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Re: Misrepresentation of facts by Msugh Ityokura

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Chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Mahmood Yakubu speaks to the press about preparations for the rescheduled general elections in Abuja, on February 20, 2019. – Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary election has been rescheduled for February 23, 2019, following the postponement of the orinial poll on February 16. (Photo by Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP)


I wish to draw your attention to the misrepresentation of my statement by your reporter, Msugh Ityokura in a report titled: INEC’s Inconclusive Elections As Technical Weapon Against Opposition, published on pages 36 and 37 in today’s The Guardian newspaper.

I recall that on Monday 11th March, I received the following Whatsapp message from Msugh Ityokura: “In states where INEC declared the poll inconclusive, the opposition happens to be leading. From Sokoto to Bauchi, Plateau and Adamawa. In Adamawa for instance, where Fintiri is beating Bindow by more than 36,000 votes, INEC failed to declare him, citing the cancellation of ballot in an area with 40,000 registered voters instead of the PVC collected. We are to weave this intriguing intervention from INEC to capture the credibility of the election. This would form the political Special Report for tomorrow.”

Surprised by this line of argument, coming from Msugh Ityokura who as a member of the INEC Press Corps, had participated in two Capacity Development Workshops specifically designed to avail him and other participants with details about the internal workings of the Commission, and concerned about the integrity of our journalism profession, I first sent him the following text:

“Msugh, are you a journalist or a spokesman of a political party? You are a member of the INEC Press Corps with access to information, yet you are accusing us (INEC) here as if we had set out deliberately to work against a political party. Rather than ask what issues led to the non-declaration of results in the states you mentioned, you are asking why we have refused to declare results in the states where a particular party is leading. You cannot even hide your partisanship. You are a journalist, always remember that.”

Thereafter, I sent him my official response as follows:
“It is quite unfortunate that at this particular period when the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) is busy trying to conclude the remaining governorship and State Houses of Assembly Elections, the People’s Democratic Party has embarked on making spurious and libelous allegations, without concrete proofs as usual.

“So far, the PDP has won in Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Enugu, Oyo, Abia, Cross River and Delta States according to the results declared by INEC. Interestingly, the PDP has not accused INEC of rigging the elections in these states.

“Sadly, the PDP has also not deemed it fit to commiserate with the families of our ad-Hoc staff and other Nigerians who lost their lives, including those who were injured in different parts of the country while trying to carry out their legitimate duties. This is rather unfortunate and regrettable.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Commission’s one and only interest in the 2019 general elections is to make votes count. It is to ensure free, fair and credible elections.

“When there is no interference with the electoral process and an election satisfies the provisions of the law, the Commission will always make a declaration of the results. But when there is interference or when an election fails to meet the requirements of the law, the Commission will not make a declaration.

“In the case of Rivers, the Commission was forced to suspend the election due to violence and threats to life, as a result of which it constituted a Fact-Finding Committee to assess the situation and report back within 48 hours.“In a couple of other states where a declaration was not immediately made, the elections did not meet the threshold required for such declaration. The Commission will take the appropriate action prescribed by the law and make a declaration.“We appeal to Nigerians to disregard allegations of bias being levelled against the Commission.”This was exactly the same written statement that I sent to other media organizations and may I refer you to one of the publications via:
http://saharareporters.com/2019/03/12/inec-responds-pdp’s-allegation-being-heavily-bribed-apc.

However, in his account which appeared in today’s The Guardian, Msugh attributed the following to me:”When contacted on the seeming partiality of INEC under Yakubu to serve the interests of those not contemplated by the law, the chairman’s Chief Press Secretary, Lawrence Oyekanmi, declared that whatever decision the commission took in declaring some governorship polls inconclusive is grounded in law and logic. Oyekanmi said INEC relied on the Electoral Act 2010, as amended to conduct the 2019 general elections, stressing that inconclusive election in some states was due to the position of the law, since according to him, the commission remains committed to a transparent electoral process.

“Oyekanmi, who spoke to The Guardian, yesterday in Abuja, held that those not comfortable with INEC’s decisions are not in tandem with the reality of the law, even as he accused some media houses of bias and being at the behest of opposition parties. Querying the rationale for asking self-explanatory questions about the election, Oyekanmi particularly fingered The Guardian, accusing the newspaper of joining forces with the opposition PDP to promote opposing agenda.

“You can go ahead and write anything,” he declared. “I know that The Guardian is in support of the PDP; so that does not concern me.” He added the following: “He failed to respond to the specific questions raised by the newspaper over the situation that warranted the inconclusiveness of the poll in states like Sokoto, Bauchi, Plateau and Adamawa. But despite the emotional outburst of the INEC’s chairman’s spokesperson, the reality on the ground shows that not only opposition PDP is incensed at the less than excellent performance of the commission in the gubernatorial and State Assembly polls.”

I hereby affirm that I did not grant your reporter an interview containing those comments. From the foregoing, it is clear to me that Msugh Ityokura had a pre-conceived intention before sending what looked like a question me, but which turned out to be an excerpt carved out of a press statement issued by a political party.Portraying me in the manner that he did and deliberately twisting my response in the said story have both portrayed me in bad light in the eyes of right-thinking Nigerians and affected my reputation negatively.I hereby demand that you use your good offices to publish a retraction as soon as possible.
• Chief Press Secretary, INEC, Rotimi Oyekanmi


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