The joint forum of 60 presidential candidates and national chairmen of political parties has picked holes in the report of the European Union (EU) Observers Mission on the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
The forum, which operate under the aegis of Presidential Candidates and Forum of Political Party Chairmen, said that the report did not reflect the true conduct and outcome of the polls.
They asserted that the 2019 elections were a marked departure from the poor manner previous elections were held in Nigeria.
According to the party chiefs and presidential candidates, the 2019 elections were the freest, fairest and most credible in the history of the country.
At a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the joint conveners of the 60 presidential candidates and chairmen of the parties’ forum, Chief Perry Opara and Yusuf Mamman Dantalle, passed a vote of confidence on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In the address read by chairman of Presidential Candidates’ Forum, Shitu Mohammed Kabir, he said that in the build-up to the elections, the presidential candidates and political parties held several meetings with INEC and agreed on several issues. He stated that the delay in finalising the electoral legal framework deprived the country of the needed reform of the electoral process.
Kabir described the controversy trailing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC’s) purported use of a server in the polls as a deliberate ploy to discredit and destroy the integrity of the electoral process.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, have challenged the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja.
Citing alleged results from the purported INEC server, Atiku said that he won the election by 1.6 million votes to defeat Buhari.
But INEC has stoutly denied the existence of such server in its fold, adding that it neither transmitted results electronically nor saved them on any server.
The parties insisted that the report of the European Union Election Observation Mission released over a week ago wherein they alleged a lack of transparency in the guidelines of election was bewildering.
Kabir said: “With all due respect to the EU–EOM, it is left to Nigerians to decide how we conduct and election.
“INEC consulted widely and extensively, and together with stakeholders of which we are a part of, came up with the guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 general elections, which the commission followed to the letter.
“We recall that nine of the 11 points for consideration we raised as candidates under the auspices of the IPAC and CUPP respectively were adopted by the commission. How then can the EU-EOM accuse the commission of a lack of transparency in putting up guidelines for the elections?,” Kabir queried.
He said that the needless controversy over the INEC server would have been lawful as it would have been mandatory for the commission to deploy the device had the president signed the amended electoral act.
Disclosing that INEC had run pilots on electronic transmission of results, the chairmen said that they were informed that these servers were deployed in Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun States’ governorship elections.
However, the opposition parties pointed out that INEC informed them that following the non-passage of the Electoral Act it would not adopt the electronic transmission of results since it would be unlawful to do so.
They expressed dismay that only one political party out of 91 is saying a different thing on the presidential election while at the same time praising its performance on the other elections, especially governorship, conducted by the same INEC.
According to them, “we must inform Nigerians now that the PDP was represented in those meetings and we do not know why they are heating up the polity with the server story.
“This INEC server controversy is a deliberate ploy to destroy the integrity of our electoral process. Can the so-called results from the server be referred to as credible where INEC could not have legitimately transmitted the results of the presidential or any of the other elections electronically?
“We reiterate that the INEC server controversy is unnecessary. It is a plot to discredit the election as political parties never agreed with INEC in any of the several pre-election meetings that results will be transmitted electronically. Parties agreed on a lot of issues with the commission and they were implemented.
“We urge all Nigerians to remain peaceful and law-abiding and go about their lawful duties as we believe that the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal has for now put the controversy to rest with the ruling it gave on Monday,” he said.
On the way forward, the parties urged the 9th National Assembly to revisit the Electoral Act Amendment Bill passed by the 8th National Assembly and resend it to the president for his assent.
They also demanded the immediate setting up of the process that will lead to the sanctioning of all security personnel who compromised the elections to serve as a deterrent to others and to exhibit that there are consequences for risking the peaceful coexistence of the country.
Kabir averred that there were several innovations introduced by INEC which made the 2019 elections freer, fairer and more credible than what obtained in past polls.
He listed the innovations as the simultaneous accreditation and voting; the introduction of assistive innovations for physically challenged voters and the Continuous Voter Registration which added 14 million new voters to the register.
They noted that “in the build-up to the elections, we as Presidential candidates and our political parties held several meetings with INEC. The delay in inalizing the electoral legal framework and the eventual withholding of assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill deprived the nation of the much needed reform of our electoral process which must be anchored on the rule of law.
“The needless controversy over the INEC server would have been lawful as it would have been mandatory for the commission to deploy the server. We are aware that INEC had run pilots on electronic transmission of results. It had informed us that these pilots were deployed in Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun States’ governorship elections.
“However, INEC informed all political parties in the election following the withholding of assent by the president that it would not deploy the electronic transmission of results since it would not be lawful to do so.
“We must inform Nigerians now that the PDP was represented in those meetings and we do not know why they are heating up the polity with the server story.”
According to the forum, “having gathered as presidential candidates and thoroughly x-rayed the 2019 election, the unfavourable and hostile environment the election management body operated under, and the extant laws under which the elections were conducted, have come to the emphatic conclusion that INEC performed creditably well and we hereby unequivocally reaffirm our confidence in INEC for its performance against all odds in the conduct of the 2019 General Elections.
“There were several innovations introduced by INEC which made the 2019 elections freer, fairer and more credible than what was obtainable in past elections such as the simultaneous accreditation and voting; the introduction of assistive innovations for physically challenged voters; the Continuous
The forum, however, urged Buhari to immediately sign the Electoral Act Amendment into law once it is presented to him again by the National Assembly, adding that the amendment would hugely improve electoral system and its processes.
Also, Chief Perry Opara, joint convener of the forum, in his goodwill message, urged the political class to give peace a chance and seek redress in courts, where there are issues, as a way of growing the nation’s democracy.
Opara appealed to Nigerians to remain peaceful and go about their lawful duties as “we believe that the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal has for now put the controversy to rest with the ruling it gave on Monday.
Those who attended the press conference were Alhaji Isa Dansaki, MMN; Hon. Moses Ayibionu, NUP; Nwokeafor Ikechukwu, ACD; Shittu Mohammed, APDA; Dr. Hajiya Rabia Cengiz, NAC, and Danjuma Muhammad, MRDD .
Others were Dr. Kenneth Ibe Kalu, UPC; Tosho Babatunde, NEPP; Bawa Umar Yusuf, Kowa; Dr Okey Ezeala, AUN; Ayodele Oyadeyi, CNP; Sabo Shehu Usman, UPN, and Barr Charles Ogboji, ANDP.
Presidency Welcomes Parties’ Endorsement Of Election
Meanwhile, the presidency has welcomed the endorsement of 2019 presidential election as free, fair and credible and urged the opposition PDP to accept its loss with grace and maturity.
Reacting to the party chiefs’ press conference, the presidency in a statement issued by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said that Buhari would look into the Electoral Act as the candidates had advised.
He said: “We are encouraged by the patriotism of the presidential candidates expressed in clear and matured language. We are convinced that, regardless of our different political persuasions we can work together to improve electoral integrity in Nigeria.’’
The presidency said that it is in agreement with the forum that “despite the temporary setbacks experienced at the beginning, INEC managed to produce an election in which the voice of the ordinary people counted. Democracy is founded on the will of the people and INEC did well to ensure this outcome was achieved in the 2019 elections.’’
PDP Berates INEC, Parties Over Disputed Server
In its reaction, the PDP lambasted the forum over its comment on the controversial INEC server.
The party said that the group, according to its investigation, was hurriedly conjured by leadership of INEC and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to assist them in distorting facts, and making misrepresentations on a matter that is already subjudice, all in an attempt to clean up INEC’s blunders on the existence of the server, sway judicial pronouncements and influence public opinion on extant matters in court.
Ina statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP noted that the press release by this “nebulous group emerged after INEC’s several blunders while the presidency has already admitted that the claim by the PDP and millions of Nigerians that INEC had a server wherein it stored results of the 2019 elections, “constitutes the fulcrum” of contention in the presidential election.”
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