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INEC Concludes Gov’ship Polls In Kano, Benue, Plateau, Sokoto Tomorrow

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will tomorrow conclude the rescheduled governorship supplementary elections in Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto States.

INEC had after the March 9 governorship elections in 29 states of the federation declared the polls in six states as inconclusive as the leading candidates did have the expected margin of lead votes to be returned elected.

The remaining states are Bauchi and Adamawa where elections will hold only some parts tomorrow.

Except for Tafawa Balewa local government area (LGA) in Bauchi State, the commission will conduct the governorship election in 29 polling units spread across 15 local government areas.

Voters in Tafawa Balewa council will have to wait for the court to determine the case filed against the collation of results from the LGA by Governor Abubakar Bagudu and the state chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

In the same vein, the electoral body will not conclude the governorship election in Adamawa State because of a restraining order by a high court in the state.

It will, however, go ahead with rerun elections to elect some members of the state House of Assembly.

As regards the suspended governorship election in Rivers State, INEC yesterday announced timelines for the election to be concluded even as it fixed April 2, 2019, for the resumption of the collation and announcement of the results of the poll earlier held on March 9.

In the timeline, INEC released for the Rivers’ governorship election, the exercise will be concluded on April 15 and the winner of the race announced.

We Must Avoid Constitution Crisis – INEC

Going by the court cases arising from the yet-to-be-concluded governorship elections in some states, INEC fears that Nigeria may be heading for a constitutional crisis.

INEC said that if the supplementary elections slated for tomorrow in some states were hampered by the litigations, the country may run into a constitutional crisis on May 29.

To avoid the looming crisis, the commission said that all the electoral processes must be completed before the May 29, 2019 handover date.

INEC chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr. Festus Okoye, who spoke on tomorrow’s supplementary governorship elections and other related matters, pledged that the commission would always “obey court orders before we complain.”

Okoye said: “The law says you must obey before complain, that is why INEC will always obey court orders.”

He, however, stated that the electoral umpire had challenged the court orders restraining it from continuing with the collation process in Bauchi State and conducting a run-off in Adamawa.

At a press conference to update Nigerians on the commission’s preparations for the supplementary elections holding in Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto States, Okoye said that even though they’ve obeyed the court orders not to continue with the processes in Adamawa and Bauchi States, INEC would go ahead with the supplementary elections in constituencies where the court did not make such pronouncements.

He said: “We are making efforts to vacate the court orders but elections will still hold in 15 LGAs which are not affected by the court order in Bauchi State.”

According to Okoye, INEC has taken steps to vacate the court order stopping the process in Tafawa Balewa council.

For Adamawa, Okoye said that INEC had also taken judicial action to vacate the order, adding that election would hold in Mayo Belwa where the death of a candidate stopped the electoral body from conducting elections into the state constituency.

“We are going to hold elections in constituencies that are not affected by the court orders. But while we are complying with the court orders, there will be an election in Uba/Gaya. We are also waiting for the application we file in court to vacate the injunction restraining INEC from conducting a supplementary election in Adamawa State,” Okoye said.

The INEC spokesman continued: “Supplementary elections will be conducted in 18 states of the federation on  March 2019. Details of the states and constituencies where the elections will take place will be uploaded on our website before the close of work today (yesterday).

“All observers and the media accredited by the commission to cover the 2019 general elections are free to observe the elections. They will have unimpeded access to the material distribution centres, polling units, and collation centres.

“Arising from the meeting held on 19th March, 2019 between INEC and security agencies, they have given the assurances of adequate security, professional conduct and unimpeded access to all levels of the election and collation centres.

“The INEC Situation Room will be activated on Saturday, 23rd March, 2019. Nigerians can reach the commission via 0700-2255-4632 and its social media platforms (twitter: @inecnigeria; Facebook: INEC Nigeria).”

“The commission encourages all registered voters in the areas where elections will be conducted to come out and cast their ballots. We also appeal to all stakeholders for continuous support,” he said.

On the pending cases, Okoye said that the commission had conducted governorship elections in 29 states and returns have been made in 22 states.

Okoye said: “While the election was suspended in Rivers, it was declared inconclusive in six states namely Bauchi, Adamawa (North East); Benue and Plateau (North Central) and Sokoto and Kano (North West).”

“Following the inconclusive governorship elections in the six states, the commission fixed supplementary elections for the 23rd March, 2019.”

“The supplementary governorship election earlier scheduled to hold in Bauchi State is now a subject of litigation which was initiated by the APC and its candidate, Mohammed A. Abubakar. An interlocutory injunction to suspend the process has been served on the commission by the Federal High Court, Abuja. While the commission has complied in accordance with its policy to obey all court orders in deference to the rule of law, it has also taken urgent steps to vacate the order and dismiss the action.

“It should, however, be noted that the litigation and consequential order only affect the collation of results for the governorship election in Tafawa Balewa local government area. Consequently, the supplementary elections will proceed as scheduled on Saturday, 23rd March in the other 15 local government areas of Bauchi State as well as the Kirfi state constituency supplementary election in Kirfi local government area.

“Similarly, the Adamawa State High Court issued an injunction restraining the commission from proceeding with the supplementary election following the application by the Movement for the Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD), a registered political party which did not take part in the main election. While the commission has also complied with the order, it has equally taken steps to vacate it and dismiss the action.

“Notwithstanding the legal action over the supplementary governorship election, elections will hold in Nasarawo/Binyeri state constituency in Mayo-Belwa local government area where the election had to be countermanded following the death of a candidate before the polls, as well as the supplementary state constituency election and Uba/Gaya state constituency in Hong local government area,” Okoye said.

22, 641 Residents To Vote In Bauchi Rerun

Meanwhile, INEC has said that 22, 641 registered voters are expected to participate in the supplementary elections in Bauchi tomorrow.

INEC resident electoral commissioner (REC) in the state, Ibrahim Abdullahi, said that the re-run would hold in 36 polling units in 29 registration areas (wards) in 15 of the 20 LGAs in the state.

The returning officer in the election, Prof. Kyari Mohammed, had in the early hours of Monday, 11th March, 2019, declared the governorship election in the state as inconclusive.

According to him, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Bala Mohammed, got 469, 512 votes to lead his closest rival, the incumbent governor, Mohammed Abubakar of the APC, who got 465, 453 votes.

He said that the margin of lead between the two candidates was 4, 059 votes.

Mohammed who said that the number of cancelled votes in the elections even without that of Tafawa Balewa LGA was 45, 312, therefore declared that based on Section 26 (53) of the Electoral Act, the elections in Bauchi State is inconclusive, and directed INEC to conduct a rerun in the affected LGAs within 21 days.

But an INEC investigative committee led by Okoye to the state discovered that the cancelled votes in Ningi LGA were 2, 533 and not 25, 330 during the collation.

Following the committee’s recommendations, INEC directed that the error of the 22,797 cancelled votes in the LGA be corrected and deducted from the 45,240 votes earlier announced.

Adamawa Court Extends Restraining Order On INEC To March 26

Meanwhile, a Yola High Court in Adamawa State has extended its restraining order on INEC not to conduct the governorship supplementary polls tomorrow till March 26.

The trial judge, Justice Abdul-Aziz Waziri, yesterday adjourned the case till March 26 for the final ruling.

Waziri said that the earlier order that has been extended until the substantive suit was determined.

Mr. Tanimu Inuwa (SAN), counsel INEC told the court that MRDD’s candidate, Rev.  Eric Theman, who secured the order, was not duly nominated for the governorship election.

Inuwa pointed out that State Election Petitions Tribunal would have been the proper court to entertain the case because the poll had commenced before the suit was brought to the court.

“When election processes started, even with the casting of one vote, the matter arising from the election must be referred to the Election Petitions Tribunal.

He said INEC form CF002 did not contain the name of party’s candidate, adding that Theman was not validly nominated hence MRDD had no candidate in the state.

Barr Yemi Pitan, counsel to MRDD argued that the state and federal high courts had concurrent action on the case.

Pitan referred to Section 31 of the Electoral Act and prayed that the court should order INEC to conduct fresh polls, stressing that the commission has no power to disqualify Theman from the governorship election.

INEC To Resume Collation Of Rivers’ Results April 2

Also yesterday, INEC said that election could not hold in a few areas in Rivers State and admitted that it concluded elections in others with the declaration of winners in 21 state constituencies.

Consequently, the commission released a timetable on the series of electoral events that would lead to the conclusion of the polls. It fixed April 2 for the announcement of the results.

According to Okoye, “collation was ongoing at the time of the suspension of the process. The activities and timelines for the resumption and conclusion of the process are as follows: Engagement with security agencies, 19th March, Abuja; ICCES meeting (Rivers State), 29th March, Port Harcourt; meeting with stakeholders 30th March, Port Harcourt; issuance of guidelines for resumption of collation of results, 1st April, INEC Headquarters, Abuja; revalidation of polling agents and observers for collation of results, 25th– 31st March Abuja and Port Harcourt;  resumption of collation and announcement of results 2nd – 5th April, Port Harcourt (venue to be agreed with stakeholders); supplementary elections where necessary, 3rd April various locations; announcement of results of all supplementary elections 13th – 15th April, various locations; issuance of all outstanding certificates of return, latest 19th of April, INEC Office, Port Harcourt.”

Denies Issuance Of Certificate Of Return To Okorocha, Others

Relatedly, INEC has insisted that it would not give a certificate of return to four candidates in Imo, Benue and Niger states where the declaration was said to have been made under duress.

Okoye said: “For Imo West, we will not issue a certificate of return to Rochas Okorocha. He has taken the matter to court so, let’s wait. We will not prejudge the matter. Whatever the court decides, we will obey. For now, our position has not changed.”

On whether the Imo State governor-elect, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, got two-thirds of the votes, INEC said it’s a matter of litigation.

“Whether he scored the two-thirds of the votes or not, it’s a court matter and whatever the tribunal decides, we will always obey,” Okoye said.

He added: “Certificates of return in respect of governors-elect shall be presented by supervising national commissioners of the respective states between Wednesday, 27th and Friday, 29th March, 2019. They will be assisted by resident electoral commissioners and legal officers of the commission.”

“The precise date for the presentation in each state shall be made known by the respective resident electoral commissioners after consultation with the supervising national commissioners.

“For the state Houses of Assembly, the date of presentation of certificates of return to the respective winners will be announced in due course,” Okoye added.

FG Orders Closure Of Benue, Sokoto, Adamawa Borders

Ahead of tomorrow’s election, the federal government has ordered the closure of the land borders of Benue, Adamawa and Sokoto States.

The closure of the land borders of these states takes effect from 12:00 noon tomorrow till 12:00 noon on Sunday.

This was contained in a statement issued yesterday by the comptroller-general of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, titled: “Federal Government of Nigeria Closes Border.”

Babandede said: “Further to the rerun of governorship election taking place on Saturday, 23rd March, 2019, the minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau (rtd), has directed the closure of the land borders of Adamawa, Benue, and Sokoto States with effect from 12:00 noon of Friday, 22nd March, 2019 to 12:00 noon on Sunday, 24th March, 2019.

PDP Alleges Plots To Hijack Rerun Polls

Amid the intense preparations for the supplementary elections, the opposition PDP yesterday alleged plots to hijack polls in Kano, Sokoto, Benue and Plateau States.

The PDP claimed that the decision was taken at the security meeting of the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency with top officials of INEC and security agencies.

PDP’s national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who also claimed plots  to subvert the elections, especially in Rivers, Bauchi and Kano,  said that the security meeting directed the deployment of 30 Department of State Services (DSS) personnel and 300 mobile policemen to each of the states where supplementary elections had been scheduled to take place.

Ologbondiyan said that the PDP was already leading and coasting to inevitable victory in all the affected states, stressing that nothing can alter this reality.

He added that Nigerians would never be intimidated but would confront and crush any oppressive force that attempts to defy and subvert their will at the supplementary polls.

Ologbondiyan said: “Our party is informed of how a top Army officer, at the meeting, directed the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, not to ever declare Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, as the winner of the Rivers governorship election, even when it is clear to all that he won the election.

“We also have details how a top military officer, who is from Bauchi State, at the meeting directed the INEC chairman not to declare our victorious governorship candidate, Senator Bala Mohammed, as the winner of the Bauchi State governorship election,” he said.

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