The House of Representatives has criticised the Independent National Electoral Commission over the declaration of governorship elections in six states inconclusive.
Consequently, the lower chamber of the National Assembly is considering amending the relevant sections of the constitution to whittle down the powers of INEC concerning declaration of election results.
However, the Senate on Wednesday criticised the performance of INEC in the 2019 elections and concluded that it would probe th electoral umpire over the inconclusive elections it conducted in Kano, Bauchi, Benue, Plateau, Sokoto and Adamawa states.
Members of the House of Representatives while debating a motion on the 2019 general elections took turns to criticise the commission and the exercise, calling for electoral reforms.
The motion, entitled, ‘The Malady of Inconclusive Elections in Nigeria,’ was moved by Mr Karimi Sunday, a Peoples Democratic Party lawmaker from Kogi State.
While unanimously adopting the motion, they granted its prayer to call on INEC “not to subvert the will of the people by resorting to the provisions of the guidelines relating to inconclusive elections but to adhere to the constitution, and allow aggrieved parties to proceed to the relevant election tribunals in order to ensure peace and security and to promote the credibility of the electoral process.”
The chamber also resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to review the laws pertaining to declaration of results, from where INEC derives its powers to declare elections inconclusive, and recommend the sections for amendment by the legislature.
Kano Rep says inconclusive polls call Buhari’s integrity to question
Commenting, Aliyu Madaki from Kano State, condemned the militarisation of the elections, saying, “What we went through in the last one month was war. What happened in the last one month is akin to military coup,” he said.
Madaki noted that the PDP accepted electoral defeat in the presidential election in Kano State “but while they were winning in the governorship election, INEC declared the election inconclusive.”
The lawmaker questioned President Muhammadu Buhari’s integrity, with the developments that had characterised electoral exercises under his administration.
He said, “We know for a fact that all the ballot papers used in Kano are still there intact with INEC. Even the original result sheets that were torn; it was not the results that were torn, it was the duplicate. We submitted it to them, they said it has passed through hands so they could not use it again. We then told them, ‘the professor who collated this result is here, let him look at it, is it his document or has it been tampered with?’ They said no, but they went and declared our election inconclusive.
“We are talking about the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari – his integrity, if he has any, is being questioned seriously. If he is watching, he has been declared winner while the margin of victory is less than the number of cancelled votes all over Nigeria but he has been declared winner and elections of candidates of the PDP in six states of northern Nigeria have been declared inconclusive. And from the information available to me, in the next two weeks when we are going for the election, they will use every resource available and declare the APC winners in these elections. Let me sound a note of warning that we will not take it!”
Moving the motion earlier, Sunday stated, “The Commission should not be allowed to continue to whimsically declare elections inconclusive.”
He added, “The House is worried that in the March 9 general elections, out of the 29 governorship elections conducted, six governorship elections were declared inconclusive. In Sokoto, Benue, Bauchi, Kano, Plateau and Adamawa states, elections were declared inconclusive despite leading candidates having met the provisions of Section 179(2) of the Constitution, thereby causing apprehension, insecurity and eroding the confidence of the electorate in the commission.
“The commission is now seen as a biased umpire in the election process due to its consistent declaration of elections inconclusive whimsically.”
Sunday recalled that since the November 21, 2015, governorship election in Kogi State, inconclusive elections had become “a demon hunting the Nigeria’s electoral system, eroding the confidence of the electorate in the electoral system and has become a tool for subverting the will of the people during elections in Nigeria.”
The lawmaker noted that prior to the Kogi election, there were very few isolated cases of inconclusive elections and reruns due to over-voting and non-voting in some polling units and wards. “This was the case in Ekiti State in 2009, Anambra in 2010 and Imo in 2011. The escalating trend of inconclusive elections has cast a shadow on the neutrality of INEC as an umpire in the Nigeria’s election process,” he said.
According to Sunday, the frequency of cases of inconclusive elections signalled “lack of confidence of the electorate in the election process.”
But the Majority Leader, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, who is leader of the APC caucus, stated that the solution was to amend the laws backing INEC to declare elections inconclusive, stressing that the legislature did not have the powers to interpret the existing laws.
Only constitution amendment can stop inconclusive polls – Gbajabiamila
In an apparent reaction to the barrage of criticisms from the PDP members, Gbajabiamila said, “I want to make it abundantly clear that everybody in this House is on the same page as regards the inconclusiveness of the elections that we have just witnessed. We are all speaking with one voice and in total agreement.
“However, the approach or the solution may differ. A lot of the debate today – I listened very carefully to everybody and I agree with most of all that has been said – unfortunately has basically been on the interpretation of the laws. And unfortunately too, we are not empowered. We run a democracy with three arms of government. While we have the constitutional responsibility to make laws, we do not have the powers to interpret the laws or the constitution, and that is what has been done here today.
“We are talking about INEC usurping; we also appear to want to usurp the powers of the judiciary. Once we agree that inconclusiveness should be something of the past, the question is ‘how do we get there?’ For me, the only way to get there is to forget this motion and debates, and within a matter of weeks or one week, let us set a crack team to amend the electoral laws to limit the powers of INEC.”
The Majority Leader cited the case of the last governorship election in Kogi State which INEC declared inconclusive and the APC candidate, Abubakar Audu, died before the supplementary election was conducted. He recalled that Audu’s running mate, James Faleke, lost the legal battle to reclaim the mandate.
Gbajabiamila said, “We seem to forget and many have referred to the Kogi debacle; the Supreme Court has ruled on this matter. In the case of Kogi State, INEC used its guidelines to declare the Kogi election inconclusive. Our colleague is here, Honourable Faleke; he went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court looked at the totality of the laws and the constitution and said that INEC was in order to use the guidelines to declare that election inconclusive. So, we have a Supreme Court ruling on this matter.
“The only way to change the Supreme Court ruling is to amend our laws and the Supreme Court will be forced to interpret that amendment that has limited the powers to declare an election inconclusive. Many have referred to the lack of powers or authority; I have heard people quote the electoral laws, that it is unconstitutional.
“Again, I say that the Supreme Court, in looking at the constitution, said that INEC has the powers to conduct and regulate elections. And if it has the powers to conduct and regulate, it necessarily has the powers to set up guidelines. That is how our colleague, Honourable Faleke, lost that election. So, unfortunately, we are now unable to say that guidelines are unconstitutional when the Supreme Court, the apex law body by the Constitution, has declared it constitutional.
He restated, “The only way that we can reverse the ruling is for us to amend that law that the Supreme Court has interpreted. But in doing that, in declaring that an election is inconclusive, I think the guiding principle which we all mouth here is that every vote must count. Every vote must count! So, those that were declared conclusive and those that were declared inconclusive, the issue is that at the end of the day, nobody must be disenfranchised. That should be our guiding principle.
“Beyond the Supreme Court case in Kogi, I am aware that even now as we speak, the government or governor of Sokoto State has taken this matter to court. So, let us tarry a while and allow the arm of government that has the authority and power to come down with yet another decision, maybe reverse itself or sustain its ruling, that INEC has the powers to do what it has done.
“We must not take a partisan, political approach; we must take a legislative approach. It can be done easily. It might be a one-line or two-line amendment to limit the powers of INEC.”
We will probe INEC, says Senate
Meanwhile, the Senate spokesperson, Ben Murray-Bruce, said the red chamber was planning a similar step against INEC.
He said, “Senator Dino Melaye raised a similar motion on the floor today (Wednesday) that we should probe the elections. We are going to do that.
“The current INEC leadership is a great disaster to our electoral process and we are going to review their roles. Now that they have conducted a disastrous election, we will write international community not to give them any job after their retirement.
“The international community should not honour them anywhere in the world because if they could conduct a disastrous election in Nigeria, they will not be a good representative of this country.”
Tension as protests rock Bauchi
Also, there was tension in Bauchi metropolis on Wednesday as three groups numbering over 500 persons took to the streets to protest against the decision of INEC to declare the governorship election inconclusive.
They include Concerned Movement for Democracy, Bauchi State Concerned Citizens and Bauchi State Metropolitan Youths.
While demanding that the PDP candidate and former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed, be declared winner, the CMD said it was unfair for INEC to cancel the election in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area since the violence was not at the polling units but at the collation centre.
The protesters carried leaves and placards chanting various solidarity songs and demanding that the results should be announced.
They invaded the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, took over the place, while security agents were immediately deployed there to prevent any breakdown of law and order.
The Secretary of CMD, Bala Chiroma, said that INEC was not fair to the people of Bauchi in the governorship election.
He said, “We decided that we are tired of this government, a government that is not for the people but for a few. We have rejected the APC government of Mohammed Abubabakar.
“We are calling on INEC to immediately declare the results of the election. We also call on the President Muhammadu Buhari who knows Bauchi and we have a relationship with him because we love him. We are calling on him to intervene and direct INEC headquarters and INEC in Bauchi to declare Bala Mohammed the governor.”
Pro-APC group kicks, says PDP blackmailing INEC
But a coalition of groups loyal to the APC in Bauchi State under the aegis of Bauchi Citizens Organisations called on INEC to jettison the rerun elections and pronounce Governor Mohammed Abubakar winner of the election.
The spokesperson for the BCO, Idris Danwaka, told journalists that the PDP had resorted to blackmail to score cheap political points.
He said, “It is unfortunate that the PDP and its hired opposition machinery has resorted to blackmailing INEC to pronounce the PDP winner of the election. Our take here is that if there is any party that can make claim to winning the said election, it is the APC.
“We call on INEC to jettison the the idea of conducting any rerun because even the results of the election from Bauchi LGA are controversial. We have it on good authority that results of Bogoro and Bauchi LGAs, like in several other parts of the state, were doctored to favour the PDP candidate.”
Presidency behind post-election crisis, says Misau
But the Chairman Senate Committee on Navy, Isa Misau, has accused the Presidency of masterminding the post-election crisis in Bauchi State.
He therefore challenged the Presidency to intervene in the crisis if it claimed to have any integrity left.
Misau, who is also Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, said at the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Bauchi that the APC’s hypocrisy was one of the reasons why there was mass defection from the party to the PDP.
At the event, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, challenged the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, an indigene of Bauchi State, “to do what is right because charity begins at home.”