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Judicial intrigues cloud supplementary polls today

…Issues that led to the rerun in Bauchi, Sokoto, Kano, Benue

By Olayinka Ajayi

Voters in five states, Bauchi, Sokoto, Kano, Plateau, and Benue go to the polls in selected polling units to conclude the process of electing new governors. Voters are also expected to conclude the election of state legislators in 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

The exercise was aborted in the affected states by violence and other cases of election irregularities that led to the declaration of the election being declared inconclusive in those states.

The supplementary governorship election which was also scheduled to hold in Adamawa State by the commission has, however, been put on hold upon a court order which followed an action taken by one of the political parties which claimed it was not included in the ballot paper in the March 9, 2019 election.

The supplementary election is expected to hold in 14 of the 15 scheduled Local Government Areas of Bauchi State upon a court order barring the exercise in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of the state.

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The polls will hold in selected areas where violence or other election irregularities led to the cancellation or disruption of the exercise in the affected polling units.

Today’s elections were, however, as at press time yesterday under a cloud of intrigues against the background of judicial actions by different political interests canvassing for and against the holding of the supplementary polls.

After initially vowing to proceed with the supplementary elections in Adamawa State, the commission on Thursday said it would heed the court order barring it from holding the supplementary election in the state.

The court order was upon the court action instituted by Mustafa Shaba, the governorship candidate of the   Movement For Restoration and Defence for Democracy (MRDD).

He had dragged INEC to court upon complaints that his party’s logo was excluded in the March 9 election.

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Governor Mohammed Abubakar and the PDP in Bauchi State have also gone to court on different issues against and in support of the election.

Supplementary governorship elections are to hold in 22 LGAs in Benue, 29 LGAs in Kano, 9 LGAs in Plateau, 22 LGAs in Sokoto, and 14 LGAs in Bauchi with Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area excluded.

The state House of Assembly supplementary elections will also hold in Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Imo and Kaduna States.

It will also hold in Kano, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Osun, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

Issues that led to rerun in six states

THE March 9 governorship and House of Assembly elections did not go smoothly in all the states of the federation. In Rivers State, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC,  suspended the exercise indefinitely on account of violence, hijack and snatching of ballot boxes among other infractions. The commission set up a fact-finding team to probe the incidents and said it would take a decision on the way forward, this week.

Apart from Rivers, the elections were declared inconclusive in six other states – Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau, and Sokoto because the margin of the lead of the leading candidates was lower than the cancelled votes in some affected areas.

Adamawa

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Ahmed Umar Fintiri of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was leading with a margin of 32,476 votes, having polled 367,471 votes against incumbent Governor Jibrilla Bindow of the APC’s 334,995 votes while cancelled votes were 40, 988. Comrade Mustapha Salihu, the APC National Vice Chairman (North-East), called for a probe of some election officials, claiming the APC itemized the local governments that card readers were not used, and that there were over voting and intimidation of their agents.

Sokoto

The INEC declared the governorship election in Sokoto State inconclusive in line with the provisions of Section 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. It would conduct a supplementary election in 136 polling units across 22 local councils. The Returning Officer, Professor Fatima Muktar, said that the number of cancelled votes exceeded the margin between the PDP and APC candidates, which is 3,413 votes.

PDP’s Aminu Tambuwal, who is seeking re-election was leading, having polled 489,558 votes, while the APC polled 486,090 votes and the cancelled votes were 75, 403. Additionally, the number of rejected votes was 30,082, while the total votes cast were 1,018,024 votes.

Kano

The Returning Officer for the Kano State governorship elections Professor B.B. Shehu said that a winner could not be declared in the election because the 49,761 cancelled votes were more than the margin of victory between the two major candidates was 26, 655. Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC scored 987, 810 votes to trail the PDP’s Abba Kabir-Yusuf scored 1, 014, 474 votes. His position was in line with Section 26 of the Electoral Act.

Bauchi

The governorship election in Bauchi state was declared inconclusive because the Returning Officer, Dr. Mohammed Kyari, said election in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area and some polling units across the state were marred by irregularities.

According to him, Mohammed Abubakar of the APC scored 465, 453 while Senator Bala Mohammed of the PDP scored 469,512. With the margin between the two candidates being, 4,059 votes and the outstanding votes alone from Tafawa Balewa LG being 139, 240, INEC was compelled to declare the election inconclusive.

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Last Friday, the INEC reversed itself and said it would continue with the collation of the Tafawa Balewa local council result on Tuesday and after that declare the winner of the election. The APC, however, rejected INEC’s decision to continue with collation of the results instead of going for supplementary polls.

However, an Abuja High Court, yesterday, ordered INEC to stop collating the result or hold the supplementary poll on March 23.

Plateau

In Plateau, the Returning Officer for the election, Prof. Richard Kimbir, said after collating results from the 17 local government areas of the state, the total number of votes cancelled was more than the difference in the number of votes the two major candidates got, “hence was constrained to declare the polls inconclusive.” Mr. Simon Lalong of the APC scored 583, 255 votes while his closest opponent, Lt. Gen. Jeremiah Useni (rtd) of the PDP, polled 538, 326 votes in the governorship election. Kimbir said the total number of votes cancelled in the state was 49, 347, which was above the 44,929 margin enjoyed by Lalong.

Benue

The returning officer of the governorship election in Benue State, Prof. Sebastien Maimako declared the election inconclusive because the total number of accredited voters in areas where the election was not held, was more than the margin of lead.

According to him the difference between the 410,576 votes scored by the PDP candidate, Governor Samuel Ortom and the 329,022 votes scored by the APC candidate, Emmanuel Jime was 81,554 which was less than the number of cancelled votes.

One hundred twenty-one thousand nineteen votes were cancelled in the election in the state.

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