The election into the 23 local government areas of Kaduna state may have come and gone, the drama that greeted the election leaves more to be desired of a free, fair and credible election in the country. ISAIAH BENJAMIN, x-rays some of the issues prior, during and after the election
The recent Kaduna State local government election was always going to attract a lot of political attention. Besides the political rivalry within the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), the introduction of electronic voting system in the state’s electoral system and indeed, the country’s political space, had set the stage for an intrigue electoral engagement. And as many analysts expected, the events surrounding the election were quite intriguing.
Before the polls
Kaduna State governor Mallam Nasir el-Rufai upon assumption of office on May 29, 2015 gave the assurance of conducting elections into the 23 local government areas of the state, however the assurance took almost three years to become a reality with the just concluded elections. Again, the election used to be conducted without the use of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). But the governor in his commitment to ensure a free, fair and credible election opted for the use of the EVM being the first state in the country to make use of this technology in the conduct of election.
But while the state’s electoral law does not permit the use of EVM, the State independent Electoral Commission (SIECOM) swung into action beginning with a meeting with relevant stakeholders. In that meeting attended by those that matter in the electoral system saw the SIECOM chairman Mrs Saratu Binta Dikko- Audu announcing the date for the election which was ninety days from the date of that meeting, she gave December 30, 2017 as the date for the election. That news lightened up the hall as all in attendance expressed joy that elections into the councils was going to hold at last.
That joy however was short lived as the Kaduna State house of Assembly said, the election cannot go ahead unless the electoral act is amended to accommodate the use of the EVM. This decision led to the cancellation of the election scheduled for last December. The bill to amend the electoral act to accommodate the use of EVM got passed eventually by the House and was subsequently signed into law by the governor. Then a new date was fixed by the state election umpire and the election was set for May 12, 2018.
With that huddle crossed, the political scheming and tensions continued to mount. Barely three weeks to the election, the secretariat of the state’s electoral commission was gutted by fire. Some of the acquired EVM and election materials were said to have been affected by the fire. But the commission’s chairman disclosed however that her office, legal, finance department and conference room all on the 2nd floor of the two storey building were completely razed down. The cause of the fire remains unknown.
She said “No life was lost, and there were no injuries recorded. At the time the fire started, the members of the commission were in an emergency meeting in the chairman’s office.
“The ground floor, 1st floor and stores were not affected by the fire. Details of losses invited will take a few days to determine, the fire service and police are investigating the immediate remote causes of the fire” she added.
Electorates and political parties in the state almost came to the conclusion that the election was no longer going to hold, with many alleging that the inferno was an alleged plan to stop the election. But a meeting of all the stakeholders was convened and they were assured that the election was going to hold as scheduled. That news also did not come without its own setback, as the commission chairman announced that the election would hold but without the use of the Smart Card Readers (SCR). According to her, the election will hold with the use of EVM and voters register from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This again raised some dust as some political parties raised alarm over the non usage of the smart card readers, alleging that it was a grand plan to rig the election in favour of the ruling political party in the state.
On May 11, 2018, less than 24 hours to the election, parties under the Coalition of Political Parties (CPP) numbering about 31 said they were going to boycott the local government elections slated to hold the next day. They alleged a grand plan to rig the election in favour of the ruling All Progresive Congress (APC) by the SIECOM. The political parties who signed to boycott the election were, AA, DPP, CNP, ADC, SDP, APGA, DPC, AD, PPA,PPP,APDA. Others were BNPP,AGA,NEPP, NNPP,ID, MPN,MMN,CAP,AGAP,PPN, RP, YFP,UDP,MPN, GPN,NUP,APA,NPC and LP.
The text of the press conference of the coalition signed by its chairman and secretary, Hon. Umar Ibrahim and Mohammed Inuwa Wada respectively said, “ It is imperative that the Kaduna State coalition of political parties draws the attention of the general public to this grand and deliberate plan to rig the election in favour of APC which is unfortunate and mischievous.
“It is on record that the state Independent Electoral Commission has deliberately refused to make use of the INEC card reader machine for authentication of voters during the election.
“Display the voters register at polling units for voters to confirm their names and eligibility to vote. “Display the names of aspirants to the public for a minimum period of 10 days in accordance with the extant laws”.
The coalition further raised security concern, stressing that Kaduna State has had enough of it’s political violence, it is therefore urgently imperative that we put the security of lives and properties of the people in high premium.
“The recent utterances by the Governor Malam Nasir el-Rufai which placed a bounty on the three distinguished Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing the state at the National Assembly has exposed them to danger and subsequently deprived them and their teeming supporters from exercising their civic responsibility to vote in a free, fair and peaceful election.
“Going by what happened during the APC primaries where thuggery left many citizens dead and hospitalised, we are afraid despite the concerted efforts of the state security agencies, that the scenario might be re enacted at the forth coming local government election.
“It is pertinent therefore, that then Kaduna State Coalition of Political Parties in the interest of peace and safety of lives and properties of our candidates and the general public, that we have decided to boycott the forth coming local government election in Kaduna State election of today.
“We therefore urge the general public to remain calm and pursue their legitimate businesses, while we use this medium to appeal to our members to remain peaceful in their various endeavours.”
Meanwhile, the strongest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), shortly after coalition declared their boycott of the election, said it is fully ready to participate in the election. The state chairman of PDP, Mr Felix Hassan Hyet in his own briefing, said while the fears of the coalition is keenly noted, the party will participate fully in the election, adding that boycotting the election is not the best option.
“The PDP is not part of the decision to boycott the election, we are fully ready to participate in the election, however all the fears raised in the position of the coalition are noted” the chairman stated.
Although the political parties claimed to have boycotted the election, their logos were still captured and some votes gotten by their candidates. In fact, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) was said to have won a counsellorship position in Chikun local government before the election in the local government was declared to be inconclusive.
The Election Day
The Election Day came as scheduled and all seemed to set, despite the challenges. Some setbacks, among others were the late arrival of election materials and technical hitches experienced with the use of the EVM apparently being the first time the machine was being used in the conduct of election in the state and in the country. In fairness however to the electoral umpire, the election went on with minimal violence except some alleged snatching of ballot boxes in some local government areas which led to the postponement of the election in Kaura and Jaba local government areas.
When results of the election started filtering in, it was reported that the PDP was winning in most of the wards and in early need in some local government areas. But that euphoria by the PDP members was short-lived as the table suddenly started to turn in favour of the ruling APC. Then the sudden disappearance and reappearance of returning officers started to make headlines on social media, as results were being announced by interest groups on social media. Before long, protests against the results being announced started pouring in particularly from the PDP and coalition of civil societies who monitored the election.
Post Election Squabbles
The PDP described the local government elections in the 23 councils of Kaduna State as a total fraud. A statement which was made available to newsmen by the party’s publicity secretary in the state, Hon Abraham Catoh, shortly after the election said “the PDP observed the Elections was full of irregularities and thuggery by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the State Independent Electoral Commission (KAD-SIECOM) where results of elections from most of the Local Government Areas were announced even before the Elections were concluded.
“Election materials were not delivered to the 11 wards of Igabi Local Government area but results were announced for those wards. Similar incidence happened in Giwa, Kudan, Ikara, Kaduna North, Kubau and Lere Local Governments.
“Electronic voting machines and result sheets snatched away to unknown destinations, but results were announced on Radio Stations,” the party said.
The party further cited Section 23(1)(a) of the SIECOM laws, which states that: the Presiding Officer shall announce the results of the Polling Unit at the Polling Booth and enter in the appropriate forms before giving same to Political Party Agents and Security Agents. (b) Presiding Officers shall announce the results at the Ward Collation Centres and declare the winner.
“(2)(a) Ward Returning Officers shall announce the results at the Ward Collation Centres and declare the winner.
“(b) Local Government Returning Officers shall announce the results collated from the different Wards of the Local Government and declare the winner at the Local Government Collation Centre.
“It will be recalled that while the Elections were on going, the Governor, Nasir El-Rufai went on air to announce the postponement of Elections in two Local Government Areas i.e Kaura and Jaba Local Governments. We wonder if the Governor is the PRO or the Chairman of the SIECOM.
“It is very glaring that the PDP defeated the APC in most of the Local Governments where Elections were properly conducted across the State, including the Governor’s Ward, where the PDP defeated the APC, hugely.
The opposition continued its agitation, noting “In Kajuru, Chikun and Kagarko Local Government Areas, the results are yet to be announced officially due to the disappearance of the Local Government Returning officers but the desperate politicians have made the announcement without figures scored by each political party. This is an embarrassment to our democracy. We call on the SIECOM to adhere to its laws before the final announcement would be made”.
Earlier in a briefing, PDP State Chairman, Hon Felix Hassan Hyet alleged that his party has been short changed in the results announced so far in the about 13 local government areas of the state, stressing that the party will soon release its field results of the election. He said their party agents submitted reports and they will follow legal means to address the injustices he claimed were meted against them.
Hyet, further claimed that most of the results announced so far were through radio stations rather than the returning officers whom he alleged disappeared. The PDP state chairman, while calling on supporters to remain calm, said the manufacturers of the electronic voting machines were supposed to have stayed in Kaduna to monitor the machines to avoid its malfunctioning at polling units.
Hyet, however, alleged that some electronic voting machines were snatched to unknown destinations: “We call on you to brief you on the update of the local election results of 13 local government so far released. Some local government results was not announced by the returning officers but radio stations. At the moment we have some local government areas like, Kaduna South,Chikun, Kajuru,Jema,Kagar ko,Sanga, still awaiting to be announced as the returning officers are nowhere to be found. The returning officers have disappeared completely. Even, some wards returning officers also disappeared,” the PDP alleged. We are waiting for the returning officers to come out and announce the results in local government areas yet to be announced.
“Our agents have submitted the results to us and we will take necessary legal steps to address the injustices. The manufactured of the machines would have been on ground to monitor the machines. Humans are the ones operating the machines. We will soon make our reports collected from our field agents’ public,” Hyet said.
Also, a coalition of accredited Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and observers during the election condemned its outcome and knocked the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KAD-SIECOM). In a signed statement it issued by their chairman and secretary, Comrade Aliyu Abass, and Abubakar Gombe, respectively, the coalition said after observing the Kaduna council polls, they discovered that the entire exercise was a complete fraud and disservice to the people of the state.
The statement continued “We the coalition of accredited observers drawn from various states of the country to observe the May 12, 2018 local government chairmanship and councillorship elections have done our part of observing the entire exercise and do hereby condemn the conduct and the outcome of the elections and states that it was a complete electoral fraud and disservice to the people of Kaduna State.
“The noticeable irregularities from various localities and the electoral units and polling stations visited by our team of observers includes disappearance of ward electoral officers with result sheets and records of accredited voters. Malfunction of electronic machines in most of the polling units and connivance of security operatives to influence the machines to alter election results.
“These are noticeable at polling units in Igabi which include Jaji, Ambishiya and Tarven hotel Tudun Wada in Igabi West. At the Gaji secretariat polling unit, the AVM machine failed completely owing to the withdrawal of experts trained to operate the machines left four days before the election. We hereby condemn the conduct and outcome of the election as presided over by Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission” the coalition declared.
The Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, has been basking in the success of the recent local government elections. The Kaduna State governor, while expounding on the benefits of the e-voting system told state house correspondents that “Despite apprehension by some political experts, we never doubted that our people will embrace electronic voting. Voters have acknowledged the successful operation of the Electronic Voting Machine, with its user-friendly interface and quick voting process.”
He further said, ‘‘the era of rigging elections is almost over I think that is when people will have confidence in the process and will go out en masse and vote for their leaders.”
He added that overall, the use of e-voting was good value for money and it worked very well. “What we are very happy about is that ordinary people could use it, the interface was friendly, simple and you can finish voting for the chairman and chancellor in less than 15 seconds.”
He however threw some light on some of the challenges they experienced in the build up to the use of the new technology. According to him, “when we were designing the machine, we had the option of integrating the card reader, so that you come with your voter’s card, put in your voter’s card, biometrically confirm that it is your card and then the machine will open for you to vote. But we thought that it would be too complicated since people are used to being accredited separately, it is better we take INEC’s card reader for accreditation and then our machine for voting.
‘‘But a week to the election, INEC said they were not going to give us the card reader. The reasons they gave to me were not acceptable. I called the chairman and I tried to persuade him to make it available to us but we didn’t get the card reader’’, said el-Rufai.
In spite of observations by the PDP and election monitors, SIECOM in a final announcement declared that APC won in Lere, Giwa, Makarfi, Sanga, Birnin Gwari, Igabi, Zaria, Sabon Gari, Kaduna North, Kudan, Soba, Kagarko, Kubau and Ikara local government areas, while the PDP was declared to have won in Kachia, Jema’a, Kubau and Zangon Kataf local government areas.
Elections in Kaura and Jaba local government areas were postponed while elections in Kajuru local government was cancelled. Similarly, elections in Kaduna South and Chikun local government areas were declared inconclusive.
Meanwhile, certificate of return has been handed over to the winners of the election by SIECOM while the new date for the election in the affected five local government areas has been slated for June 6, 2018.
Meanwhile, the state governor, Malam el-Rufai was reported to have vowed to challenge the election in local governments won by the PDP, alleging election rigging. On the other hand, the PDP has also insisted to challenge the entire election in court particularly in local government areas lost to the ruling party. What the eventual outcome of the litigations that may be instituted either way or the elections to be held in June, only time will tell.
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