ByDapo Akinrefon & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—CHAIRMAN of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, yesterday, explained that the decision of the commission not to heed the petition of the All Progressives Congress, APC, by cancelling or rescheduling the presidential election in Rivers State was because the petition lacked merit.
Speaking yesterday at the collation centre in Abuja, Jega specifically said the allegation was not substantial to warrant cancellation or rescheduling of the presidential poll in the state.
“We do not believe the allegations are substantial enough to require the cancellation/rescheduling of the elections in Rivers. Sunday morning, I received a petition from the All Progressives Congress ,APC, demanding the cancellation and rescheduling of elections in Rivers State. I circulated this memo to the Commission. We reviewed it and set up a three- man Committee to Rivers and returned this morning with their observations. There were a number of points as to why the Commission should cancel/reschedule elections: on the grounds of no elections, no result sheets or substitution of officials,’’ he said.
He added: “We cannot establish any cancellation or substitution of results and we sent a list of collation officers to the state. Officials failed to show up to work for several reasons and it is up to the REC to substitute from the pool of officials they have
“We do not believe the allegations are substantial enough to require the cancellation/rescheduling of the elections in Rivers. The decision of the Commission is that we will take the results of the elections in Rivers state. We have taken measures to make sure that there is no re-occurrence in the future”
Meanwhile, immediately the commission reconvened yesterday to commence the collation of results from the states, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, protested the decision of INEC to investigate the petition of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC.
The party particularly accused the commission’s chairman,Prof. Attahiru Jega of not only being bias but also partial, selective and tribalistic in his handling of the collation of presidential election results across the states of the federation.
Former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe and Col. Bello Fadile, who represented the party as agents at the Presidential Election Results Collation Centre,at the International Conference Centre, ICC, Abuja, accused the INEC boss of secretly working for the APC.
Elder Orubebe, who led the protest,wondered why the INEC chairman constituted an investigative panel and sent same to Rivers State to look into the petition from the APC, while he failed to act in like manner on their petition against elections in seven states of the North.
The states,according to him are Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Bauchi,Gombe, Katsina and Sokoto.
The PDP representatives, whose open protest temporarily halted proceedings at the collation centre, said the party had lost confidence in both Jega and his INEC,and demanded expeditious treatment of its petition against the elections in some states of the North. The action of the duo took people by surprise.
Waving a piece of paper, the former minister said the All Progressives Congress (APC) had already published the result of the election on its website which tallied with the one being presented by INEC.
Orubebe said, ‘’Mr Chairman we are beginning to see that you are very selective and partial. We have lost confidence in what you are doing. If we can send a protest to you and you cannot take it, then why are we here? The essence of sending you the letter of protest is to enable you look at the matter and see whether it has merit or demerit.
“We have lost confidence in you because you are partial and selective. We don’t believe in you any more and we cannot go on the way you are going. You have compromised and we cannot take it from you.
“Until something is done to our letter or protest the way you did with APC we will not continue with you.
“You are tribalistic, you are selective and you are partial, we will not continue with you,” Orubebe added.
Orubebe however vowed not to allow the collation process continue until INEC took a decision on the party’s complaint but it took the intervention of other agents and other stakeholders to allow Jega to respond.
But in his response, the Chairman of INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega, said it was not true that he was partial as he had not officially received the PDP complaint.
Jegas said his Personal Assistant came to meet him on Monday after the 4 pm. recess with a document that Dr Bello Fadile, the Representative of PDP said he instructed him to give it to his Personal Assistant (PA).
Jega said that he immediately instructed his PA to return the document because he did not give such instruction.
‘’Subsequently Dr Fadile sent me a short message saying that there are petitions and he wants to submit them, I told him we don’t collect petition on this platform when we are collating results.
“Fadile said I should have left my office opened so that they can submit such petition in my office.
“I said that the secretary to the commission is in the office to receive petitions; if they are important enough she will bring it to me here. Fadile acknowledged the reply by replying okay, that he would see what he could do. I interpreted to mean that he was taking the petition or whatever document to the commission secretary. As I talk to you now, I have not received any thing from the secretary of the commission,” Jega said.
On the election result allegedly published by APC, Jega said he had not seen it and never gave result to anybody.
“The results announced formally by INEC were results that were declared here. We have warned everybody to be careful and be sure that they do not declare result that we have not publicly announced. So as far as I am concerned I have not given anybody any result,” he said.
Jega added that it was unfair for Orubebe to engage him on such issue saying “I think it is not fair to me. I have not seen any result and how can I speak about something I have not seen.
”Mr Orubebe you are a former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, you are a statesman in your own right, so you should be careful about what you say or allegation you make.
“Certainly you should be careful about your public conduct,” he added.
Meanwhile notable lawyers yesterday condemned Orubebe’s action saying it was embarrassing.
Speaking to newsmen, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Olisa Agbakoba described the former minister’s action as a ‘big disgrace’. This was a very big disgrace by Orubebe” he said.
On his part, Lagos based lawyer, Festus Keyamo who also condemned the show of shame said Orubebe’s action was capable of plunging Nigeria into a civil war.
He likened the action to what happened in Cote d’Ivoire when agents of a former president Laurent Gbagbo tore the election result, an action which plunged the country into a civil war.
“:Orubebe’s action is very disgraceful. Secondly, it threatens the unity of this country. It was this same attitude that led to the civil war in Cote d’Ivoire when Gbagbo’s agent entered the collation centre and tore the results that were to be announced”.
“That was what led Cote d’Ivoire to civil war that killed more than 30,000 people in that country. Orubebe should understand that his action is capable of threatening the unity and peace of this country. it is an action that we totally condemn” he said.
Allegations are too weighty to gloss over—NNSG
On its part, the Nigeria National Summit Group, NNSG, however said the allegations made by Orubebe were too weighty to gloss over.
In a statement by its executive secretary, Mr Tony Uranta said the “NNSG witnessed along with millions of Nigerians and citizens of the world, the embarassing drama that transpired earlier today during the release of the Presidential Polls’ Results by INEC, when Elder Orubebe (an Agent of the PDP) levied weighty accusations of bias, tribalism, partiality, compromise and foul play against INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega.”
Uranta noted that “whilst one may not be comfortable with Elder Orubebe’s outburst, we cannot run away from the fact that these allegations are too weighty to gloss over, if Nigerians do not want this erstwhile putatively smooth process to be derailed alongside the peace and security of Nigeria”.
He stated that “the NNSG hereby demands that Prof Jega reveals to Nigerians and the world how INEC intends to handle the PDP Petition re the four States where the Party claims underage voting took place.”