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Party Primaries: Irreversible On APC Zamfara Decision, INEC Chairman Insists |RN

“On Zamfara, nothing has changed. We had earlier issued a statement on the position of things and that still remains our position.” – Yakubu

Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, insists that the All Progressives Congress (APC) will not nominate any candidate for elective offices in Zamfara State for the 2019 general elections.

The electoral body had earlier written the APC, notifying the ruling party of its inability to conduct primaries for the 2019 polls in accordance with the Commission’s approved dateline of October 7, noting that the party had denied itself the opportunity to participate in elections in the state.

However, the APC in its reply to the Commission, noted that it could not conduct primary elections in Zamfara because the party settled for a consensus candidate.

Speaking Monday at the sidelines of the ongoing three-day ‘Validation Workshop Study On The Cost Of Elections In The ECOWAS Region’, the INEC boss insisted that nothing had changed from the Commission’s earlier decision.

“On Zamfara, nothing has changed. We have said it and we had earlier issued a statement on the position of things and that still remains our position.”

He specifically appealed to Electoral Commissions in the ECOWAS region to map out ways of funding elections in such a manner as to make the process more cost-effective.

“At a bilateral level, countries within the region have also provided material and technical assistance to one another to support the conduct of credible elections,” Yakubu stated.

“The latest example is Nigeria’s support for the ongoing voter registration exercise in Guinea-Bissau. Even when an election is a sovereign national responsibility, multilateral agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union (EU), working together with other development partners, have, in some cases, provided support through the donor basket to fund certain electoral expenditure.

“While this is most commendable, it is imperative for Electoral Commissions in the ECOWAS region to rethink the way elections are funded in such a manner as to make the electoral process more cost-effective but yet free, fair and credible.

“This is because of the contending expenditure of government on other aspects of national development.

“An expensive election that ushers in a government that lacks the resources to fulfill its campaign promises to citizens may, in the long run, erode public confidence in elections in particular, and the democratic process in general.

“​The obvious first step is to conduct a study on why elections cost so much. From such a study, we can then determine what can be done to reduce the cost.

“Mindful of the different jurisdictions within the ECOWAS region, we selected six countries for the study, consisting of two countries from each of the three official linguistic blocs: Nigeria and Liberia (Anglophone), Benin Republic and Senegal (Francophone) and Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau (Lusophone).

“The three experts that anchored the study were drawn from Nigeria (Prof. Adele Jinadu), Benin Republic (Francis Laleye) and Cape Verde (Jose Cabral Sanchez). On behalf of ECONEC, I would like to thank them for deploying their experience and expertise in undertaking the study in spite of the short period of time available and limited resources,” he stated.  (The Sun)

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INEC Have Lessons To Learn From PDP Convention – Tanko Yakasai |RN

Desmond Mgboh, Kano

Elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, has appealed to the Independent National  Electoral Commission (INEC) to learn a few lessons from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the bid to conduct a free, fair, credible and transparent elections in 2019.

Reacting over the just-concluded convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Port – Harcourt, Rivers State, the former Presidential Adviser to former President Shehu Shagari stated that, “The successful conduct has demonstrated that Nigerians are capable of conducting a free and credible elections if they wish.”

Yakasai, while congratulating the members of the PDP for the successful convention, explained that the outcome of the exercise is now a challenge to INEC to ensure that the conduct of the forthcoming general elections in 2019 is an improvement on the Port Harcourt convention.”

He explained that there should be no excuse on the part of INEC not to conduct a credible , free and transparent exercise given the kind of logistics that have been made available to them while adding that “If a political party in the country can go this far, INEC can do even better.

“I congratulate the winners and all the contestants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the responsible way and manner they conducted themselves throughout the convention.

“They were impressive all through. I also congratulate the losers for the spirit of sportsmanship they displayed, conceding defeat without ill feelings. That is what we look forward to seeing in 2019.”

The elder  statesman appealed to fellow Nigerians to play their parts in enhancing democracy by ensuring that the 2019 general elections are conducted in an atmosphere that is devoid of rancor and bad blood.   (The Sun)

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2019 Election: PDP Governors Accuse INEC of Working For APC |RN

Secondus-and-PDP-governors

The PDP governors accused the electoral body of conducting itself as a tool of the APC-led Federal Government

• Pass vote of no confidence on electoral body

• Ruling party, INEC dismiss allegation

Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has claimed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is working for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

In a communique issued at the end of its emergency meeting in Abuja, yesterday, the PDP governors accused the electoral body of conducting itself as a tool of the APC-led Federal Government and therefore passed a vote of no confidence in the electoral umpire.

According to the communique signed by the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, who is also the chairman of the Forum, the party noted that there was need for INEC to reinvent itself and become a truly independent electoral umpire.

“For now, we have no confidence in INEC. The commission has conducted itself as a tool of the APC-led Federal Government, especially with the roles of the Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and a National Commissioner, Mrs. Amina Zakari.”

Also, the PDP governors condemned the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act amendment bill passed recently by the National Assembly.

According to them, the decision of President Buhari to withhold assent to the new electoral law is an indication that he and the ruling APC were afraid of the introduction of technology into the electoral system.

But in a swift response, the APC dismissed the PDP’s allegation, maintaining that it lacked the credibility and rectitude to question the integrity of INEC.

This is just as the electoral body reaffirmed its determination to conduct a free, fair credible polls.

Spokesperson of the ruling party, Yekini Nabena, challenged the PDP to retrospect on the elections it conducted in the past 16 years it was in charge, arguing that they were riddled with fraud, irregularities and litigations.

He said the statement by the PDP was a confirmation that they were losers.

“PDP knows that it cannot withstand the ruling party in a free and fair poll and that must have informed the recent alarm targeted at discrediting INEC.

“I want to emphasise that APC has confidence in INEC and before PDP can discredit INEC, they should retrospect and appraise the performance of INEC during their 16 years in power and compare it with the performance of INEC now. The PDP knows that it didn’t conduct credible elections while they were in charge.

“In case PDP forgot, let me remind them that almost all the elections INEC conducted under them ended in litigations. They were marred by fraud and irregularities. PDP lacks the moral to criticise INEC. The APC cannot degenerate to level of PDP in discrediting INEC,” he said.

Reacting to the allegation, INEC said it was not bothered about the attack from the PDP since Nigerians were appreciative of the credibility it has recorded so far.

According to Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu: “Since the inauguration of the current leadership of the INEC in November 2015, the Commission has been putting various measures in place to improve and strengthen the electoral process. And in doing so, the Commission has also carried all stakeholders along.

“Not only that, by putting all cards on the table at all times, INEC has continually demonstrated integrity, transparency and efficiency. The efforts are paying off. Only on August 31, the Commission brought the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) to a close after registering a record 14.5 million voters in 16 months.

“The Commission has also conducted about 190 different types of elections, including six governorship elections, none of which has been overturned. From the feedback we are getting from Nigerians, they are appreciative of our efforts and our pledge is that we will deliver a free, fair and credible 2019 General Elections.”   (The Sun)

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Card Reader: Fayose Confronts INEC, DSS, Police With Video Evidence

ayo-fayose

Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose

Kamarudeen Ogundele, Ado Ekiti

The Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, on Tuesday, confronted the Independent National Electoral Commission with video evidence of pre-loading of card readers in the state.

The challenge came a day after a National Commissioner with INEC, Mrs Aminat Zakari, challenged the governor to prove allegations that she had conspired with three others to pre-load card readers, supply faulty card readers and provide ballot papers for stuffing of ballot boxes,

Fayose also tackled the Commissioner of Police, Mr Ahmed Bello and the Director of the Department of State Services, Mrs Promise Ihenacho, for allegedly deploying security aides of former governor Kayode Fayemi to Ekiti State to rig the July 14 governorship election.

The governor pointed out that Fayemi’s ex-Chief Security Officer, Hakeem Abiola,  and former Aide de camp, Adeyemi Ajayi, were already in the state to coordinate indiscriminate arrest of the members of the opposition.

Fayose spoke at a town hall meeting organised by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room for governorship candidates in Ado Ekiti on Tuesday.

The Chairman on the occasion, Mr Clement Nwakwo, said the essence of the meeting was to extract assurances from INEC, security agencies and candidates that the coming election would be credible.

He said, “We are going to hold INEC accountable for whatever happens and that is why it is good for the security to be helpful and we know they won’t default in this regard.”

The governor tendered video evidence of people allegedly pre-loading card readers in Akure ahead of the July 14 governorship election to the National Commissioner in charge of Ekiti, Osun and Oyo states, Mr Solomon Soyebi.

Fayose said, “This is the evidence of people pre-loading card readers in Akure. Any officer who is seen to be biased should be relieved of any sensitive assignment.”

But dismissing the video, Soyebi said the card readers to be used for the election were already in Ekiti and had not been configured.

“I know the information will come to you, but they are fake. The card readers will only start working on the day of the election. A lot of people will be giving you information, a lot of them will be fake,” he said.

Also, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakub, described the governor’s allegations as untrue and baseless.

Yakub in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Rotimi Oyekanmi, stressed that it was impossible for anyone to rig the election in favour of any candidate.

Rather than malign them at press conferences, Yakub urged the governor to make any evidence of wrongdoing available to the Commission for appropriate action.”

“We wish to emphasise that it is impossible for the Commission’s officials, any individual or group for that matter to pre-load the Smart Card Readers or provide ballot papers for stuffing as alleged,” he said.

Yakub explained that the SCRs performed three functions: identifying, verifying and authenticating the voter and the PVC, adding that it could only function on the election day.

“In addition to the results sheets that we issue to party agents at the Polling Units and at every level of collation, the Commission also deliberately introduced Form EC60E to show election results at the Polling Units, which is the most important level. This form is posted at every Polling Unit after collation,” he added.

INEC reiterated its resolve to conduct a credible, free and fair election that would be a model for other elections in Nigeria.  (Punch)

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INEC: Southern, MiddleBelt Forum Push For INEC Boss Sack, CSOS Intervenes

INEC

Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja

Key Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) recently took up an unusual task. They elected to weigh in for the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu whose job was recently called to question by Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Forum.

In fact, the leaders in their parley in Abuja asked President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve him and the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris of their appointments. Among those who attended the conference were Chief Edwin Clark, representing the south-south; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, south-west; Chukwuemeka Ezeife, south-east; Retired Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, Middle Belt; and Nkanga Idongesit, South-South. Yinka Odumakin was the spokesman.

The leaders accused INEC under Yakubu of not being in a shape to deliver free and fair elections in 2019. They claimed that “the bug of nepotism and sectionalism which they alleged this administration is renowned for has also eaten up the leadership of the commission.”

Idongesit, the chairman of the Pan Niger Delta forum, who delivered the group’s position, argued that retaining the service chiefs who ought to have retired and keeping Yakubu as INEC chairman were suspicious.

He contended that what is playing out was in tandem with the narrative that the INEC leadership and the Service Chiefs would play partisan roles in favour of the president.

“From 1960 till date, only President Muhammadu Buhari has been audacious to pick only people who are either his relations or of the same ethnic stock with him to lead the electoral body,” he said.

“The Balewa government headed by a northerner appointed Eyo Ita-Esua from the south, who was in charge of the federal electoral commission from 1960-66; Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba, set up the federal electoral commission under Michael Ani from 1976-1979.

”When Dr Goodluck Jonathan came in from the south-south, he appointed Prof. Attahiru Jega from the north-west from June 2010-Oct. 2015,” the group noted, insisting that it was only Buhari who appointed his relation from the north-west, Amina Zakari, as the acting INEC chairman when he became president in 2015.

Certainly, the Forum’s call has irritated not just the INEC staff but some democratic circles. Surprisingly, there has not been any formal reaction from the commission. But a counterpoise to the elders’ demand recently came from CSOs and human rights activists.

Senator Shehu Sani representing Kaduna Central was the first to fire a salvo. A respected human rights activist and a nonconformist, Sani, disagreed with the Forum that Yakubu has committed grievous sins that should attract a sack.

He said, “The recent call for the removal of INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, made by the Middle Belt and Southern Leaders is unnecessary and uncalled for. The incumbent INEC chairman has not in any way demonstrated inclination or proclivity to unfairness or injustice in his conduct and his leadership of the electoral umpire. The INEC chairman has kept to the credible standards of transparency in Edo and Anambra governorship elections and subsequent by-elections. “

He continued “The leaders have the fundamental right to raise issues and observations in any of the activities of INEC and demand redress. Nigerians are now more awakened and conscious of their electoral rights.

“The track record of the chairman and his pedigree is enough assurance and guarantee to give him the benefit of the doubt to lead INEC through the next elections.

“It is impossible for the INEC chairman to bow to any form of pressure from any quarters to undermine the 2019 polls. And President Buhari, I believe, will not tamper with the duties of INEC. The President that openly called on Nigerians to vote for whoever they want has raised the bar of assurance in the credibility of the electoral process.

“In 2019, Nigerians will vote for the vehicle to take them to the future, either by trucks, tractors, trains or ambulances.”

Sani was not alone in this line of thought. A coterie of CSOs equally stepped out to tackle leaders of Southern, Middle Belt Forum over their demand. They insisted that the call was not backed with cogent and verifiable reasons. The groups advised that rather than seek the removal of Yakubu, Nigerians should pay more attention to the activities of Resident Electoral Commissioners in various states to ensure that they discharge their duties diligently and constitutionally.

The groups that spoke at a news conference include Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDG), Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP); Network of Police Reform in Nigeria; National Democratic Alliance; Yoruba Revolutionary Assembly, Public Interests Lawyers and Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice.

They were represented by Mr Ledum Mitee, former President of MOSOP; Okechukwu Nwanguma, of the Network of Police Reform in Nigeria; Ezenwa Nwuagwu of Partners for Electoral Reforms; Faith Nwadishi, Director, Contact Mobilization, ISDMG, and MacDonald Ekemezie of Kyenum Immllah Foundation. Others include Mr. Aminu, Public Interests Lawyers, Akin Lawson, National Democratic Alliance; Yoruba Revolutionary Assembly and Comrade Sherri Mulade of Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice Dismissing the call as misplaced and uncalled for, Executive Director, ISDMG ,Dr. Chima Amadi, who was first to speak contended that the demand of the elders as it affects the INEC chairman had no basis.

 

Although he agreed that no stone should be left unturned in ensuring a free and fair election in 2019, he insisted that the preoccupation of all Nigerians at the moment should be monitoring and supporting INEC to succeed in conducting an acceptable election.

The ISDMG boss charged President Muhammadu Buhari to ignore the call which he further described as the way out of line. He drew the attention of those calling for Yakubu’s removal to the elections the commission under Mahmood had conducted, insisting that those elections were credible and transparent.

He argued, “INEC is a creation of Section 153(1) (f) and 154 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, while the qualification for appointment is set out in Section 14(1), Part 1 of the Third to the Constitution.”

Amadi stressed that the same group of elders who made the call for Yakubu’s sack were also the same faces who raised a similar alarm against the former INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, adding that the fact that Yakubu comes from the same ethnic group like President Buhari does not make him less qualified and incapable of discharging his responsibilities.

He contended that those calling for INEC Chairman’s sack at this time were seeking to endanger democracy adding that many election observer groups have condemned the call for Yakubu’s sack.

Amadi further explained that though the Coalition does not hold the fort for the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, they are compelled to respond by stating the facts as they are.

He said: “For us, the claim suggesting that the INEC Chairman will rig the 2019 elections in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari is not only stupid but silly. If there are accumulated indications, they point to those successful governorship elections conducted in Bayelsa and Rivers States respectively by the same Professor Mahmood Yakubu and won by the opposition parties.

“Will these elders tell us that they are oblivious of the numerous elections conducted by the current INEC which produced different outcomes for different political parties irrespective of incumbency at both the federal and state level?

“The latest is the Ibarapa East state Constituency by-election in Oyo State in which the opposition party in the state won the seat. This is significant against the background of the Local Government election in the State three weeks earlier in which the ruling party in the State won every Chairmanship and Councillorship constituency.

“Of course, the Anambra State governorship election is still fresh on our minds in which the candidate of the ruling party lost in every Local Government Area to the extent that even the Ohanaeze commended INEC for its transparency in conducting the elections? Two months later, the same INEC successfully concluded the Anambra Central Senatorial election after staying the course in a protracted legal battle.

“The Ondo governorship election was also a watershed. For the first time, the outcome of the election was not challenged in court because of its transparency, although the three leading candidates were senior lawyers. This is significant given the fact that a number of previous governorship elections in the state were in fact determined by the courts.”

He queried the claim that INEC Chairman was working for Buhari, adding that the man would have simply handed the states recently won by opposition parties to the APC if that were to be true.

He said that the fact the INEC Chairman was presiding over a clean process ensured that the ruling party did not secure victories in the by-elections held in Dukku North constituency in Gombe State, Ardo Kola in Taraba and Osun West Senatorial Zone won by the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The outspoken politician, Dr Ezekiel Izuogu, also does not see the merit in the call for the removal of the INEC boss.

However, he disagreed with those pelting the Forum leaders with stone on account of their demand. He insisted that everybody, in a democracy is free to express his opinion on any issue.

To a large extent, those picking hole in the sack call is not wholly wrong. Elections conducted under the leadership of the current INEC have not attracted many tirades or legal challenges. In fact, INEC’s handling of Anambra governorship election and the recall moves against Sen. Dino Melaye elicited some accolades too.

President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nina Nwodo after the Anambra election said “the security personnel deserve congratulations for the secure atmosphere in which the election was held. INEC, so far, appeared transparent and must be given a pat on the back”.

Although Nwodo can always change his position and tackle the commission if it is observed that it has begun taking maladroit decisions that are hurting the electoral process, Izuogu and Amadi believe that the INEC chairman has not derailed yet. (The Sun)

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Insecurity And 2019 General Elections |The Republican News

A Nigerian military officer directs civilians at a checkpoint along Sapele-Warr road in the Niger Delta region

 

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, last week, expressed worry that the pervading insecurity in the country, particularly in the North-East, would hinder the successful conduct of the 2019 general elections. Some Nigerians and members of the international community have also entertained such fears ahead of the polls. The INEC boss, who disclosed this at the INEC/private sector forum held in Lagos, lamented that in spite of efforts put in place to ensure a hitch-free election, the insecurity in the North-East region will make or mar its outcome.

According to the INEC Chairman, security remains a major concern ahead of the elections, despite the electoral umpire’s effort to ensure that no eligible voter is disenfranchised. He said that the security problems require “a more imaginative response by the commission…”

The security concerns over the 2019 election, which is about seven months away, should not be ignored. It is a timely warning that calls for all hands to be on deck. This is not a task for INEC alone. It is a problem for which the Federal Government should swiftly find adequate solutions. Every passing day, events across the country validate the apprehension of the INEC boss. President Muhammadu Buhari should quickly respond to this security problem, as he promised last week in the aftermath of the bloodbath in Plateau State.

Sitting on the fence is no longer the answer. Whatever effort INEC is making to ensure a hitch-free, fair and transparent election will yield a little result if the security challenges are not resolved. The problem is that when the outcome of the elections fails to meet public expectations, INEC carries the entire blame. Recently, the immediate past Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, gave similar warning that the 2019 elections are fraught with danger if insecurity in the country was not contained.

It, therefore, goes without saying that time is fast running out for the government to respond to the potential dangers that may cast doubts on the outcome of the elections. These threats could prevent the conduct of elections in the North-East. It is, therefore, expedient to address the insecurity.

Addressing the challenges that pose threats to our elections will improve the integrity of the elections and boost confidence in our democracy. It is a fact that insecurity is unarguably the greatest threat facing our people, and our democracy today. Although Section 14(2)

 

(b) of the 1999 Constitution states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government,” we wonder if security is given the priority attention that it deserves. Our democracy needs peace to enable voters to exercise their franchise.

We urge INEC to continue its election security engagement with all the security agencies. This will ensure that the environment for elections is secure for voters, electoral officials and other stakeholders. This collaboration was part of the reasons for the success of the 2015 polls.

In addition to addressing the security challenges, the National Assembly should pass all the Bills on electoral offences. It is unfortunate that some of these bills that will enhance the electoral process and punish electoral offenders are being delayed by the lawmakers despite recommendations by the Committee of the Senate on Electoral Matters.

Although the Electoral Act 2011 makes ample provisions for punishment of electoral offenders, INEC has prosecuted only a few from the 2015 polls. This could be due to lack of political will to do so or unnecessary delays in the courts. That is why the bill on a National Electoral Offences Commission or Election Tribunal, needs to be passed and signed into law before the commencement of the 2019 general elections. The advantage of this body to try offenders is that it will be faster in the disposal of cases ahead of swearing in of elected officials. It will also serve as a deterrent to those whose conducts pose a threat to peaceful elections.

The government and security agencies must heed the warning of the INEC Chairman and provide adequate security measures. All the legal frameworks that will make the elections peaceful, transparent and credible should be put in place. (The Sun)

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INEC Registering Foreigners To Vote In 2019 – Southern, M’Belt Leaders

INEC-.-Prof.-Mahmood-Yakubu-takes-oath-of-office-as-INEC-Chairman-before-PMB

PIC.16. NEW INEC CHAIRMAN, PROF. MAHMOOD YAKUBU TAKING OATH BEFORE PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI AT THE PRESIDENTIAL VILLA IN ABUJA ON MONDAY (9/11/15) 7076/09/11/2015/ICE/NAN

Friday Olokor, Eniola Akinkuotu, Okechukwu Nnodim and Olaleye Aluko

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum has raised the alarm that the Independent National Electoral Commission has embarked on the registration of foreigners,  especially from the Niger Republic,  to pave the way for electoral malpractices in 2019.

The forum, which stated this in a communiqué made available to journalists on Sunday, alleged that registration of foreigners could be one of the reasons why the Federal Government was in a haste to construct a rail from Kano, through Dambatta, Kazaure, Daura, Mashi, Katsina, Jibia and terminate in Maradi in the Niger Republic.

The leaders from the Middle Belt, South-South, South-East and South-West had met in Lagos on Friday and issued the communiqué titled, “Our case against 2019 elections preparations” on Sunday.

The communiqué was signed by  Yinka Odumakin (South-West);   Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South);  Prof. Chigozie Ogbu (South-East) and Dr Isuwa Dogo ( Middle Belt).

The leaders, who expressed concern about the 2019 general elections, restated their demand for the suspension of the current Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, pending the investigation of the underage voter scandal in Kano.

They restated their lack of confidence in the INEC chairman “whose conduct over the scandal of underage voters in Kano has shown a gross betrayal of public trust.”

The leaders alleged that intelligence report at their disposal had shown that INEC was registering Nigeriens and other foreigners for the purpose of voting in the 2019 elections.

They stated, “Equally worrisome is the intelligence report at our disposal that a large number of mercenary voters have been registered from neighbouring  countries especially from the Niger Republic under the continuous voter registration which could have been one of the reasons why the Federal Government is in a haste to construct a rail from Kano, through Dambatta, Kazaure, Daura, Mashi, Katsina, Jibia and terminate in Maradi, Niger Republic. Money has been appropriated for this in the 2018 budget.”

The leaders also recalled that the INEC chairman assured Nigerians that alleged underage voter scam in Kano would be fully investigated.

The forum also recalled that the INEC boss promised to look into the voter registers nationwide in order to purge them of any possible ineligible registrants.

According to them, Yakubu promised to make the findings of the investigation public.

They said, “Five clear months after the promise and prompt conclusion of the assignment by the team he set up, the INEC chairman has refused to release the report which would necessarily have necessitated a nationwide interrogation of the voter registry.

“Information at our disposal is that the report of the committee is so damning and that is the reason why he is doing a macabre dance on it. How on earth can we trust a man doing such over an issue of public knowledge to be fair on matters relating to free and fair elections that would not be in the public glare?

“We demand the immediate release of the INEC report on the Kano underage voter’s scandal and interrogation of the voter registry by a judicial commission with representatives from international and local elections observers to check cases of underage voters and foreign mercenaries before the 2019 elections. This is very necessary as INEC cannot be a judge in its own case.”

To ensure equity, they also demanded that President Muhammadu Buhari should “rejig the nation’s security apparatus now…and reconstitute the security apparatus so as to earn the confidence of all communities in Nigeria.”

Provide evidence, INEC challenges SMBFL

In his response, however, the INEC Director of Publicity and Voter Education, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said anyone who had evidence should come forward.

He told one of our correspondents on the telephone that there was no cause for alarm since the voter registration would be displayed before Permanent Voter Cards would be issued.

Osaze-Uzzi said in the event that any alien was spotted on the voter register, he or she would immediately be removed.

The INEC director said, “If anyone is alleging that there is irregular registration, we display the register and they should furnish us with evidence of such illegality. If someone who is not entitled to be in the register is on the register, we will have the opportunity of removing that person.

“So, if they can furnish us with details, I think we will be able to properly look into it because the voter register is exclusively for eligible Nigerian citizens. If there are non-Nigerians on the register, they should help us by providing us with details such as location, pictures especially since there is an opportunity to do so when the register will be displayed next month.”

Allegations serious – TMG

But the Chairman of Transition Monitoring Group, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, in an interview with The PUNCH, said that the allegations of the leaders were serious and called on them to provide evidence.

She said, “The allegation on registration of mercenaries is a serious indictment. The TMG ad hoc observation has not revealed this development. We, therefore, call on the group to provide more evidence on this allegation…

“However, TMG opposes the call for suspension of INEC chairman, as an unnecessary demand. What we need now is to strengthen INEC and not distraction capable of truncating 2019 elections agenda.”

SERAP, CACOL demand FG’s investigation

Also,  two civil society organisations, the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, asked the Federal Government to investigate the allegations of voter registration in the Niger Republic, noting that the groups must also come forward with pieces of evidence to their claims.

The SERAP Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said, “I hope that these groups are altruistic in their position and they are not raising the alarm for political purposes. If it is indeed true that such exists, we demand that 2019 elections must be free, fair and credible. Such elections start with the proper registration of voters.

“The Federal Government has to ensure that it looks into this matter immediately and see that nothing untoward happens to the electoral process. This is because if the 2015 election was not free and fair, President Muhammadu Buhari would not be the President of this country. So, what he must do is to ensure that the tradition of credible elections takes root in the country.”

Also, the CACOL Director, Debo Adeniran, said, “The authorities of INEC have meetings regularly and if there is anything suspicious, the groups ought to come forward with petitions. Otherwise, their claims will be like a storm in the teacup. They need to provide adequate witnesses and pieces of evidence. If such secret voter registration is ongoing, it is going to affect the whole country and this is not good for our electoral process. The groups must come forward with evidence and witnesses.”

Rail project not for such venture – NRC

But when contacted to comment on the rail allegation, the spokesperson for the Nigeria Railway Corporation, Mahmood Yakubu, said the NRC was not aware of such thing.

He said, “I am not a politician and don’t comment on political issues. I am a civil servant. You should contact the Minister of Transportation because I don’t have any idea about that as the NRC spokesperson.”   (Punch)

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