returning officers declared results under duress and some party candidates emerged as winners.

It is no longer news that a returning officer was held hostage from 7pm on a Sunday till 11am on a Monday and had to announce the result to save his life.

However, the said election should have been inconclusive due to election frauds in eight local government areas”, the Activist added. 

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According to him; the declaration of results in some polling units, wards and states collation centre were characterized by party candidates using threats  and forcing returning officers to announce them as winners with the highest votes. These candidates are acting from advantageous position of their party and the power they wield in their states, while neglecting the proviso in INEC’s guidelines, which states in Sections 26 and 153 of the Electoral Act, “a by-election is required when the margin of victory between highest and second highest votes scorers in an election is less than the total number of cancelled votes”.

” For the first time in the annals of our political history, we witnessed INEC officials under serious pressure to declare results negating due process. Sad to state that Politicians are craftily exploiting a section of the electoral law that prohibits INEC from reversing itself after pronouncements as only the court has the power to reverse any pronouncement by the body (INEC).

According to him, “how do we explain or trust the system when the umpires of our democratic process take advantage of the laws guiding it to obliterate and acutely create crisis and conflicts which are avoidable? They short change the system, create room for court cases emanating from disagreements in the way INEC as a body conducted the elections.

Poorly officiated elections gives room for litigation with tax payers money as the body (INEC ) will be joined in all the litigations. 

“Let me state that Nigerians will be happy if the process is neat as there will be little or no litigation when there is credible transparent and free elections.

It is quite disturbing for officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission to declare a candidate of a party, winner in a senatorial election, in apparent disregard to its own guidelines. 

Of special reference is, Mr Uzor Kalu, a former governor of Abia State and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who was declared the winner of Abia North Senatorial District election conducted on February 23, 2019. 

According to Charles Anumudu, the INEC returning officer for the district, Mr Kalu polled 31,201 votes while the incumbent senator, Mao Ohuabunwa trailed Mr Kalu with 20,801 votes in the election, while 38,526 votes were cancelled during the exercise, this number is significantly greater than the margin of 10,400 between both contestants, was this declaration truly our electoral practice or we are deceiving ourselves”? He queried.

“The ordinary man on our street knows that in the above scenario such election should have been better declared inconclusive,  and the people would have been happier to have a re-run in the district. Declaring a candidate winner when a large proportion of votes were cancelled would lead to the disruption of the rule of law and it is our duty as well as that of all well meaning individuals and civil society organizations to speak up against this act of result declaration under duress or without due process. 

The Center for Peace and Environmental Justice through this medium is urging the Independent National Electoral Commission to save our democracy by being the umpire that it was created to be, maintain justice and fair play amongst the electorate”, he said.

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