Groups and some lawmakers in the National Assembly on Friday berated the Independent National Electoral Commission under the leadership of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu
The groups, which reacted to the postponement of the Edo State governorship poll based on the advice of the police and the Department of State Services said INEC had shown that it was not truly independent.
But the spokesman for the INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the electoral body was guided by the law and took decisions based on the provisions of that law.
The Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Leo Ogor, told Saturday PUNCH that Edo State had not witnessed any form of crisis at a scale comparable to other states in the South-South.
He said INEC appeared to have surrendered its independence to the executive branch of government.
Ogor said, “From my point of understanding, the situation on ground shows very clearly that the All Progressives Congress has taken over the control of INEC.
“But we are not disturbed because what they have just done is to shift the date. Even the people of Edo State are upset. Wherever it goes, they have only shifted the date when Edo people will speak very clearly.”
Also, a member of the House of Representatives from Enugu State, Patrick Asadu, expressed concern over repeated cases of shift in elections in the country.
Asadu said, “It has become a concern that INEC cannot conduct election in one state and that our entire security system cannot secure a single state.”
But a former Chairman, PDP South-West Management Committee, Ishola Filani, said INEC could no longer be trusted under Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
He said, “Everybody was ready for election in Edo State and none of the political parties was complaining about anything. You just came to say there were security issues. It either that they are inept or something is wrong.”
A member of the Senate representing Edo-Central Senatorial District, Senator Clifford Ordia, told one of our correspondents that the postponement of the poll was suspicious.
The senator asked why the same security apparatus put in place when President Muhammad Buhari and other personalities held the APC rally could not be provided for the poll.
Ordia, who is one of the two PDP senators from Edo, said the postponement indicated that the APC was not prepared for the election.
He asked, “How can security agencies be talking about security situations now? Does it mean that the APC is not ready for the election?”
Ordia dismissed Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s claim that the election date would clash with the West African Examination Council’s examination for secondary school pupils.
But a South-West leader of the PDP and member of the Senate representing Ogun-West Senatorial District, Senator Buruji Kashamu, differed with Filani and Ordia. He said the security reason for shifting of the poll was valid.
Kashamu said, “When I was checking the Twitter this morning, I saw (the photos) a lot of hoodlums carrying weapons and the news I heard yesterday (Thursday) was that the election was postponed based on a security report. So far with all INEC has been doing, I cannot boldly come out and say that INEC is not performing well under this government.
“We, the PDP, have been winning elections in states, the National Assembly and local government areas. There is no way I can say that INEC is not doing well under this government.”
Also the President, Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, Malachy Ugwummadu, said though it was within INEC’s power to postpone the election, the circumstance was curious.
He said if the DSS and the police raised security concerns, INEC was expected to ascertain the grounds given by the two agencies were verifiable and cogent.
Ugwummadu, however, said the timing and circumstances of the latest postponement left much to be desired.
According to Ugwummadu, the cost of logistics of the exercise makes the postponement a disaster and waste of resources.
Also, a lawyer and rights activist, Mr. Femi Aina, said postponement of elections in Nigeria has become “a staple diet for INEC.”
He said Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010 gives INEC the power to postpone an election, but it must have verifiable and cogent reasons for doing so.
Aina said, “The threat of attack stated as the reason for the postponement of the election could be regarded as a cogent reason, but the question remains that a responsible body charged with responsibility of conducting an election should have envisaged the threat. Even if you postpone the election, does that mean the threat will go away?
“The last minute postponement will not enrich democratic experience; last minute postponement after weeks of assurance undermines the democratic process and it is a waste of resources at a time when Nigerians are going through a lot of hardship
“It remains a mystery because security agencies’ advice was supposed to have been sought before now. Why was the security issue not raised months back?
“Honestly speaking, INEC has let the tax payers down and one can only hope that there will not be a repeat of such during the forthcoming Ondo State governorship election.”
••we’re not responsible for poll shift –APC
The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, dismissed a claim that the party was behind the poll shift.
Odigie-Oyegun told Saturday PUNCH that the APC and its candidate were more prepared for the governorship election initially slated for today than the PDP before the postponement.
He said, “We were prepared for the election before it was postponed. When the issue of security comes up, there is nothing one can do.
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“Nobody has any choice because if you say bravado, you want to go on and one life is lost, you will never forgive yourself. The decision to postpone affects us more than some people are willing to admit.”
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