The vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ifeanyi Okowa; and his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Datti Baba-Ahmed have unanimously called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to cancel the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections.
Okowa and Baba-Ahmed stated this at a joint briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, Channels News reports.
Okowa, who is also the governor of Delta State, said “it is clearly stated in that Electoral Act that all election results must be transmitted at the polling unit level” and that it is only the results electronically transmitted from the polling units that can be collated at the centre.
“If you have not transmitted those results, it means that you have actually not conducted elections under the very law that we all applauded.
“So, the right thing for the INEC chairman to do is to cancel the elections,” the PDP vice-presidential candidate stated.
On his part, Datti Baba-Ahmed adopted Okowa’s position. “I hereby adopt the submission of my brother, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of the PDP,” he said.
“Now, we are witnessing the fact that the next government will be built on outright illegality.”
The LP vice-presidential candidate warned the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu not to promote illegality, saying he should respect the rule of law.
Being the text of the joint press conference by the Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and Vice Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Dr Datti Ahmed on Tuesday, 28th of February, 2023 at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
“On Saturday, the 25th of February, 2023, Nigerians from the different parts of our great country braced all manner of challenges to cast their votes for their preferred candidates. And having cast their votes, they are expectantly awaiting the results of the presidential and National Assembly election. We wish to state for the records that last weekend’s election was a sham. It was neither free nor fair.
“What played out yesterday at the National Collation Center exposes the National Chairman of playing to a predetermined script. Our position remains that the election and transmission of the results must be in tandem with the Electoral Act and the INEC guidelines.
“There is no doubt that INEC is under a statutory obligation to transmit election results electronically. Paragraph 38 of the INEC manual made pursuant to section 149 of the Electoral Act 2022 and the 1999 constitution as amended provides for this. That paragraph, which deals with the transmission of results at the polling units, is crucial, and it imposes statutory obligations on the part of INEC to upload polling units results on its portal.
There is no doubt that polling units results are the pyramid upon which other results are built. Therefore, it is required that the moment polls come to a close and the results are declared, the results must be uploaded on INEC server or portal.
Paragraph 38 of INEC Manual 2022 made pursuant to the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and section 149 of of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that: “On completion of all the Polling Unit voting and results procedures, the Presiding Officer shall:
(i) Electronically transmit or transfer the result of the Polling Unit, direct to the collation system as prescribed by the Commission.
(ii) Use the BVAS to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV), as prescribed by the Commission.
(iii) Take the BVAS and the original copy of each of the forms in tamper-evident envelope to the Registration Area/Ward Collation Officer, in the company of Security Agents. The Polling Agents may accompany the Presiding Officer to the RA/Ward Collation Centre.” It is mandatory and compulsory. INEC has no option. So, the failure to upload results and follow the procedures set out in paragraph 38 of the manual made pursuant to the Electoral Act 2022, is a fundamental breach that has the potential of rendering the election results that did not follow those procedures null and void.
For clarity, Section 64 (4) (a) and (b) of the Electoral Act, 2022 specifically provide thus:
“A collation officer or returning officer at an election shall collate and announce the result of an election subject to his or her verification and confirmation that the –
(a) number of accredited voters stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the number of accredited voters recorded and transmitted directly from polling units under section 47 (2) of this Act; and
(b) “votes stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the votes or results recorded and transmitted directly from Polling Units under Section (60) (4) of this Act”.
Consequent on the above Section 60 (4) of the Electoral Act 2022, any result announced by INEC is ultra vires, illegal, and of no consequence unless they are results already transmitted DIRECTLY from the Polling Units. So procedurally, INEC cannot continue to announce results that are yet to be transmitted as expressly stated in the relevant Sections of the Electoral Act.
The law is that where the law has set out the procedures to be followed, that procedures and no other must be followed.
The argument that INEC guidelines have no force of law is an idle and wayward arguments. This is not even the question of alterations of the results. It is a question of non-compliance with mandatory statutory provisions. The argument that it is only when the Chief Electoral Officer of the Federation announces the winner of the Presidential election that the results can be uploaded on the INE C portal cannot be correct. There must be uploading of results at the polling units after the polling officers had announced the winner at the polling units.
Finally, we call on the commission to tread on the path of honour by cancelling the election outright and commence the process of a fresh election that will not only be credible but will be seen to be credible by Nigerians.