All three stakeholders in the elections – INEC, All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – were trading arguments in court over Bauchi and Adamawa, two of the states expected to undergo tomorrow’s makeup polls.
In other states – Sokoto, Benue, Kano and Plateau – the APC and the PDP were flexing muscles as the electoral umpire said it was ready for the elections.
The Federal Government has ordered the closure of land borders around the affected states.
Interior Minister Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau directed land borders in Adamawa, Benue, Bauchi, Sokoto, Plateau and Kano states to be closed from noon today. The borders are to reopen by noon on Sunday.
Gen Dambazau, in a statement issued in Abuja by the Comptroller-General (CG), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, said the measure was taken to restrict movements across the states on Election Day.
But the extension of an order by the High Court in Yola, barring the INEC from conducting the makeup poll, yesterday ruled out the possibility of conducting the election in Adamawa State.
Justice Abdul-Azeez Waziri fixed March 26 for ruling on a motion challenging the jurisdiction of his court to entertain the case restraining INEC from conducting tomorrow’s supplementary governorship poll in Adamawa.
Before the adjournment, the Judge had extended an interim injunction the court granted on March 14 restraining INEC from conducting the election pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice, which will also be ruled upon on March 26.
The Adamawa chapter of the Movement for the Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD) and its governorship candidate, Rev. Eric Theman, had sued the electoral umpire over the absence of its logo on the ballot paper of the inconclusive election.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, INEC counsel Mr Tanimu Inuwa (SAN) challenged the court’s jurisdiction, citing Section 285 (2) of the constitution and the electoral Act.
Inuwa also argued that MRDD did not have a governorship candidate as Rev. Eric Theman was not validly nominated, adding that Form CF002 was the prescribed form for nomination, which was not filled by MRDD.
“Mere submission of a letter does not transform to nomination,’’ Inuwa argued.
He, therefore, urged the court strike out the case as the plaintiffs have “no locus standi’’ to file it, adding that there was need to avoid a constitutional crisis as the governorship election must take place not later than 30 days to the expiration of the incumbent governor’s tenure.
Responding on point of law, counsel to the plaintiffs – MRDD and Theman, Mr. Yemi Pitan, argued that the court had jurisdiction on the matter, citing Section 251 of the constitution and Section 315 of the Electoral Act.
Pitan urged the court to grant his clients’ prayers and among others, suspend the inconclusive governorship election in Adamawa to enable INEC do the needful by including the MRDD logo on the ballot paper.
Adjourning the case for ruling on March 26, Justice Waziri assured all that it would be handled within the necessary period that would not give room for any constitutional problem.
In Bauchi State, the PDP threatened to boycott the election as INEC said it would comply with an ex parte order not to collate results in the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, but conduct supplementary election in other areas not covered by the court order.
The makeup poll will hold in 15 local government areas where 22,759 votes were cancelled, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Ibrahim Abdullahi, confirmed yesterday at a news conference at the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu Conference Hall, INEC Headquarters in Bauchi.
The APC said its members are ready for the exercise.
According to the REC, the election will hold in 36 Polling Units (PUs) covering 29 Registration Areas (Wards) in the 15 affected local government areas.
He said the election will not hold in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area until after the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The REC appealed to members of the public, especially, the people of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, to be calm and wait for the outcome of the court ruling.
The Bauchi State chapter of the PDP, however, described the supplementary election as a sham, threatening not to participate in the exercise.
Its Chairman Hamza Koshe Akuyam told reporters after the INEC news conference: “The supplementary election is a sham, INEC wants to conduct rerun because 22, 759 people were disenfranchised in 15 local government area, meanwhile 139, 240 were disenfranchised in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area.”
“I don’t know what INEC is up to; maybe they are reading somebody’s script. We are not going to participate in this election.
“Our legal team will look at this matter. Though it is not just about going to court, but for INEC to do the right thing.”
The PDP chair said that the party will go to court and seek a redress.
But the APC said its members were set for the supplementary election.
Chairman Ubah Nana, said the “party is readily prepared for the rerun”.
He went on: “Fifteen will be having rerun this Saturday and we are participating. Though the proper thing to be done was for the rerun to be held in the 15 council areas and Tafawa Balewa, but, unfortunately, that is not the case.
All the same, we are fully prepared. I don’t know why some people seem not to be fully prepared. I don’t know why they are afraid. Let the game be played according to the rules.”
The Tafawa Balewa Local Government is excluded from tomorrow’s rerun in INEC’s compliance with a court order restraining it from resuming the collation and announcement of results in the area.
All was set yesterday for the supplementary election scheduled for 136 PUs across 22 local government areas.
Incumbent Governor and PDP candidate Aminu Tambuwal was at the Kebbe Local Government Area, believed to be a stronghold of the APC, with at least 35 PUs where the election will hold.
Tambuwal’s visit was preceded by a similar visit by Wamakko, the APC candidate, Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, his running mate, Faroyk Malami Yabo.
Though the trio attended a wedding (fatiha), they took advantage of the event to reaffirm their dominance and to solicit for support.
The INEC and and security agencies, particularly the police, promised a hitch-free exercise.
A stakeholders’ Town Hall meeting for the peaceful conduct of the election was also staged by the Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar-led National Peace Committee (NPC).
Shortly after the traditional opening prayers, IRI State Coordinator, Hajiya Aisha, noted that the success of the 2015 Peace Accord led to the reactivation of the NPC ahead of this year’s general elections.
“It’s a wake-up call the affected states to reinforce the message of peace and to implore residents to participate in the re-run elections by exercising their rights to vote.
“These events were organised in anticipation of the 2019. Although relatively peaceful, these elections exposed some fault lines in Nigerian states as there were numerous reports of voter disenfranchisement, voter inducement, electoral violence, over a militarisation of the elections, among others.
“In recognition of these incidences, and in acknowledgement of the potential for the escalation of violence in state gubernatorial and state house of Assembly Elections, the NPC developed a regional peace initiative you deliver the message of peace to flashpoint states.
“This initiative included a visit to five states (Anambra, Imo, Kano, Adamawa and Gombe) ahead of the state elections to organise a high-level dialogue on the need to uphold peace during and after the elections.
Key stakeholders, including INEC, security agencies, political parties, traditional and religious leaders, civil society groups, youth and women’s groups, as well as the general public attended the peace parley.”
Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah said there should be no basis for disruption “as we are not having people from Niger, from Chad and from Cameroon or another country contesting elections”.
The cleric said: “We are indigenes of Sokoto, who are struggling to find somebody who is going to be the governor. It is not people from another country.”
Leader of the APC in Benue State Senator George Akume said the results of the previous elections did not reflect the strength of the party in the state, describing tomorrow’s supplementary poll as a great opportunity for the party to show its strength.
In a statement in Abuja, Akume, who was the first two-time governor of Benue, emphasized that his party was convinced that a rigorous scrutiny at the election tribunals would soon set aside some of the victories ascribed to other parties in the state.
The Benue North West senator appealed to APC supporters to come out en masse and vote for the party.
The statement reads: “We remain the party to beat in Benue and the results as announced by INEC for the National/Presidential and Governor/ State Assembly elections do not reflect the reality on the ground in Benue State.”
According to him, the judiciary, as the last hope of the common man, would address what he described as “the glaring cases of injustices” against the APC.
He said: “President Buhari, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed , has assured all voters to come out freely and vote; our supporters should therefore take advantage of this assurance from our president and come out to exercise their civic responsibilities.”
Governor Samuel Ortom, who is the PDP candidate, will be slugging it out with APC challenger Emmanuel JIme.
Ortom polled 410,576 votes to beat Jime to the second position with 329,022 votes on the first ballot on March 9.
The governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties, Kwaghngu Abraham, said the supplementary election would permanently put an end to distractions.
The APC deputy governorship candidate, Sam Ode, told The Nation, said tomorrow “is a day of liberation for Benue people”.
Lalong, Useni trade words
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong yesterday said tomorrow’s governorship rerun election in the state would be a ‘mere formality’.
A statement by his Information Commissioner, Yakubu Dati, said the main election reflected the wishes of the electorate.
The APC incumbent led his closest opposition rival, Jeremiah Useni, of the PDP by over 40,000 votes, according to the results announced.
Useni told reporters that he was sure of victory in the rerun. His APC counterpart, Lalong, described the claim as ‘self –delusion’.
Dati said: “No doubt the PDP tried by scoring a handful of votes in the elections by a margin thought to be impossible considering the manner it mismanaged the state in the past years, but to claim that it can defeat and APC administration that has cleared the mess it visited on the people of Plateau State is the worst form of self –delusion.”
In Useni’s words, “The results released by INEC showed that PDP maintained very good scores across all the LGAs.
“This is in spite of the widespread thumb-printing, vote-buying and outright intimidation by some Security men who had absolutely no business with the election.
“In one instance, I personally went out to Tudun Wada Collation Centre and freed voters who were made to lie down on the ground by some security men.
“Civil servants and our traditional rulers were threatened to either deliver to APC or lose their jobs or be dethroned.”
INEC ready for Kano
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said it was set for the supplementary governorship election in Kano State.
Addressing reporters at the Kano INEC headquarters, the Resident Electrical Commissioner (REC) in charge of the state, Prof. Riskuwa Shehu Arabi, said the election would take place in 75 registration areas, involving 207 polling units and 279 voting points.
According to him, 128, 324 eligible voters would participate in the election. He added that INEC would deploy 207 card readers for the election, adding that enough man power have also been mobilised, with three RECs from Zamfara, Kebbi and Ogun states to assist so as to have a successful election.
PDP alleges plot by
military to hijack
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday raised the alarm over an alleged clandestine plot by the military and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to hijack the supplementary elections in six states.
At a news conference in Abuja yesterday, the spokesman for the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the alleged plot was hatched at a meeting the Presidency held with security agencies and officials of INEC.
Describing the alleged plot as obnoxious, the PDP said its candidates were already leading and coasting to inevitable victory in all the states where the supplementary elections are billed to hold, vowing that nothing can alter this reality.
The PDP alleged that part of the plot was a directive by a top military chief to the INEC chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu not to declare the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike as winner of the March 9 election.
The PDP said: “Our party is informed of how a top Army officer, at the meeting, directed the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, not to ever declare Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike as winner of the Rivers governorship election, even when it is clear to all that he won the election.
”We also have details how a top military officer, who is from Bauchi state, at the meeting, directed INEC Chairman not to declare our victorious Bauchi state governorship candidate, Sen. Bala Mohammed, as the winner of the Bauchi state governorship election.
“The PDP is also privy to how a Director of one of our security agencies, who was at the meeting, undertook to use his agency to deliver Kano state to the APC.”