…Renege on electoral guideline, its directives on Card Reader
…Says Card Reader is merely for verification, not for accreditation
*****By Onitsha Shedrack*****
DELTA****A new twist has emerged in the ongoing hearing at the Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, Holden at Asaba, as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Delta Sate, is now speaking from both sides of its mouth, following their statement of defense reneging on the electoral guideline and its directives on the use of Card Reader for the conduct of the 2015 guber election.
It would be recalled that after the outcry that followed the presidential election where INEC jettisoned the use of card Reader midway to the election, the electoral body in press statement signed by the Commission Secretary Mrs. Augusta C. Ogakwu, stated that card reader will be use for accreditation of voters for the Governorship election, in accordance with the guideline for the 2015 general elections.
According the press statement dated 2nd April, 2015, it stated that: “The Independent National Electoral Commission wishes to inform all Nigerians that Card Readers will be used for the April 11, 2015 Elections.
“The provision of the Guidelines for the conduct of 2015 General Elections which outlined what is to be done if a Card Reader fails and cannot be replaced by the Commission within a specific time frame (i.e Reschedule to the next day) will be enforced.”
It stated further that, the relaxation of the Guideline on 28th March 2015 was only with respect to the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on that date.”
According to INEC Approved Guidelines and Regulations for the conduct of 2015 General Elections, page 03, N0: 8(b) on Accreditation it states: “The accreditation process shall comprise of verification of voters using the Card Readers; Checking of the Register of voters; and inking of the cuticle of the specified finger,” and not just ticking of the manual voters register as Delta INEC now averred at the tribunal.
Also on page 10, No: 28 of INEC Approved Guidelines and Regulations for the conduct of 2015 General Elections, on the issue of over voting, the guideline stated: “Where, the total number of votes cast at a polling unit exceeds the number of registered voters in the polling unit, the result of the election for that polling unit, shall be declared null and void. Similarly, where the total number of votes cast at a polling unit exceeds the number of accredited voters, the outcome of the election shall be declared null and void.”
It would be recalled as widely reported in the media that the Certified True Copy (CTC) of Card Readers record exclusively obtained from INEC Headquarters Abuja, which was compiled by Engr. Iro Gambo, (Networking and Communications Systems) in ICT department, duly signed by Ibrahim Bawa, Director of Legal INEC HQs, dated April 29th, 2015, showed that there were variations between the INEC records at Abuja and INEC Asaba office.
It was revealed from the CTC record that the number of accredited voters transmitted by the Card Reader to the central data collation system is 709,700 while the number recorded at the Delta State INEC office, Asaba showed 1, 017, 796 as the number of accredited voters.
Available documents from INEC, Abuja office also revealed that, Okowa scored above the true accredited voters with 14,980 votes, without the LP AND APC candidates’ votes.
However in a dramatic twist, Delta INEC which has been vilified for its alleged compromised role in the governorship election, through its legal counsel, led by D. D. Dodo, SAN, and 7 others, in its response to the petition filed by Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, the Delta APC governorship candidate in the April 11, 2015 election with petition No: EPT/DT/GOV/32/15 before the Governorship Election Tribunal Holden at Asaba, Delta State disowned the sanctity of the card readers!
According to the INEC response as exclusively obtained by ADVOCATE, the INEC legal team in a desperate effort to defend the alleged ignoble role by INEC claimed that, “Card Readers are for verification of Voters while Register of Voters is the only document for accreditation of voters on Election Day.”
According to Delta INEC, it averred that from, “inception it was contemplated that upon the failure of the Card Reader other contingencies will be resorted to in order to ensure that the election is duly conducted and that legitimate voters were not disenfranchised.
Adding that in account of the failure of the Card Reader, “the ultimate mechanism was a resort to the manual accreditation as provided for by the Electoral Act.
INEC therefore, “contend that with the challenges presented by the Card Reader Machine, the process of accreditation proceeded as was expressly provided for in the Electoral Act (by resorting to manual accreditation). Stressing that, there were no acts of non-compliance which materially affected the result of the election.
INEC team also stated that operation of the data base of the 3rd Respondent (INEC) does not take into consideration the persons accredited manually in compliance with the express provisions of the Electoral Act; the same INEC gave a certified true copy of record of accredited voters by Card Readers.
And that “the use of incident forms is equally a matter of instruction at an election and not contemplated by the electoral act.”
INEC also owned up, that in the conduct of the governorship election in Delta State, the “Register of voters was the document used by the Respondents (INEC) for the accreditation of Voters while Card Readers were only used for verification of Voters during the elections held on 11th April, 2015 in each of the polling units in each of the 25 Local Government Areas of Delta State.
However, APC youth leader in Delta State, Comrade Monday Oyehge, noted in a chat with ADVOCATE, that INEC line of defense is laughable and cannot stand rigorous legal probing and therefore will fall like a pack of card, saying that Sen. Okowa and the PDP will soon be thrown out, because they stole Delta peoples’ mandate through the back door.
Opinion in some quarters is that, INEC office in Delta State might have prepared this line of defense ahead of time, and connived with the PDP to undermine the electoral guideline as provided by the national headquarters of the Commission.
However, in response to enquiries made at INEC Headquarters Abuja, a reliable source that requested to remain anonymous stated that this misnomer has come to the attention of the INEC Chairman Prof Jega who was so scandalised that he immediately issued a query to the INEC legal Officer in Delta! Attempt made to confirm this at INEC office Asaba yielded no results!
Political analysts are however, of the view that Prof Jega must do more than issue an internal query but must act promptly not to jeopardise the course of justice! Further reporting will follow this unfolding scandal!