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‘Why RECs Are Reckless’ —Justice Uwais Report

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Last week’s declaration of All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate in Adamawa State, Aisha Dahiru, popularly known as Binani, as governor-elect by the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Hudy Ari, against the stipulations of the law, has heightened concerns over the conduct of RECs and its implications on the electoral process.

Ari, who had no power under the Electoral Act 2022 as amended to do so, had gone ahead to declare the APC standard-bearer winner of the governorship election when the collation of results was still ongoing, creating tension in the polity.

The action had set in place what could have been a dangerous political stalemate, crisis and precedent until the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, invalidated it.

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Section 25 of the Act empowered only the Returning Officer to declare the winner of an election at the state collation centre.

Law

Specifically, the law says: “The results of all the elections shall be announced by the: Presiding Officer at the Polling Unit; Ward Collation Officer at the registration area or Ward Collation Centre; Local Government or Area Council Collation Officer at the Local Government or Area Council Collation Centre; and State Collation Officer at the State Collation Centre.”

Since what happened in Adamawa didn’t only contravene the law, but also usurped the powers of the Returning Officer, there are worries over its symbolism in the country.

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READ ALSO: Adamawa: Why Binani, REC, Indicted Security Officers, Others Must Be Punished – Falana

This is irrespective of INEC’s nullification of the action and the subsequent suspension of the REC, who is believed not to be ignorant of the position of the law as regards the declaration of results.

In the buildup to the general elections, Sunday Vanguard had, in a report titled: Tension over RECs, BVAs, Seven Other Issues, observed that neutrality of RECs was an issue of worry.

The alarm was premised on two factors: One was the suspected affiliation of some commissioners with interested parties. There was also the issue of capacity as some were found to be supervising elections for the first time.

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“There are worries about some of its Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, who were accused of having affinities with parties. Questions have also been raised about some National Commissioners, who would be superintending over elections for the first time,” this paper observed in the report.

In 2008, the Justice Muhammadu Uwais Electoral Reforms Report shared a similar sentiment about the managers of Nigeria’s elections.

It observed: “The independence and impartiality of the country’s election management bodies, that is, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, State Independent Electoral Commissions, SIECs, and other institutions involved in election matters, have been questioned by the generality of Nigerians who submitted memoranda and made presentations during the public hearings of the Committee. INEC and SIECs have generally been adjudged as operating as appendages of the ruling party and the executive arms of government. This perception stems mainly from the mode of appointment of key officials of the EMBs and their funding which rests exclusively with the executive branch of government. The same perception of partiality, ineffectiveness and inefficiency affects the other institutions, especially the security agencies, critical for credible elections.”

READ ALSO: Suspended Adamawa REC’s Whereabouts Unknown, Says INEC

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To a large extent, what is now known as the failed ‘Adamawa coup’ has confirmed the fears highlighted in that report.

The development, which stands in a class of its own at a time INEC was accused of not playing by its rules during the presidential election, has once again brought to the fore the need to reform the Commission.

Since the first post-military rule election in 1999, calls for electoral reforms have followed the aftermath of every general election.

Controversy

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This has majorly been precipitated by an unbroken cycle of controversial elections believed to have been caused by disregard for rules, weak institutions, infirm legal frameworks, poor political culture and excessive use of money among others.

For instance, in the report of the Uwais Electoral Reforms Panel submitted to President Umaru Yar’Adua, it was observed that outcomes of Nigerian elections have consistently degenerated.

“The 85-year-old history of Nigeria’s elections shows a progressive degeneration of outcomes. Thus, the 2007 elections are believed to be the worst since the first elections were held in 1922. The compelling need to embark on electoral reforms is thus obvious,” it stated.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: Buhari Approves Suspension Of Adamawa REC

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Of the electoral reforms initiated since 1999, election stakeholders believe the Uwais Panel on Electoral Reforms stood out given its wide-reaching findings and recommendations.

It is believed that the events that necessitated the inauguration of the panel by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007, share many similarities with the conduct of the 2023 polls: They were as controversial as the conduct of the last exercise.

And the uproar that followed at the time was as deafening as the current outrage over the last elections’ outcome, forcing the President to constitute a 22-man panel headed by retired Justice Muhammadu Uwais.

With membership drawn from critical sectors including the media, academia, judiciary, and civil society, the committee went round the country, gathering opinions on how to improve the electoral framework.

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The outcome of the 16-month exercise was a 297-page document titled: Report of the Electoral Reform Committee.
To date, its recommendations are adjudged the best proposals to ensure Nigerian elections no longer have credibility issues.

Some key excerpts gleaned from recommendations submitted to President Yar’Adua in December 2008, read:

Re-organisation of INEC

“INEC should be re-organized and re-positioned to ensure its independence and professionalism in the conduct of elections in the country.

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READ ALSO: Why Buhari Didn’t Intervene In Adamawa Governorship Saga — FG

“The 1999 Constitution should be amended to ensure that INEC becomes truly independent, non-partisan, impartial, professional, transparent, and reliable as an institution and in the performance of its constitutional functions. INEC should consist of: a board that formulates broad electoral policy and direction for the Commission; and a professional/technical election management team to handle the actual conduct of elections.

Funding of INEC

’Section 84 of the 1999 Constitution should be amended by adding subsection (8) to read as follows: The election expenditure and the recurrent expenditure of the Independent National Electoral Commissioners offices (in addition to salaries and allowances of the Chairman and members mentioned in subsection 4 of this section) shall be first charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.”

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Composition of INEC Board

“The membership of the Board of INEC should consist of the following: A Chairman – who must be a person of unquestionable integrity; a Deputy Chairman – who must be a person of unquestionable integrity. However, the Chairman and Deputy must not be of the same gender; six persons of unquestionable integrity, two of whom must be women and 1 of whom must come from each of the six geo-political zones of the Federation; one nominee of Civil Society Organizations working in the area of elections and accredited by the proposed Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission; The National Judicial Council shall advertise all the positions, spelling out requisite qualifications.

Tenure of office

“The tenure of office of the members of INEC’s Board should be five years subject to renewal for another five years. At the national level INEC’s management team should consist of professional/technical/operational officers as follows: Secretary, Departmental Directors

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“At the State level, the State Independence Electoral Commission ,SIECs, should be re-organized and incorporated within the structure of the INEC to form a single election management body for the country. The state level Secretariat of INEC should therefore consist of 37 Directors of Elections, one for each State and the FCT, appointed by INEC, trained and posted to states.

READ ALSO: Why We Nullified Binani’s Declaration As Adamawa Gov-elect – INEC

Security of Tenure of INEC Chairman and members

“The Chairman and members of the Board of INEC may only be removed by the Senate on the recommendation of the National Judicial Commission (NJC) by two-thirds majority of the Senate which shall include at least 10 members of the minority parties in the Senate. Section 155 of the 1999 Constitution should be amended to provide that the tenure of office of the Chairman and members of the Board of INEC shall be five years from the date of appointment, renewable only once.

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“The process of renewal of the appointment of members of the Board of INEC shall be by the Senate on the recommendation of the NJC.

Conclusion of election disputes before swearing-in

“There is need to produce rules and procedures that enhance speedy disposal of election petitions. The law should shift the burden of proof from the petitioners to INEC to show that disputed elections were indeed free and fair and complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act. Rules of evidence should be formulated to achieve substantive justice rather than mere observance of technicalities.

“Elections to the office of President and Governors should be held at least six months before the expiration of their terms. A maximum of four months should be devoted to hearing petitions by the tribunals and another two months for hearing appeals by the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. No executive should be sworn in before the conclusion of the cases against him/her. In the case of legislators, no one should be sworn in before the determination of the case against him/her. INEC should have no right of appeal.

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Curbing violence

“There is the need to deal with incidents as well as the root causes of violence related to elections. Quite often, attention is focused on incidences without a longer-term view of how to address the root causes of the problem. For example, only sustainable, systemic reform measures can provide employment and curtail the profound phenomenon of youth unemployment, which feeds into, and fan violence related to elections.

“There is a need to effectively regulate the behaviour and actions of contestants, voters, officials, etc in the entire electoral process and to carefully frame rules and regulations covering all aspects of the electoral process. No stone should be left unturned in this regard. There is a need to effectively police the election process and enforce rules and regulations by assigning well-trained, impartial and honest law enforcement and security agents and agencies to help police and secure the electoral process.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: Drama As INEC Voids Declaration Of Binani As Gov-elect, Summons Adamawa REC

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Prosecution of Electoral Offences

“Amend Section 174 (c) of the 1999 Constitution such that the constitutional power of nolle prosequi vested in the Attorney-General of the Federation or of a state does not apply to electoral offences.

“Amend the Electoral Act 2006 to establish an Electoral Offences Commission to perform the following functions: enforcement and administration of the provisions of the Electoral Act; investigation of all electoral frauds and related offences. Coordination, enforcement and prosecution of all electoral offences; enforcement of the provisions of the Electoral Act

Date for elections

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“Amend Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2006 to take away from INEC the power to fix dates for elections. Also, amend the Constitution to fix dates for elections which should hold at least six months before the date of swearing-in to provide adequate time for concluding all election petitions before swearing in of elected candidates.

“The presidential and gubernatorial elections should take place in the first week of November of the election year; Friday, Saturday and Sunday excluded in deference to the religious sensibilities of Muslims, Seventh-Day Adventists and Christians respectively.

“The elected chief executives should be sworn-in in May of the following year, an interval of six months to allow for the disposal of election petitions arising from the elections.

“National and State Assembly elections should take place in the second week of November and should be held two years after presidential and gubernatorial elections.”

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READ ALSO: Adamawa APC Suspends Ward Exco For Suspending Boss SGF Mustapha

Convinced that it had delivered a roadmap to credible elections, the panel concluded thus: “The Committee is convinced that the recommendations contained in this report are necessary and sufficient to improve the quality of our elections. To this extent, the Committee recommends that there should be urgency on the part of the President, the National Assembly, Governors, State Assemblies and others in effecting the constitutional, statutory, administrative and institutional changes required to achieve the desired effect.”

Unfortunately, the report, which was expected to herald a new era in election management, was hardly implemented by the Yar’Adua administration.

Ironically, successive administrations acknowledged the need for electoral reforms, but ignored the findings and recommendations, leading to questions on whether the government is truly serious about credible elections.

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The consensus today is that the consequences of ignoring the report undermine the electoral process as witnessed in the conduct of the 2023 polls.
VANGUARD

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Edo Guber: Govt, APC, INEC Trade Words Over Alleged Rigging Plot

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By Joseph Ebi Kanjo | Benin

The Edo State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Edo State Government, Friday, May 24, 2024, pointed accusive fingers at each others over alleged plot to rig the state governorship election slated for September 21st, this year.

State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Peter Igbingie, during a press briefing in Benin had raised the alarm that the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration in connivance with officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has concluded plans to use the forthcoming Continuous Voters Registration, CVR, exercise to rig the governorship election.

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But responding to the allegation, the state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, said “the APC are aware they have the worst candidate who they are finding difficult to market,” describing them as gathering of “confused people who have nothing to offer.”

The APC Publicity Secretary in the allegation further said the state government plot to rig the election,
ICT officials of the electoral umpire are the ones pencilled down to do the job for the Edo State government.

But INEC Head of Voters Education and Publicity in the state, Mr. Timidi Wareowei, denied the allegation, noting that if any party has anything against the commission, that should have been raised during a stakeholders’ meeting held on the 16th of this month where all parties were present, or better still approached the state Residential Electoral Commissioner whose doors, according to Wareowei, are always opened.

The state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation further responding said “allegation they made against INEC is like that of a man who is not prepared to write an exam that has been fixed for a certain date. We are embarrassed that this is the quality of opposition the APC is offering in the state.”

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READ ALSO: Edo Guber Final List : Group Knocks LP, Commends, INEC, Yakubu

The APC image maker in the state further alleged that, working under the guise of no adequate personnel for the CVR exercise, arrangements have been allegedly concluded with INEC to “deploy the services of Edo teachers and civil servants in addition to members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, as Ad Hoc staff.”

He further said: “It has become expedient that our Party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), raised this alarm and bring to the notice of well-meaning Nigerians, the ingnoble plans by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State to circumvent and rig the 2024 Governorship Election in the State using the forthcoming Continuous Voters Registration, CVR, Exercise as a formidable platform.

“Additionally, the APC has found out that Governor Obaseki is working closely with the head of INEC ICT unit so the PDP can manipulate the Voters Register and the BIVAs.

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“We have on good authority and from multiple sources that some gullible officials of INEC in most of the 18 local government areas that make up our state, have approached the outgoing Edo State government to provide them with ‘logistics’ for the CVR. In anticipation, these unpatriotic INEC officials have promised to allow the PDP unfettered access to INEC data capturing machines.

“The APC is also aware that the INEC officials have hidden under the guise of no adequate personnel for the exercise, to make frivolous complaints to the outgoing Governor Godwin Obaseki aimed at undermining the core mandate of the institution.

READ ALSO: 2027: Soyinka Drops Bombshell, Says Peter Obi Not Fit To Lead Nigeria

“Cashing in, the Governor has agreed with INEC to deploy the services of Edo teachers and civil servants in addition to members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, as Ad Hoc staff.

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“He has promised to bankroll their stipends after the CVR exercise.”

The APC State Publicity Secretary who alleged that the state government has concluded plans to register underage persons with a view to giving such cards to adults to vote during the election, advocated “strict compliance with the INEC designated venues for the CVR exercise which is the Ward Headquarters.”

Igbingie also demanded the “immediate deployment of INEC Head of ICT in Edo State who we know is working closely with a female INEC staff in Bayelsa State: She is the wife of a PDP chieftain Edo State,” and “complete restriction of transfer of voters from neighbouring states during the CVR exercise.”

But in his response, the state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation fired back: “We want to say as a government that we are interested in our people coming out to register during the CVR exercise. That is what the government does. Also, political parties encourage the people to come out to register because it is the vote of the people that decides who governs them.

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“When INEC graciously decided to resume registration of voters, we were excited and as a government encouraged our people to come out because we believe that it is when more people register, then the government can be held accountable.

“But APC has a party is disgruntled. Firstly, they have nominated a candidate that cannot express himself and they cannot sell to Edo people. They are worried about that, and instead of admitting to their failure, they are busy making allegations to an unbiased umpire, which is INEC.

“We are not saying that INEC is totally unbiased, but they have a duty to register voters and we will give them whatever support they need.

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“The Edo State Government has nothing to do with the manipulation of the CVR. What we believe in is getting Edo people to come out and register. When they register, we know they will vote for us because they have seen what we have done. That’s why they are afraid, because their government has brought so much hardship to Nigerians with increase in the price of goods and services

“The election is here and they are afraid that Edo People will reject them.”

INEC head of publicity further noted: “All the parties were there and nobody raised any issues. Now, a party will now call a press conference and saying things. Our doors are open. It is not good to antagonize the commission when we have not done anything wrong. It is not fair that they have taken this old fashioned. This is not the way to go. If anyone has anything to say, he should come to the Resident Electoral Commission. It is wrong to dish out those allegations as we do not have anything to do with them.”

 

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Edo Guber: ‘Imminent Disqualification Awaits Akpata If…’ Group Says

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A group within the Edo State chapter of Labour Party (LP) says governorship candidate of the party in the forthcoming election in the state faces “imminent disqualification considering the “weighty allegations contained in the Barrister Kenneth Imansuangbon’s applications seeking his disqualification as the party’s standard flag bearer.”

In a statement issued by the body’s president, Comrade Jonah Ifada and Secretary, Osagie Omoregie, the group which addresses itself as Shine Your Eyes Group, (SYEG), urged the party campaign council to be more concern defend himself in court on allegations of alleged “perjury, oath of allegiance to another country, the controversy over the choice of his deputy governor, Alufokhai Oluyinka Faith and lying under oath among others.”

The group, while insisting that Imansuangbon is the rightful person that can take the LP on the path of victory at the September 21st governorship election, added that Imansuangbonshould be commended for approaching the courts to “rescue the LP from imminent disgrace.”

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READ ALSO: Edo Guber Final List : Group Knocks LP, Commends, INEC, Yakubu

According to the group, Akpata antecedence as the NBA President was characterized by all sorts of issues.

“Imansuangbon has been around before Akpata, and will always be there. We challenge Akpata to show us his kindness to Edo people in the last 10 to 15 years.

“When Imansuangbon was shared over one million bags of rice for the Edo people, shared I-pad and computers to universities and secondary schools students, paid medical bills of the sick, where was Akpata?

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READ ALSO: Edo Guber Debate: Ganduje Commends Ize-Iyamu For “Flooring Obaseki”

“The cars he bought for LP officials and other things he did to have the party ticket are in the public domain. Now, the ticket is worthless in hand and those that sold it to him.

“In any case, it is not the turn of Edo South. Assuming it is the turn of Edo South, we would have wanted the likes of Pastor Ize-Iyamu, General Charles Airhiavbere, Lucky Imasuen and other notable Edo South indigenes not Akpata.”

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[JUST IN]Edo Guber: Confusion As PDP Dissolves Campaign Council

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All may not be well with the recently inaugurated Edo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governorship Election Campaign Council as the national leadership of the party Wednesday announced the withdrawal of the earlier published list of members of the council.

A statement in Abuja by the National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Mr. Debo Ologunagba announced the dissolution of the 200 man campaign council.

A close source however confided that the dissolution of the campaign may not be unconnected with the vehement opposition of Governor Godwin Obaseki to the choice of Mr. Iduoriyekemwem, who favours Chief Osaro Idah, the Obazelu of Benin Kingdom as the director general.

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READ ALSO: Obaseki To Deliver Keynote Address At 2024 Oxford Africa Conference

Ahead of the September 21 governorship election, the PDP State Organizing Secretary, Mr. Tony Anenih (jnr) had Thursday, April 26 unveiled a Campaign Council made up of 200 eminent members.

Mr. Anenih (jnr) had defended the choice of the members of the Campaign Council, noting that they are versatile members of the party and were carefully selected to deliver the party’s candidate, Dr. Asue Ighodalo.

Titled Re: Edo State Governorship Election National Campaign Council List,” Mr. Ologunagba urged all the stakeholders and the general public to disregard the earlier publication and await the updated list.

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READ ALSO: Escort Vehicle Crushes 2 Worshippers To Death In Ondo

The statement read in part: “The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) @OfficialPDPNig clarifies that it has withdrawn the earlier published list of members of the Edo State Governorship Election National Campaign Council.

“Members of our Party in Edo State and the Nation should therefore disregard the earlier publication and await the updated list.

“All leaders, critical stakeholders, members of our Party and the general public should take note accordingly.”

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