Reports emerging from reliable sources indicate that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to declare Magnus Abe and Barry Mpigi as validly elected Senator and Member House of Representatives, respectively, in spite of not being validly elected in any known election in Rivers State.
The duo of Magnus Abe and Barry Mpigi stood for election in the court-ordered March 19, 2016 rerun elections in the Rivers South-East Senatorial District comprising Oyigbo, Opobo/Nkoro, Tai, Andoni, Khana, Eleme and Gokana Local Government Areas.
The All Progressives Congress (APC), under which they both contested, lost the elections in Oyigbo and Opobo/Nkoro. Elections did not hold in Khana, Gokana and Andoni Local Government Areas due to violence and the alleged complicity of the Nigerian military. However, in Eleme and Tai Local Government Areas, the elections were declared Inconclusive by the respective Returning Officers due to the orgy of violence that greeted it and resulted in the killing of at least 2 known voters.
The inconclusive elections in Tai and Eleme in addition to the established fact that no election held in any other part of the Senatorial District, apart from Oyigbo and Opobo/Nkoro, which were won by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is said to be the reason no member of the respective State Assembly Constituencies in the affected areas has been declared winner or sworn into the Rivers State House of Assembly.
In spite of these, however, the de-facto chairman of INEC, Amina Bala-Zakari, is said to be bent on ensuring that the duo who clearly lack any known electoral mandate are declared winners allegedly on the orders of powerful sources in the Nigerian presidency.
Zakari, who until recently held sway as acting chairman of INEC, is said to be pressuring staffers inside INEC, to compromise the integrity of the institution by assenting to documents that validate the election of Magnus Abe and Barry Mpigi in spite of their not being elected in any known election in Rivers State.
The development is also believed to be causing some rumpus among insiders within the Presidency, who think that the declaration of Magnus Abe and Barry Mpigi as being elected without any authenticating electoral process can spew cans of worms that may heat up the polity and further escalate public condemnation of the Federal government. An inside source opined that a few power brokers are at a loss as to how they intend to justify the declaration of results that are not authenticated by party agents as required by law.
”You won’t believe it, but some of us think that if it goes through, it may boil over into something that may lead to the demand for the declaration of June 12 election results because, legally speaking, a precedent against effluxion of time for declaring results would have been set. So it is of serious concern”, the source opined. “Don’t forget. Kingibe is still alive and can claim a right in law. It appears unthinkable right? But it is a possibility and in politics, you give nothing to chance.”, he added.
According to S. 63 (4) of the Electoral Act as amended, “The presiding officer shall count and announce the result at the polling unit.” S.74 of the Act also provides that “every result form completed at the ward, local government, state and national levels in accordance with the provision of this Act or any guidelines issued by the commission shall be stamped, signed and countersigned by the relevant officers and polling agents at those levels and copies given to the police officers and the polling agents, where available.”
It is not known from where INEC derives the power to announce results other than as prescribed by law.
Gift Jackson is a freelance journalist based in Abuja, Nigeria. He can be reached via email HERE.