March 26, 2023

Politicians have converted Borno civilian JTF to thugs – Kumalia 

Maiduguri-Damboa-Chibok road

raises alarm over threat to life 

….alleges INEC plot to destroy evidence of election rigging 

By John Alechenu, Abuja

The Peoples Democratic Candidate for Borno South in the February 25th National Assembly elections, Mohammed Kumalia, has alleged that members of the state civilian Joint Task Force have been converted to thugs by politicians. 

He said this while raising alarm over a threat to his life on account of his challenge of the electoral fraud which characterised the Presidential and National Assembly elections in his Senatorial Zone. 

Kumalia who spoke to reporters in Abuja, yesterday also raised alarm over an alleged plot by Staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Borno State to destroy evidence of election rigging in his Senatorial District. 

He specifically alleged that the ruling All Progressives Congress- led administration in Borno converted civilian JTF volunteers into an armed wing of the party to intimidate politician opponents.

The candidate said, “The Civilian JTF have been converted to political thugs by the APC administration in Borno State. I received several threats while I was in Borno but we will not be intimidated. 

 “I also wish to draw the attention of the general public to an unsettling development that took place on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd March, 2023 within the premises of the INEC office in Maiduguri, Borno state, where some Ad – Hoc staff of the Borno State Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) in collaboration with the Electoral officer in charge of Mafa Local Government, were caught thumb-printing and stuffing Ballot Boxes within the premises of the Maiduguri INEC office almost a month after the Presidential /National Assembly elections which held on 25th February, 2023, in order to tamper and distort evidence to be presented before the Election Petitions Tribunal. 

“As you may be aware, I contested for the office of Senator for Borno Central Senatorial District under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, which election took place on 25th February, 2023. 

“Based on the outcome of the elections, I have filed a Petition before the Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Maiduguri. We obtained a court order to inspect materials used for the elections, which includes the Ballot Boxes, used and unused ballot papers as well as obtain Certified True Copies of the result and collation sheets among others. 

“While our team of lawyers were undertaking the inspection of materials on 22nd March 2023, our inspectors discovered some INEC Ad Hoc Staff sorting out and rearranging and counting ballot papers and stuffing them in different Ballot Boxes in respect of Mafa, Kala Balge and Dikwa Local Governments.

“Our inspectors immediately raised alarm and accordingly reported the incident to the Borno State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC). 

“They drew the attention of the REC that the actions of the Ad-Hoc staff amount to tampering with evidence. 

“The REC assured our team that the Ad Hoc Staff were only rearranging the documents that were dumped on them by the respective Local Government Electoral Officers who brought the materials from the local governments. 

“Although we were not satisfied with the explanation, we gave them the benefit of the doubt and continued with the inspection.

“To our surprise, by the next day, Thursday 23rd March, 2023, our inspectors this time around caught red handed two Ad-Hoc staff actually thumbprinting ballot papers and stuffing them into Ballot Boxes for Mafa Local Government right inside the premises of the INEC office in Maiduguri. 

“Our Inspectors immediately arrested the two staff involved in the thumb printing and stuffing of Ballot Boxes and took them to the Bulumkutu Police Station together with the bundles of Ballot Papers that were thumb printed and the indelible ink they used. 

“We were surprised that no official of the Maiduguri INEC office took interest to accompany our team to the police station in order to ensure the arrest of the Ad-Hoc staff and undertake investigation of any possible crimes.

“The police officials took the statements of the complainant and the two Ad Hoc staff and arrested them. They also invited the Electoral Officer for Mafa Local government who brought the materials to the Maiduguri INEC office from Mafa Local Government to give a statement. 

“Our team was informed by the police at Bulumkutu Police Station to come back the next day so that the case will be transferred to the Maiduguri Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for further investigation and prosecution. 

“We wish to draw the attention of the general public that the main reason the court gave the order for inspection is to determine whether the results as recorded on the result sheets and announced at the polling units are the same with the actual ballots that have been cast by voters. 

“This will be achieved through counting of the ballot papers in each Ballot Box and accounting for the valid, invalid, rejected votes as well as the unused ballot papers. 

“Therefore, any attempt by any official, permanent or Ad-Hoc to thumbprint or move ballot papers from one ballot box to another after the elections have been concluded amounts to tampering with evidence. 

“With these actions, it is apparent that the INEC officials that were involved in manipulating the results of the elections of 25thFebruary 2023 are hell bent on tampering with evidence to ensure that the work of the Election Petitions Tribunal is frustrated.”

He prayed among other things that the Inspector General of Police should order the immediate arrest of the two Ad-Hoc Staff of INEC involved in the act namely: Madu (Male) and Rifkatu (female) that were caught thumb printing and stuffing ballot boxes in respect of Mafa Local Government right inside the premises of INEC office in Maiduguri. 

Kumalia also demanded that the culpability of the INEC officials that caused the release of the suspects and also took back the ballot papers and indelible ink that were handed over to the police as exhibit be investigated. 

He also called for the arrest of the Electoral Officer for Mafa Local government and the INEC officials that collected the bundles of Ballot Papers (Exhibit) and returned it to the INEC office, ostensibly to continue with their tampering of evidence.

The candidate equally demanded that the IGP through the Commissioner of Police investigate the actions of the DPO of Bulumkutu Police Station with a view to determine the level of his connivance to suppress investigation of crime. 

He also asked that the Electoral Officers for Dikwa, Kala Balge and Maiduguri Metropolitan Local Governments be invited and investigated  to determine the level of interference with evidence in respect of electoral materials for their local governments. 

When contacted, Head of Department, Voter Education and Publicity, of the Borno State INEC, Abba Liberty, said the issue was beyond him. 

“I am not in a position to respond. I think you should contact the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC). I have restrictions to what I can respond to please. That is the nature of my work and that is my stand”, he stated.