Friday, 22nd September 2023

Inconclusive Adamawa poll: Drama as INEC disowns REC, voids Binani’s declaration

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Sodiq Omolaoye (Abuja), Emmanuel Samaila (Yola) and Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna)
17 April 2023   |   4:23 am
While the furore over outcome of the February 25 presidential election is yet to abate, controversy, yesterday, dogged the conduct of Saturday’s supplementary governorship election in Adamawa State, when the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hudu Yunusa Ari...

• Fintiri calls for calm in re-run poll
• Binani in ‘acceptance speech’ dedicates ‘win’ to Nigerian women
• Atiku alerts of plot to undermine democracy, instigate violence in Adamawa
• PDP seeks arrest of Adamawa REC, insists Fintiri won
• Sani: Declaration of Binani rape on democracy, civilian coup
• DSS probes attack on its personnel in Adamawa

While the furore over outcome of the February 25 presidential election is yet to abate, controversy, yesterday, dogged the conduct of Saturday’s supplementary governorship election in Adamawa State, when the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hudu Yunusa Ari, unilaterally declared the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Aishatu Dahiru Binani, winner.

Before his declaration, the state’s returning officer, Prof. Mele Mohammed, had on Saturday night, declared results of 10 out of the 20 Councils where supplementary election held and had scheduled continuation for 11:00a.m. on Sunday.

While the entire state awaited resumption of collation, it was reported that the REC sneaked into the collation centre two hours before the scheduled time for resumption of collation to mysteriously declare the APC candidate as winner.

According to Nigeria’s electoral law, the REC has no power to announce winner of the election. That responsibility solely lies with the state collation officer appointed by INEC, usually a university Vice Chancellor.

Details of the results, released so far, showed that the incumbent governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, was leading by a comfortable margin. At the time the election was declared inconclusive, the Adamawa State governor was already leading by 31,249.

MEANWHILE, INEC immediately waded in and halted the process yesterday, voiding declaration of Binani, while the REC and some officials were summoned to Abuja.

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, in a statement, declared the declaration as “null, void, and of no effect.”

Okoye said: “The attention of the Commission has been drawn to a purported declaration of winner in the Adamawa governorship election by the REC even when the process has clearly not been concluded. The action of the REC is a usurpation of the power of the Returning Officer. It is null, void, and of no effect. Consequently, the collation of results of the supplementary election is hereby suspended.”

Before the process was halted, Binani had hurriedly delivered her acceptance speech after she was announced winner.

She said: “You’ve made history in electing the first female governor in our dear country, Nigeria. This will no doubt broaden political participation by encouraging our daughters, sisters, aunties, mothers, and indeed the girl-child to participate actively in politics.”

The governor and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Fintiri, described the controversial REC as ‘merchant of anarchy’ for illegally announcing winner of the re-run governorship poll.

Speaking shortly after the controversial announcement, Fintiri expressed confidence that the electoral umpire would announce the rightful winner at due time, saying the results had already been uploaded.

“It will not be compromised because of the technology of INEC. All 69 units are on IReV. Since yesterday, the results have been uploaded, so, it is there for everybody to see, the world has seen it. I am not afraid of anything, whether the result will be tampered with or whatever will happen to the result,” the governor said.

In state broadcast yesterday in Yola, the governor said INEC should be aware that the action of Ari had put the integrity of the Commission to test.

“This morning, we all woke up to an illegal announcement by ‘merchants of anarchy’ headed by the REC, Mallam Hudu Yunusa Ari, who, since the beginning of this election, has been bent on pushing our collective patience to its limit.

“It is on record that we went to the polls for the first round of the election on March 18. Even when it was apparent that I was coasting home to victory, this same gang aided the confusion that rendered the election inconclusive.

“As civilised citizens committed to democratic ethos, we accepted the situation in good faith and prepared for the rerun. On Saturday, the rerun was held peacefully across the state.

“The appropriate officers commenced process of the collation. The first round of collation went well with 11 LGAs collated, before the process was adjourned to continue today at 11:00a.m.

“Just when we were waiting for the resumption of collation, the REC this morning took up a task he is not constitutionally empowered to do by making an illegal announcement of the outcome of the election without result.”

The governor said the REC’s action was provocative, but appealed for calm from his supporters. “We are on this until justice is done.
Fellow citizens, once again, I call on everyone to remain peaceful and law-abiding, trusting that the world is watching the enemies of democracy at the height of their shameless brigandage.”

Also, PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has called the attention of Nigerians to the game plan of upturning the democratic wishes of the people of Adamawa.

Atiku, in a statement signed by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, said the initial decision of the REC to declare the APC candidate as winner of the election is a case study of the shambolic nature of the 2023 elections in general.

“Here in Adamawa, we are witnesses to a novel practice in election management, where a REC announced the loser of an election as a winner. It is not in doubt that INEC has approached the Adamawa election with a preset agenda of declaring the APC at all cost.

“It is, therefore, on this note that we wish to call the attention of the world to the scheme being perpetrated by INEC to compromise the electoral wishes of the people of Adamawa. We also wish to inform the world that such behaviour by INEC has a natural consequence of unsettling the peace and security of the society.

“We have seen how INEC conducted the February 25 and March 18 elections against the run of play and challenging cheated candidates to go to the court, knowing the agenda that they are up to.”

The PDP has, however, demanded immediate arrest and prosecution of the REC for making such illegal declaration in criminal usurpation of the duties and powers of the Returning Officer, while collation was ongoing.

In a statement by its national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the PDP noted that “it is even more absurd that the Adamawa REC did not only usurp the powers of the Returning Officer, but attempted to declare a winner without figures in reckless violation of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act, 2022, INEC Guidelines as well as the sensibility of the people of Adamawa.

“The reprehensible criminal conduct of the Adamawa State REC confirms the earlier alarms by the PDP, which demanded for his immediate removal from Adamawa following evidence of his complicity and being compromised by APC and its candidate to manipulate the election in their favour, notwithstanding the votes by the people of Adamawa.

“We call on the Inspector General of Police to immediately arrest Mallam Ari and make him face the full wrath of the law for his conduct,” the opposition party demanded.

Civil rights activist and ex-lawmaker, Senator Shehu Sani, has described the development as rape of democracy. Sani also said the action of the Adamawa REC to declare results, “as against the Returning Officer, while the election process is still on, is equivalent of civilian coup.”

However, he commended INEC for taking the bold step to suspend the collation of the state supplementary governorship poll.

MEANWHILE, the Department of State Services (DSS) has said it was investigating report of an alleged attack on one of its personnel in Adamawa. This followed developments arising from the supplementary governorship election.

The secret police was reacting to a trending video on the social media in which someone suspected to be a DSS official was allegedly manhandled by some political miscreants in the state.

DSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, in a statement, on Sunday, said: “The Service wishes to inform the public that it has commenced a full investigation into the circumstances that led to the incident.

“While calling for calm, the Service also implores concerned parties in Adamawa State to remain peace loving and shun violence.”