PDP attacks INEC as Atiku seeks tribunal’s order to inspect poll materials

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PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar

The Peoples Democratic Party on Tuesday accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of colluding with the All Progressives Congress to win the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections.

This, the PDP said, was done through the militarization of polls in its strongholds and skewing the process in the favour of the ruling party.

This was contained in a letter the National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, handed over to INEC management during a peaceful protest it organised to express its grievances about the February polls to the electoral umpire.

The protesters had marched from the PDP complex in Maitama, Abuja popularly called Legacy House to INEC headquarters.

The protesters carried placards and chanted songs. Some of the placards read, ‘INEC give us original result,’ ‘Kogi result is a sham.’ Yakubu, the actor, announce the original result’ and ‘INEC please do the right thing.’

He urged the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, to make a statement that the military must not come near where elections would be taking place on Saturday.

A copy of the letter signed by Secondus and addressed to the INEC chairman, titled, ‘Cases of infractions and deliberate violations of the electoral law and guidelines,’ was made available to our correspondents.

It read, “We want to place on record and bring to your attention the very obvious and noticeable infractions and violations of the Electoral Law and the Regulations/Guidelines regulating the 2019 general elections which have very negative implications on the credibility, transparency and integrity of the entire electoral processes particularly the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections.”

Secondus said the letter became imperative as the nation approached the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections on March 9.

The letter partly read, “We observed with regrets that the usage of the SCR machines was enforced strategically in the South-South, South-East and the North-Central zones of the country which are essentially the PDP strongholds. This is radically different from what transpired in the North-West, North-East and the South-West, which were estimated as the APC strongholds.

“This is quite contrary to the provisions of paragraph 10(a) & (b) of the regulations and guidelines governing the 2019 General Elections and all the assurances you, Prof. Yakub Mahmood, frequently gave up to the last hours before the elections.

“The deliberate non-deployment of the Electronic Collation System (E-Collation) for the elections results from the units, through the ward centres to the Presidential Collation Centre in Abuja as provided for in the 2019 Electoral Regulations and Guidelines made by you, and as contained in your several official press statements is very suspect.

“This is more so when you have never bothered to explain to Nigerians the justification for this sudden official somersault on such a critical component of the electoral process especially with all the taxpayer’s money spent to install the facilities.

“The unconstitutional deployment of the armed forces especially soldiers and police for the illegitimate purposes to harassing, intimidating,suppressing of leaders of the PDP and suppression of voters in the PDP strongholds across the country which are very well known to you. The use of these same security agents by the government to harass and intimidate Resident Electoral Commissioners and certain INEC national commissioners for the sake of forcing them to declare votes for the APC’s candidates throughout the country has been officially or otherwise brought to your knowledge by the affected officers who even threatened to resign from their positions, yet you have decided to keep mute over it in a way portraying outright conspiracy and collusion of yourself and the commission with the APC government perpetrators.”

He added, “We also want to bring to your knowledge that most of the collation centres in the country were cordoned off by officers and men of the armed forces who chased away accredited agents and or candidates of our party, the PDP, from such centres while the results of the elections from the units were being manipulated, mutilated and altered to suite the dictates and criminal desires of the APC led government. These results that were tampered with were accepted by you and your commission and announced as the results of the elections.

“In places like Lagos, Rivers, Nasarawa, Abia, Benue, Plateau, Ondo, Osun states et al, results of duly conducted elections were illegally cancelled especially in the PDP dominated areas to reduce the margin of victory in those states in favour of the APC candidates. Is it not surprising to you that the Lagos State with over six million voters can only return less than one million votes? This was the case in virtually all the PDP dominated states where voter suppression was deployed as a major strategy by you and the APC government in active collaboration with some of your unscrupulous RECs and staffers.”

He said, “We have taken time to chronicle the above fundamental deliberate violations and infractions of the Electoral Law, Regulations and Guidelines and all known canons of electoral best practices by your commission in obvious complicity and collaboration with the APC and security agencies to rig the elections and rob our party of victory.

“We want to remind you that as we inch towards Saturday, March 9, 2019 elections, you must do everything to right these grave anomalies to save yourself and the commission from this woeful embarrassment as you may go down in history as the worst Chairman of INEC in our history.”

Secondus also cautioned INEC against militarising the electoral process, adding that such was undemocratic.

Secondus later handed over the protest letter to one of Yakubu’s representatives who received the protesters.

INEC National Commissioner, Legal, May Agbamuche-Mbu, who spoke on behalf of Yakubu, while addressing the protesters, commended them for approaching the issues in a civilised manner, adding that the commission had received the PDP’s complaints.

She said INEC members were employed to do a professional job but added that they could not do the work alone.

Agbamuche-Mbu said, “We are going to look at it critically, where we need to change, we will change, where it concerns others, we will come together and work together. This country belongs to all of us and we must protect it with all our might. I believe that on Saturday, the elections will go on very well but our mantra in this election is that we want peace in our country.

“I supervised elections in Rivers and Bayelsa states so I know what it means to invest in that area, and the people of Rivers and Akwa Ibom states know what they want.

“We intend to make these elections free and fair, all we ask is that for your own sake too, your mantra should be peace. If you preach peace to the people on the field you can rest assured INEC on its part and the security agencies would do their part and we look at it again.”

PDP, Atiku ask tribunal to compel INEC to release election materials for inspection

Meanwhile, the PDP and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on Tuesday, filed an application seeking an order compelling INEC to allow them to inspect materials used for the conduct of the presidential poll.

The petitioners, through their lawyers, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), filed the ex parte application before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal located on the premises of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.

They are through their application seeking the tribunal’s order permitting them to inspect the Voter Register, the Smart Card Reader Machines, ballot papers and other documents used for the conduct of the polls.

They want the tribunal to compel the electoral body to allow their agents “to scan and make photocopies of vital documents used in the conduct of the election.”

The petitioners’ application filed ex parte would be heard by the tribunal in the absence of the respondents.

INEC, President Buhari and the APC were joined as the first to the third respondents in the motion filed by PDP and Atiku.

Inspection of election materials usually precedes the filing of the main election petition.

It enables the petitioner to obtain documents needed for the purpose of establishing alleged irregularities in the election being challenged.

We are anxious to meet Atiku in court – APC campaign council

However, the Presidential Campaign Council of the APC has said it is anxious to meet Atiku at the election petitions tribunal.

The council debunked reports on social media that it wrote a letter to some international bodies to prevail on Atiku not to proceed to court to challenge the result of the 2019 Presidential Election.

The spokesman for the PCC, Festus Keyamo (SAN), in a statement on Tuesday said the council had no hand in the letter purportedly written by a certain “Buhari Campaign Organisation.”

The statement read, “Our attention has been drawn to some news item and posts on social media reporting that we wrote a letter to some international bodies to prevail on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar not to proceed to court to challenge the result of the 2019 Presidential Election.

“Our investigation reveals that a letter to that effect was purportedly written by a certain ‘Buhari Campaign Organisation.’ This is the second time we will be informing the public that the said ‘Buhari Campaign Organisation’ does not act at the behest of the APC Presidential Campaign Council nor does it represent the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation in any way. As a result, whatever it has released does not represent the position of the APC Presidential Campaign Council or President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Our official position is that we believe that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has a constitutional right to seek redress in court and we do not seek in any way to curtail that right.”

The PCC said any attempt to restrict or discourage Atiku from going to court would be an invitation to anarchy.

The statement said, “In addition, we are very anxious to meet Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in court in order to show the world in a conclusive manner the free and fair nature of the comprehensive defeat of Atiku at the polls.

“An election is not termed ‘rigged’ only by the mere claim of it by the loser. That is what Atiku and the PDP want to ram down our throats. Unfortunately for them, the international, continental and sub-regional observers (who can be seen as neutral by all standards) all declared the election to be free, fair and credible. No ego-massaging narrative can change that.

“We therefore totally disassociate ourselves from the letter purportedly written by one of, perhaps, many support groups of President Muhammadu Buhari. They may have a right to their opinion, but it does not represent our official position.”

INEC budgets N1.9bn to defend Buhari, others’ mandate in court

Meanwhile, INEC is expected to spend over N1.9bn on legal fees and related matters as aggrieved candidates challenge the outcomes of various elections in court.

Atiku, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, and others have already challenged the result of the elections in court.

The information is contained in INEC’s 2019 Election Project Plan which was obtained by The PUNCH.

The document reads in part, “N1, 796, 547, 500.00. Professional fees and expenses for external solicitors to be engaged by the commission to represent it at the tribunals and appeals; honorarium for legal officers that represent the commission at election petitions and appeals.

“Analysis of fees: Governorship petition at N4.5m X 20; senatorial petition at N3m X 45; House of Reps atN2.7m X105; state House of Assembly N1.350m X 244. Honorarium to in-house lawyers is seven per cent of fees payable to external solicitors.”

Of the sum, N6m was spent on pre-election cases which are disputes that arose from the conduct of party primaries.

The commission will also spend a separate N26.5m on monitoring the hearing of election petitions and appeals across the 36 states and the FCT.

The sum will cover duty tour allowance and transport costs for the monitors at the hearing of election petitions and appeals as well as the compilation and printing of reports of petitions and appeals.

The electoral umpire also budgeted a separate N99.5m for the compilation and production of updated electoral legal framework including the code of conduct for external lawyers and code of conduct for staff.

A separate N25m will be spent on the prosecution of electoral offenders.

Yakubu had revealed in January that the commission battled 1, 134 legal cases arising from election disputes in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

He added, “In the course of discharging our responsibilities, no public institution in Nigeria is subjected to more litigation than INEC. Over the last two years (2016 and 2017), the commission has been involved in 454 court cases in addition to 680 cases determined by the Election Petitions Tribunals arising from the outcome of the 2015 general elections, making a total of 1,134 cases so far.”

In another forum, Yakubu said no government agency in the country had been taken to court more than INEC because every aggrieved candidate would join the commission in almost every suit.

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