Nigeria

Nigeria: INEC Postpones Polls in Kaduna, Bauchi

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Abuja — The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has moved all elections in Kaduna and Bauchi States from Tuesday, April 26, to Thursday, April 28, owing to security concerns following the deadly riots in those states.

The commission also responded to allegations levelled against it by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) over the presidential election held last Saturday.

INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, said the commission, in conjunction with security agencies, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and political parties had carefully assessed the feasibility of holding elections in the states where violent protests took place.

The assessment, he said, showed that there was marked improvement in security in some of the States for the elections to hold.

"However, in others, specifically Kaduna and Bauchi States, the security situation remains a source of concern. Consequently, the commission is constrained to postpone the April 26th elections in the two states in accordance with Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) from April 26th to April 28th 2011. This is to allow for further cooling of tempers and for the security situation in those states to improve," he said in Abuja Thursday.

Jega said that if election fails to take place in any state one month to the handover date of May 29, such a state risks being governed by state of emergency since the Electoral Act is clear on when election can be conducted.

He said that there could not be a vacuum, any state without election risks having a state of emergency.

Confirming THISDAY's story on the problem of corps members withdrawing from the April 26 gubernatorial poll, Jega said the commission was responding to the challenge as more electoral officials were being trained.

He said that he sincerely appreciated the fears of the youth corps members but called on them, their parents and guardians not to allow the perpetrators of violence to scare them away from "the noble job" they are doing for this country.

While acknowledging that there were some lapses, Jega noted that both local and international observers had rated the election as the best in Africa.

He said people should not take the law into their hands because any manipulation at the collation could be discovered and proved at the tribunal level.

The chairman, however, said there are some allegations of parties that cannot stand the test.

He said: "For instance, it has been alleged by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) that the Excel sheets used in collating results from Katsina and Kano States were designed to reduce its votes by as much as 40 per cent. This allegation is totally unfounded.

"The collation process at the state level is a manual process, requiring State Collation Officers to enter results from Local Government Collation Centres into Form EC.8D by hand. However, for administrative purposes, we designed an Excel sheet to enable us to simultaneously enter the results as they are announced by the Local Government Collation Officers." Explaining further he said: "The rationale behind this is twofold. First, we wanted a means of cross-checking the entries and computations done manually on Form EC.8D for accuracy.

"Second, we wanted a means of authenticating the results on Form EC.8D when they are finally delivered at the National Collation Centre in Abuja. Consequently, after collation in the state, the Excel sheet, which replicates the Form EC.8D was meant to be printed, cross-checked and signed by the State Collation Officer and emailed securely and directly to the Chairman of INEC, who was the Returning Officer for the presidential election.

"Thus, I must emphasise that the Excel sheet was only an aid to check accuracy and authenticity of the manually collated results. It was not a substitute for Form EC.8D which was filled manually and signed by the State Collation Officers and party agents present at the State Collation Centres, and which is the legally admissible results for return."

Jega said the Excel sheet for each state was prepared in Abuja and the formulae were written into the sheets and locked with a password to ensure that only figures could be entered during state collation.

He explained further: "The necessary calculations, for instance, totals and percentages were then automatically generated by the sheets."

On what happened in Kano and Katsina States, Jega said: "In writing the Excel formulae errors were made in the number of local governments in those states. Consequently, the totals were generally less than what was manually entered in Form EC.8D because the Excel formula was not summing results for all the LGAs in the sheets. Expectedly, the fault was immediately detected by cross-checking the formulae in the sheets. Our staff in the States brought this to the attention of the headquarters and the formulae were immediately corrected. The obvious evidence that this correction was made was that the figures in Form EC.8D, which was duly signed by Party Agents of CPC in both States, corresponded to our Excel sheets during the national collation in Abuja. I should say that before this error was corrected, it affected the scores of all the parties in the excluded local government areas, not the CPC's alone."

On the CPC allegation that there was massive thumb-printing and ballot box stuffing in Enugu State in which they demanded that INEC suspend the collation of the presidential results and fly in the ballot boxes from Enugu for them to demonstrate that this was the case, Jega said the request was "clearly impracticable".

He said it could open a deluge of requests which "conceivably could involve the ballot papers used in the 119,973 polling units across the country. Moreover, the Form EC.8D from Enugu State was duly signed by the CPC agent.

"Let me reassure all concerned that we are willing to ensure that all allegations of misconduct are properly investigated. But there are issues beyond our remit, which can only be addressed by the Electoral Tribunals. For instance, finding identical thumbprints is a complex forensic process which INEC is not in a position to conduct," he said.

Speaking further on the election problems in Delta and Bayelsa States, Jega said a rerun had been ordered in some areas in Ike North, while investigation was going on in Bayelsa central where a serving senator is under investigation for allegedly diverting electoral materials.

On the tenure elongation of five governors, Jega said the commission would obey the court while their lawyers are studying the judgment with a view to advising them on the next step.

On who was wrong among the two returning officers in Anambra Central matter, Jega said Alex Anene did the wrong thing by declaring the result in a hotel room in a cardboard paper, saying that he is still being investigated by the security agencies for his role in the whole saga.

Meanwhile, the Independent Election Monitoring Group (IEMG) Thursday appealed to INEC to consider postponing the conduct of the gubernatorial and State Assembly elections in states that were rocked by violence to avoid further bloodshed.

The group, while noting the post-election violence that erupted in Kaduna, Kano, Gombe, Niger, Katsina, Borno, Sokoto, Bauchi, Taraba and Nasarawa States, called on INEC and the top hierarchy of the security forces to re-assess the conduct of the remaining elections in these states on a case-by-case basis and where necessary consider postponement to avoid further breakdown of law and order.

The IEMG, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Mr. Festus Okoye, said the current situation of things on the ground in those states was not conducive for the conduct of the remaining elections.

Okoye noted that as a result of the violence, "so many people lost their lives and others lost their loved ones in the deadly riots.

"A large number of people have been displaced and are taking shelter in police and army formations in the various states.

"So many people lost their homes and properties during the period of the crisis. There are people still looking for their loved ones and cannot move on account of the curfew in some of the states.

"So many people are living in fear and trepidation as to the next steps given the ethnic and religious dimension the deadly riots took in some of the states of the federation.

"The rioters killed some youth corps members who form the bulk of presiding officers. Nigerians must be seen to be sensitive to the plight of persons that lost their loved ones and their properties in the crisis."

The statement further noted that there are some constitutional implications in the postponement going by Section 178 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) which requires the INEC to organise governorship elections not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the tenure of office of the last holder of that office.

The statement however pointed out that Section 26 of the Electoral Act, 2010 gives the INEC the power to postpone elections if there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with the appointed date.