There was commotion on Monday, July 22, 2019, at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Abuja as supporters of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu clashed with security agencies.
Uwajumogu contested the 2019 general election for Imo North Senatorial District under the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
Before the clash, he had sent an advanced team of his supporters under the aegis of the Concerned Citizens to INEC to protest against the refusal of the commission to give him Certificate of Return despite the order of Justice Taiwo Taiwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja.
“INEC does not have the power and right under any law in Nigeria to review or otherwise deal with any question related or connected to the declaration and return of the applicant for the Imo North Senatorial District election held on February 23, 2019, after the Returning Officer has taken a decision,” the Judge had ruled.
But on arrival at the INEC headquarters, Uwajumogu was prevented from entering the premises of the INEC in his black Sport Utility Vehicle, a situation which led to a face-off between his supporters and security operatives on duty.
His driver was told to block the main entrance to INEC to prevent visitors from going inside the commission’s premises.
Before he was eventually allowed into the commission’s premises, Uwajumogu while talking with journalists had demanded that INEC should give him his Certificate of Return “to forestall a breakdown of peace and order.”
He said, “How do you refuse an order of a high court? I am here to collect my CoR today and INEC must produce my certificate today. I am asking them to do that to forestall the breakdown of peace and order. We are prepared for whatever it would take to get our CoR and we are here today to demand for it.
“I am here to demand for my Certificate of Return from INEC which I deserve. As you are aware, elections were conducted, INEC has refused to give me my CoR. As law-abiding citizens, we approached the Federal High Court which about three weeks ago, gave judgment in our favour, demanding that INEC should give us my CoR.
“Until today, INEC has refused, we know that there are people who are working in cahoots with the opposition and INEC to ensure that we do not get our CoR. Some other persons who have been given their certificates did not have to go through any committee. Why is mine going through this process? Why is INEC giving the excuse of the commission’s meeting to deny us of my CoR when a proper court of competent jurisdiction has given an order?”
Asked what he would do if INEC did not give him his CoR, he said, “Well, let them refuse to give it first, we will now know what else to do.”
The protesters numbering over 100 were led by a two-time former member of the House of Representatives and Director-General of Benjamin Uwajumogu Campaign Organisation, Matthew Omegara.
Omegara in his letter sent to the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, said that supporters of Uwajumogu had prevailed on the stakeholders in Imo North Senatorial District “to remain law abiding while the law takes its due course.”
He said, “But today, we shudder to observe that their patience is tottering to the tipping point and we may no longer be able to stand down their agitation for justice and fair play. We dare bring to your notice that there is a deep seated public perception that INEC might be acting a selective agenda to frustrate the South East and make it impossible for the zone to present a ranking APC senator. The question is, whose script could INEC be acting since its actions are constitutionally, legally and morally inexplicable?”
The letter was received by the INEC Chief Security Officer (Safety), Daniel Duku, with a promise to send it immediately to the appropriate authorities.
While addressing the protesters, Duku commended their maturity during the demonstration.
“You have shown patriotism by your peaceful demonstration. So I am here on behalf of INEC to take your complaint to the appropriate authorities right inside the office of the chairman of the commission. Your protest letter would be officially stamped and I will give you the acknowledged copy,” he stated.
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