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How Kaduna REC’s unstable posture fuels poll fraud allegations

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Voters queu to cast their votes at a polling station in Kaduna on March 9, 2019, during governorship elections. – Nigerians are voting for a second time in a fortnight in governorship and state assembly elections, with heightened concerns from observers of violence and an increased military presence. Elections for governors are being held in 29 of Nigeria’s 36 states, for all state assemblies, plus the administrative councils in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP)

Depite assurances from the Kaduna State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Alhaji Abdullahi Kaugama that the commission has qualified collation officers and a total of 34,000 ad hoc staff to deliver credible and foolproof electoral process, collation of results of the governorship and State Assembly election in the state does not elicit confidence.
  
It appears the Resident Electoral Commission (REC) has been acting a script beginning from the presidential and National Assembly polls of February 23, 2019, during which materials and the commission’s ad hoc staff could not arrive some polling units in the metropolis before 1pm.

The collation and counting of votes proceeded smoothly as voting ended long before the official close of accreditation and voting of 2pm following scant turnout of voters in most polling units in the state in an exercise that was considered largely peaceful.

  
Many people had concluded that INEC, led by Kaugama, was desperate to win back the confidence of the electorate contrary to what obtained during the presidential and National Assembly polls penultimate weekend, as materials arrived at most polling units on time.

Kaugama had, while briefing journalists, vowed that the commission must enforce the use of card readers in conducting last Saturday’s governorship and State Assembly elections in all the 23 local government areas of Kaduna, even as he declared that ‘no card reader no vote.’ 

He disclosed that a total of 812,000 card readers and 34,000 ad hoc staff were deployed to the local government areas for the exercise, adding that INEC had responsible collation and returning officers to ensure that the processes are free, fair and credible.
  
Elated by the timely arrival of materials and peaceful conduct of voters, the gubernatorial candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Hon. Isa Muhammed Ashiru, commended INEC for recording some improvements in the electoral process after the presidential and National Assembly polls held on February 23, 2019.
  
Ashiru, who spoke to journalists shortly after casting his vote at polling unit 007 Kofar fada Ward, regretted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to endorse amendments to the 2010 Electoral Act caused the huge setback experienced in this year’s general election.
  
He said although he was satisfied with the peaceful atmosphere, it was disturbing that some persons, including petroleum marketers, were moving about with armed soldiers and policemen to intimidate people.

While lamenting that the ruling party decided to introduce violence in the face of obvious rejection by the people, Ashiru recalled how he congratulated the incumbent when he defeated him in previous gubernatorial election in 2015 wondering why the incumbent and the ruling party were desperate to shortchange the people.
 
While stressing that there is need for improvement in Nigeria’s democracy, the PDP candidate noted that low internet penetration was responsible for the low appeal of electronic transmission of votes, stressing that with the different socio-economic statuses of citizens, people should be given time to learn.
  
He assured that he would dig into the case of police officers riding in two Hilux SARS pick-up vans that went round intimidating voters, even as eyewitnesses noted that contrary to their usual black vests, the policemen in the vans were adorning mobile police uniforms.
 
However, despite the fact that voting ended on time and collation proceeded immediately, the situation in Kaduna collation centre at INEC headquarters took on a dramatic turn as the REC, who announced that collation and declaration would begin by 10am on Sunday, called for a break midway into the declaration of results, perhaps after noticing the vote tallies of the parties.
  
The position of Alhaji Kaugama that declaration of results would recommence five hours later, 8pm precisely, caused a lot of apprehension, especially given that only results from 11 local government councils had been announced. Feeling that the short postponement was to grant extra time for the tampering of the results, the main opposition party, PDP cried foul alleging manipulation and gross irregularities in the collation process.

  
Out of the 11 councils for which results had already been announced by INEC, Governor Nasir El-Rufai was leading in seven, while the PDP and its candidate, Ashiru was left with only four local government areas.
  
The seven local government areas won by El-Rufai includes Makarfi, Soba, Kudan, Ikara, Kauru, Kubau and Giwa, while Ashiru won in Kachia, Kaura, Jaba and Kajuru local government areas. 

Noting the mischievous manipulation of the results that gave the erroneous indication that the PDP guber candidate, Ashiru, who hails from Kudan is not popular, the party said it would not accept what it described as fraudulent results concocted by the ruling party and the incumbent governor. 

PDP alleged that the elections in Kaduna State was marred by intimidation by security agencies, vote buying, ballot box snatching, ballot box stuffing and laying siege on Kagarko and Sanga local government areas by security agencies to favour the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
  
Kaduna State PDP chairman, Hon. Felix Hassan Hyet, who addressed journalists in Kaduna, stated: “I want to commend the voters for conducting themselves in civil manner despite unnecessary interference by security agencies. There was public vote buying in Zaria local government by government officials, snatching of ballot boxes in Chikun local government area.
  
“The worst case was in Birnin Gwari where there was no voting; ballot boxes were snatched and returned the next day stuffed with results. Kagarko and Sanga local government areas are currently under siege by security agencies in an effort to change the results in favour of the ruling party.  
  
“Results were forcibly changed in Rigasa and Igabi local government areas. The Electoral Officers (EOs) were summoned to government house to present the results to the governor for him to see and approve before authorising it. We have our results with our agents.
  
“Based on all these irregularities, we would not accept any doctored results that are announced by INEC because we have the original results from our agents on ground. INEC should be the umpire that everybody expects it to be. The will of the people has been pushed to the background by the activities of security agencies. 

“Our people should remain calm. We would not accept any adulterated result from INEC. If anything comes out contrary to the mandate of the people we would not take it.”
  
Governor El Rufai had jokingly declared that he was no longer jittery over the outcome of the gubernatorial election, pointing out that even if he failed to get a second term in office, the fact that President Buhari had won his second term guarantees him an appointment in the federal cabinet.
  
It would be recalled that despite the antics of the governor, especially the security alarms, the election was one in which he was sure to lose by a wide margin given widespread citizen disenchantment with his administration and leadership style.


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