Jega to Buhari, others: election free and fair

By Jide Babalola

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chair Prof. Attahiru Jega has rated the presidential election high, saying despite its drawbacks, it was free and fair..

He dismissed claims by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) candidate Gen. Muhammadu Buhari that the votes were manipulated in favour of President Goodluck Jonathan, who won. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) also alleged that the election was “systematically rigged”.

Jega, who spoke at a news conference last night, said the elections into Anambra Central Senatorial District and the Bayelsa Central District remain inconclusive.

He said Dr Chris Ngige of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Prof. Dora Akunyili of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) would wait till April 26 for a winner to emerge in their disputed election.

A rerun will be held in the suspended ward, the result collated and added to the existing result to determine the winner.

Anambra Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Prof. Chukwuemeka Onukogu had announced that rerun election in the district will hold in 10 wards across four local governments.

The rerun poll will take place in Enugwu-Ukwu Ward 1, Nimo Ward I and III, Nri Ward II, which has two units, Obosi, Umunachi; Nkpor and Umuoji.

The wards are in Idemiti North LGA, Idemili South LGA, Dunukofia LGA and Njikoka LGA.

According to the INEC result, Mrs Akunyili scored 66,273 votes. Ngige got 65,576 votes. Senator Annie Okonkwo of Accord, who scored 19,999 and Oguguo Okoye of PDP, who got 18,531, are the other leading candidates. There are 19,000 registered voters in the disputed wards.

Jega said Returning Officer Dr Alex Anene did not follow the laid down rule in declaring Ngige winner, according to the result of INEC’s investigation into the impasse in the senatorial district.

On the presidential election, Jega said:

“In spite of criticisms by some Nigerians, the election has been an excellent one and there is absolutely no justification for the post-election violence that began in some places before the results were ready.

“Logistically and operationally, we have conducted an election adjudged to meet international standards. It does not mean that it was perfect; it was not perfect; there were challenges, there were mistakes, and there were illegalities that may have been committed.

“However, there are procedures and processes of dealing with all of these issues that have emerged; frankly, there is absolutely no reason for anybody to take laws into his hands under the circumstance. Some international observers are telling us that if you are using indices of credibility and fairness and transparency, this election is probably the best ever in the whole of Africa, not just in Nigeria.”

He also spoke about the decision to comply with court judgment by not holding governorship elections in five states – Bayelsa, Sokoto, Cross River, Adamawa and Kogi – as well as the growing fears over Youth Corps members’ participation as ad-hoc electoral officials.

Pointing out that alleged manipulation of results in collation centres could easily be proven in court because all polling units make their results available to party agents and members of the public, Jega warned political parties to ensure that their agents are present at all levels of results collation.

Jega dismissed allegations by the CPC that Excel sheets used to collate results in Katsina and Kano states were designed to reduce CPC votes by 40 per cent as “totally unfounded”.

“The collation process at the State level is manual. It requires 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.

“The rationale behind this is two-fold. 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 Officer and Party Agents present at the State Collation Centres, and which is the legally admissible results for return.

“The Excel sheet for each State was prepared here in Abuja. The formulae were written into the sheets and locked with a password. This was to ensure that only figures could be entered during State collation. The necessary calculations, for instance, totals and percentages were then automatically generated by the sheets.

“What happened in Kano and Katsina states was that 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, “Jega stated.

Jega expressed concern that through devious use of Twitter, GSM text messages and other social media, some elements tried to increase the level of fears and anxiety of parents and corps members.

“It is natural to fear and some of them may be afraid,” Jega noted, adding that INEC, NYSC and security agents are working to improve the security situation and reassure corps members.

He also said arrangements had been made for very strict enforcement of the ‘no movement’ order in coming elections as governors and their aides now use various ploys, including making commissioners to stay around and try to induce election officials.

According to Jega, election in Ika North Federal Constituency, Delta State is not conclusive in some wards. A rerun will hold in those wards on April 26, he said.