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Lalong, REC accused of stoking looming bloodshed in Plateau


[FILES] Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State.

Plateau State chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Hon. Damishi Sango, has accused the state governor, Simon Lalong and the Residence Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mallam Hussaini Halilu Pai of stoking a crisis that would likely cause loss of lives in the state.

Sango said the two should be held responsible for any break down of law and order in the state, alleging that they were deliberately holding back on announcing the result of last Saturday’s National Assembly election to thwart the will of the electorate.

Also worried by the development, chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), North chapter in the state, Rev. Canon Nenman Isa Gowon, observed that the delay in announcing the Senatorial and House of Representatives election results had started generating anxiety in the state.

Gowon, while addressing newsmen in Jos yesterday, said the association’s concerns were based on the fact that the delayed announcement of the result had sent a signal of the possibility of tampering with it while urging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to, as a matter of urgency, announce the result unaltered.

In the same vein, Mohammed Bashiru Mohammed and Mr. Ahmed Hassan, all of Concerned Citizens of Nigeria, Plateau State chapter, expressed dismay that four days after the election was conducted peacefully, INEC had not announced the winner.

The PDP chairman, who made the allegation while addressing a world press conference yesterday, said that Pai was being pressured by Governor Simon Lalong.

He said the election of Saturday, February 23, 2019 was relatively peaceful with an impressive turnout of voters despite the earlier inexcusable postponement by INEC, adding, “Plateau people clearly spoke their minds by vesting their trust in PDP by voting overwhelmingly for the party.”

He, however, regretted that four days after the elections, INEC was yet to turn in the final results and declare the winners across the three senatorial zones of the state, stressing: “In the Southern zone, INEC declared the election inconclusive after cancelling the results of some units in Qua’an Pan and Wase LGAs.

“There was intense pressure on the Returning Officer to declare the result in favour of APC. In the Central zone, INEC again declared the election inconclusive. As a matter of fact, INEC and stakeholders alongside agents of the parties entered into a formal agreement for a re-run to be conducted in some units in Kanam.

“But very surprisingly, INEC summoned the Returning Officers under heavy military intimidation and ordered them to announce the result of the election in favour of APC. In the Northern zone, we received reports from INEC officers on ground and our agents that PDP won the election. INEC then picked Tudun Wada-Kabong ward, a stronghold of PDP in Jos North LGA and withheld the results of all the 65 units with a total voter population of about 92,000.”

Sango further claimed that INEC instructed the Returning Officers not to announce the results, pointing out that it was evident that the wholesome cancellation of units across the state was deliberately targeted at disenfranchising the people and weakening PDP.

He added: “It is glaring to everyone that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Alhaji Hussaini Halilu Pai, had compromised his position as an umpire. Consequently, he has set the whole of Plateau on tension, which is a recipe for monumental crisis.

The PDP and its stakeholders have been working tirelessly to calm frayed nerves. But this cannot go on for too long.

“We are therefore alerting the nation and the world to hold the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Pai, responsible for any breakdown of law and order. We can only appeal to him to douse this rising tension by immediately releasing the results. We know from where the pressure is coming. Governor Lalong is the source.

“The governor has been blackmailed by some elements in the state who want him to give them certain positions in exchange for them to support his re-election. Lalong wants a second tenure at the expense of the blood and peace of Plateau. Plateau people will accept nothing less than justice.”

However, a meeting earlier scheduled to hold yesterday to deliberate on the issue of cancellation of Kabong/Tudun Wada Ward could not hold because the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Pai, was summoned to Abuja Headquarters of INEC immediately after leaving Jos North Collation Centre where the issue could not be resolved on Tuesday.

A local government collation agent of PDP for Jos North, Samuel Umar, who delivered the REC’s message, said he could not take any question. In the message, the REC disclosed that it was resolved that verification of results from Tudun Wada/ Kabong were supposed to be conducted, while the verification was now to be conducted by the police.

“As we speak, all our presiding officers, election officials involved in the conduct of the National Assembly elections in Tudun Wada/Kabong Ward are with the police assisting them with the investigations and verification of the results,” Umar explained.

He said the REC had directed him to seek their patience and cooperation until the outcome of the verification exercise pending his return from Abuja, even as he assured that the matter at stake would be peacefully resolved and hopefully the results of the elections would be announced.

The main bone of contention is the 30,000 votes removed from the presidential election results from the ward which PDP claims is its stronghold.

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