Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has admitted that the number of accredited voters and the total number of votes cast in February 23, 2019 presidential election did not add up.
The INEC chairman made the confession on Wednesday morning shortly before he announced President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the exercise at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, venue of the collation centre for the presidential election results.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential candidate polled 15,191,847 to defeat his main rival and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar who scored a total votes of 11,262,978.
The Chief Returning Officer for the electoral process however said the discrepancy in the figure was a none issue without any substantial impact on the outcome of the presidential election result.
He said:”Some of the state collation officers for the presidential elections have also made detailed submission explaining what happened during the conduct of the elections on Saturday 23 February and in some cases, the elections repeated in places where it couldn’t hold on Sunday 24. We are studying these documents as well.
“But I think in relation to the issues raised, there are specifically three of them that the Commission wishes to make preliminary statements on. It is a preliminary statement because during collation we haven’t had all the time in the world to look at these issues in depth.
“The first one is that the figures of accredited voters in relation to the votes cast weren’t adding up in one or two instances .
We have noticed that and our preliminary investigation and analysis revealed that there are a number of figures that were coming from the field and we are adding up and the state were also adding up from a 17600 locations, nationwide as polling units and voting point. From there, the figures were added up first at the ward level which we have 8,809 nationwide. From there to the local government nationwide from which we have 774 and then the state declaration or collation centres. From what we have seen, the disparity cumulatively isn’t up to 2%. So, it isn’t that substantial really.
Secondly, we also very strongly believe that the widespread incidence of ballot box snatching particularly in many areas after voting means that you have a data on the smart card reader but not backed up actual ballot. The ballot were either hijacked, burnt down or destroyed and therefore, the information on the smart card reader was slightly to be higher than the actual on the ballot box. But this is only by way of preliminary way of investigation. Yes, we believe that we had cancellation, however in the case of the presidential elections, the cancellation did not affect the conclusion of the process.”
Responding to the demand earlier made on Tuesday by the PDP agent, Chief Osita Chidoka that the Smart Card Reader was rarely used to authenticate eligible voters in the North and also verify actual number of accredited voters and total votes cast, the INEC chairman said it was not a demand backed by relevant laws guiding the conduct of the election and appealed to the PDP agents to allow him process with the announcement of the results.
“Thirdly, a request was made about opening up the Commission back end so that information from the Smart Card Reader particularly accreditation of voters can be used to verify, cross check the actual voters for the election. I am happy to note that the person who made that comment didn’t make the request as a matter of right under the law. Rather, he made the comment as a matter of openness and transparency.
“Since a law prescribes the processes by which results are collated and admitted and also the instruments to be used for that purpose, we believe that this is a discussion that can continue after the conclusion of this process, because it isn’t something that should necessarily truncate this process until we are able to determine those issues.
“If we are to continue to discuss this, we shall continue to discuss them adinfinitum, there isn’t no end to this discussion. So, we have taken all the observations made, we will take them into consideration but for the sake of the process for today, I crave your indulgence to go to the issue which we are gathered here today.”
Speaking with newsmen, the former aviation minister, Osita Chidoka who declined to append his signature on the result sheet unlike his APC counterpart, Hameed Ali said the result as pronounced by the INEC chairman did not reflect the genuine votes of Nigerians. He said the main opposition party would challenge the result announced by the electoral umpire in Court.
“The PDP does not accept this result as representing the valid votes of Nigerians,” he said.
We have raised three issues: first after all the investment in technology, we required INEC, after spending N27 billion in this year’s budget alone for technology, we had expected that today, INEC would have for the purpose of transparency not just for law would have projected to us the result of what the card reader that they used displayed about the people that went through the card reader verification, that singular act put a dent on the credibility of the election.
“The second one is the issues we raised about the number of registered voters, vis-à-vis what the chairman now called collated voters. It means that 1.6 million people are missing in the voter’s register. We think that issue is substantial enough to require a resolution.
“We also believed that the difference between the accredited voters and the votes votes cast which came to about 750,000 votes requires an issue to be looked at.
“Finally, we believed that the cancellations that took place in the election impacting 2.7 million voters required be looked into seriously.
“So, in our view this election required too be looked at again and possibly we would have had rerun, more importantly, we think that INEC should have looked consciously to the use of the card reader, the absence of card reader is a major violation in the elections, it renders that election null and void, that’s what the chairman promised us.
“So, for us in the PDP, we believe that this is a new low in Nigeria’s electoral history. Since 2015 we believe that Nigeria would have been making progress in the election, but violence in this election, the issues that have arisen in this election, lack of transparency that we saw in this election did not increase, neither did it improve the believe of Nigerians in the electoral process.
“However, the PDP remain a very lawful party, we believe in the law, we believe in the constitution of Nigeria, we are committed democrats, PDP is a party that entrenched democracy in Nigeria, the PDP is the party that made it possible for Nigeria to enjoy the fruit and dividend of democracy.
“We will continue to support democracy in Nigeria, we will continue to promote democracy in Nigeria but we have a good message for Nigerians. We want them to remain peaceful, we will explore all our options, including the believe that the legal process in Nigeria is one of the way to resolve issues.”
Also speaking with newsmen, the spokesman of the APC presidential campaign council, Festus Keyamo dismissed the PDP as bad losers but assured them that his party would be magnanimous in victory.
“We want to be magnanimous in victory, but at the same time they should be magnanimous to congratulate those who have won.
“The pattern of voting was similar to 2015.The masses should be happy that Buhari is his own man, he doesn’t have to kowtow to any power bloc to serve Nigerians.
“He remains committed to his blueprint for Nigerians: he has promised that he will continue to fight corruption, grow the economy and tackle insurgency.”
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