Protesters hold a banner reading “We applaud the security for maintaining peace” during a demonstration against the suspension of governorship elections in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on March 11, 2019. – Several thousand people on Monday protested against the suspension of governorship elections in Nigeria’s volatile Rivers state following widespread disruption to the vote. The All Progressives Congress and African Action Congress marched with civil society groups in the state capital, Port Harcourt, calling for results to be announced. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Controversy is raging over the seemingly rampant declaration of elections as inconclusive in places considered as strongholds of the opposition in some parts of the country.

In Adamawa State, where the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, hails from, the gubernatorial election was yesterday declared inconclusive, despite the fact that the PDP candidate, Alhaji Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, was beating Governor Mohammed Bindow of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with 32,476 votes before the decision was taken by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The governorship election took place last Saturday in all 21 local government areas in the state.

The INEC’s returning officer for the state and Vice Chancellor, Federal University, Gashua, Yobe State, Prof. Andrew Haruna, who made the declaration at the INEC office in Yola yesterday morning, said that his decision was based on the fact that the margin of lead between the two leading candidates was less than the total number of registered votes in areas where the election was either cancelled or did not take place at all.

The already collated results showed that the PDP candidate, Fintiri, had polled a total of 367,471 votes while Bindow of APC scored a total of 334,995 votes.

The margin of lead is 32,476 votes, which is lower than the 40,988 representing the total number of registered voters in the 44 polling units where the results were cancelled.

Citing the relevant sections of INEC election guidelines to back his decision to declare the election inconclusive, Haruna said: “On page 17 paragraph C, the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections on the margin of lead principle state that where the margin of lead between the two leading candidates in an election is not in excess of the total number of voters registered in polling units where votes are not counted or voided, in line with Section 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act, the returning officer shall decline to make a return until voting has taken place in the affected polling units and the results collated into the relevant forms for declaration and return.

“This is the margin of lead principle and shall apply wherever necessary in making returns in all elections to which these regulations and guidelines apply. And, therefore, I declare this exercise inconclusive.”

The Guardian learnt that in some strongholds of PDP, there was a late arrival of election materials and in other areas, there was a shortfall in ballot papers distributed.

In Numan Local Government Area, which is a stronghold of PDP, there was a shortfall of ballot papers in one of the polling units inside Numan town and the voters refused to participate in the election, insisting that the complete ballot papers be provided.

A newly elected member of the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP, Mr. Laori Kwamoti, said that at the Zabrama polling unit in Ward 2 inside Numan town which had 900 registered voters, only 500 ballot papers were brought by INEC and the people refused to vote.

It was learnt that the nightmare of Bindow’s supporters is that 41 out of the 44 polling units that will decide the fate of the governor are in local governments that the PDP has already won convincingly.

It was alleged yesterday that the ruling APC was planning to recruit soldiers, police and other security agents to help get the 40,000 votes to give Bindow victory. A minimum of 36,000 votes out of the 40,000 remaining votes are needed by Bindow to coast to victory.

In Yola, the Adamawa State capital, PDP supporters were already celebrating victory yesterday as Fintiri said that victory was in his custody and that his supporters should remain calm.

INEC has also declared the governorship election in Bauchi State inconclusive.

The electoral body yesterday morning cancelled the result for Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area over alleged violence perpetrated at the point of collation by hoodlums who carted away the original result sheet (FORM EC 8C1).

The Returning Officer, Prof. Mohammed Kyari of the Federal University of Technology, Yola, said that the PDP candidate polled a total number of 469, 512 votes against his closest opponent, the incumbent Governor Mohammed Abubakar of the APC who got 465, 453 votes.

He gave the total valid votes as 1,026,901, rejected votes as 21,419 and the total votes cast as 1,048,220. He said that the margin of lead between the leading PDP and APC candidates (4,059) was less than the number of votes rejected.

In a swift reaction, PDP disagreed with the INEC’s decision, describing it as “arbitrary and unconstitutional.”

At a press briefing yesterday, the state chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Hamza Akuyam, said the returning officer lacked the legal competence to cancel an election duly conducted by various presiding officers and validly collated at ward and local government levels devoid of any opposition by any political parties.

The governorship election in the PDP-controlled Benue State was also yesterday declared inconclusive by INEC.

The Returning Officer, Prof. Sabastine Maimako, who announced the result yesterday at the INEC headquarters in Makurdi, said the election was declared inconclusive because the number of cancelled votes which he put at 121,019 was more than 81, 554, which is the margin of lead between the PDP and the APC.

Maimako said Governor Samuel Ortom of PDP scored a total of 410,576 votes while the APC candidate, Emmanuel Jime, polled 329,022 votes.

In his reaction, Ortom urged Benue people to remain calm, expressing confidence in his party to emerge victorious in the rerun election.

In Sokoto, another PDP-controlled state, the election was also declared inconclusive, even as Governor Aminu Tambuwal, urged INEC to declare him winner.

Tambuwal said that the declaration was neither in accordance with the nation’s constitution nor the electoral law.

He argued that he had satisfied the provision on majority votes and geographical spread and ought to have been declared the outright winner of the election, adding that the margin of lead and cancellations were different things.

The governor said INEC should justify re-run in each of the affected 136 polling units across the state, noting that it was not enough to declare the elections inconclusive on the basis that the margin of lead was less than the cancellations.

But the Returning Officer and Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Dutse, Prof. Fatima Mukhtar, insisted that the action of the commission was in order.

The REC, Sadiq Abubakar, told reporters that as far as the commission was concerned, the action of the returning officer was in order and the election remained inconclusive.

In his reaction, the APC governorship candidate, Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu, commended INEC for a job well done. He urged the people to turn out again in large numbers for the re-run elections.

The Chairman of PDP in Kano, where the collation of results was suspended, Rabiu Suleiman Bichi, urged INEC to declare the outcome of the polls in favour of his party.

Bichi who wondered why the electoral umpire suspended the results of an isolated area, pleaded for the release of the outcome for peace to reign.

He told reporters at INEC head office in Kano that the commission had no justification to delay the final collation and declaration of the results since the collation had already been concluded in 10 of the 11 wards in the turbulent Nassarawa Local Government Area.

The REC in Kano, Prof. Ristuwa Arabu Shehu, who briefed journalists on the update on the controversy surrounding the delay in the collation of the results, said that the commission would be fair and transparent to all parties.

He had early yesterday morning announced the suspension of the collation of the results of Nassarawa Local Government following an alleged invasion of the collation centre and destruction of electoral materials by suspected thugs.

Piqued by the declaration of polls as inconclusive, the PDP has called on its members to march in protest to all the INEC offices across the country against the alleged manipulation of election results in favour of the APC.

The party described as alarming “that the National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, is executing the script of the ruling party by declaring results where the ruling party is on the lead while results were declared inconclusive and even truncated against the opposition party where PDP is on the lead.”

The PDP, at a press conference presided over by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday at the party’s national headquarters, Abuja, said that party members had been directed to occupy all INEC offices in the affected states to ensure that the stolen mandate of the party was restored.

“Today, the majority of Nigerians and the global democratic institutions are questioning the state of our democracy and electoral processes, which have been under siege under the supervision of President Muhammadu Buhari and Yakubu.

“In the light of these INEC’s manipulative tendencies, PDP, therefore, charges our leaders, teeming members and lovers of democracy in the affected states to immediately commence a march to INEC offices and use all legitimate means to protect our mandate as freely given by the people at the polling units across the nation.”

Meanwhile, INEC yesterday announced winners of the governorship election in more states. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of PDP in Delta State won, scoring a total of 925,274 votes to beat the APC candidate, Chief Great Ogboru, who scored 215,938 votes just as Prof. Babagana Umara of APC was declared winner in Borno State, having scored the highest votes of 1,175,440 to beat Muhammed Imam of PDP who came second with 66,115 votes.

Governor Ben Ayade was re-elected in Cross River State after scoring 381,484 votes to beat his closest rival in APC who polled 131,161 votes.

The Katsina State APC candidate, Aminu Bello Masari, won the governorship election. He polled 1,178,864 votes while his PDP counterpart, Senator Yakubu Lado Danmarke polled 488,621.

In Kaduna State, Governor Nasir el-Rufai was declared winner, polling a total of 1,045,427 votes to defeat PDP’s Isa Mohammed Ashiru, who scored 814,168 votes.

Abdullahi Alhaji Sule, the candidate of APC emerged winner in Nasarawa State with 327, 229 votes to beat the PDP’s David Emmanuel Ombugadu with 184,281 votes.

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