Furthermore, INEC should note that the general public is agitated by the obtrusive behaviour and unmitigated unlawful interference with the elections and electoral processes by elected officials of the PDP in Rivers State during the February 25, 2023 elections and at previous polls in 2016 and 2019. INEC in Rivers State has allowed Governor Nyesom Wike free concourse and interferences with elections in the State, particularly with his unfettered access to his home Obio/Akpor Local Government Area Collation Centre. Council Chairmen, particularly Samuel Nwanosike of Ikwerre Local Government Council, Senators, members of the House of Representatives and State House of Assembly, serving Commissioners and other appointees of the Governor enjoy uninhibited access and exit from Wards, LGA to State Collation centres even though the Electoral Act is succinct enough on only Agents of the respective political parties are allowed access to such highly sensitive venues.
Read Full Letter Below:
Independent National Electoral Commission
GRAND PLOT BY TOP INEC OFFICIALS TO MANIPULATE ELECTORAL PROCESS, ALTER AND RIG ELECTION RESULTS IN FAVOUR OF THE PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC PARTY
A CALL FOR STRICT COMPLIANCE WITH ELECTORAL ACT 2022 PROVISIONS AND INEC REGULATIONS IN THE CONDUCT OF THE 2023 GOVERNORSHIP ELECTIONS IN RIVERS STATE
We write to draw your esteemed attention to the apprehension and erosion of public confidence in the commitment and ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (hereinafter “INEC” or “the Commission”) in Rivers State to deliver a credible, free and fair gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections on Saturday, March 18, 2023 in the State.
2. As stakeholders in the rescheduled elections, we note that the concerns of the electorate in Rivers State stem from their unsavoury experiences at the presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25, 2023. The widely reported malfeasance and cases of unlawful returns made by INEC have cast serious doubt on the ability of the Commission to deliver on the governorship and State House of Assembly elections rescheduled for March 18, 2023 in accordance with the Act and her 2023 Guidelines.
3. Unfortunately, while INEC has done nothing to douse the agitation, Staff of the Commission are colluding with leaders of the People’s Democratic Party in Rivers State to compromise the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines. INEC has reinforced public perception that the elections on March 18, 2023 are already compromised by the Commission with the smuggling of original result sheets (Form EC8A) to the PDP stalwarts.
GROUNDS OF OUR PETITION
1. While we have followed the developments with studied silence, we are in receipt of credible intelligence on the subtle moves by some top officials of the INEC to manipulate the results of the governorship and State House of Assembly to subvert the will of the electorate in Rivers State.
2. We are shocked to note that the Director of Operations, Dr. Michael Ode (Telephone No.: 08063606460); Director ICT, Engr. Victor Igboh (Telephone No.: 08037263193); and Electoral Officer in-charge of Omuma Local Government Area, Judith Obianuju Ike (Telephone No.: 08060993730) are in regular contact, consultations and meetings with PDP chieftains perfecting plans to rig the March 18, 2023 elections for their party. These PDP stalwarts include but are not limited to Chief Emeka Woke, Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt; Hon. Dax George-Kelly, Honourable Commissioner for Works; and Hon Kelechi Nworgu (Member, Rivers State House of Assembly representing Omuma Constituency now Member-elect, Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency of the House of Representatives).
4. We have it on good authority that in the meetings between the aforementioned INEC senior officials and their Rivers PDP collaborators which hold in a particular location in Amadi Flats, Old GRA in Port Harcourt, they are perfecting plans to thwart the elections through release of sensitive materials like the original Results Sheet (Form EC8A) to the PDP; alteration of BVAS configurations to render uploading of Polling Unit results and data realtime impossible through wrong passwords and claims of network glitches in strategic Local Government Areas.
5. Pursuant to the immediate above, we are not surprised of the sudden disappearance of significant numbers of INEC Form EC8A from the sensitive materials already distributed by the Commission before the governorship and State House of Assembly elections originally scheduled for March 11, 2023 were postponed. We have information also of the mysterious disappearance of 400 BVAS machines that were deployed to Obio/Akpor Local Government Area by the Commission. However, we are surprised that INEC has maintained deafening silence in the face of these criminal disappearances that are already of public knowledge. Even more shocking is the preference of INEC to secretly collude with PDP leaders loyal to Governor Nyesom Wike by releasing the serial numbers of Form EC8A to reprint the missing result sheets.
6. We note that this action of tampering with sensitive materials by INEC in Rivers State is capable of igniting violent political conflict in the State in the sense that the entire credibility of the electoral process has been put in jeopardy.
7. The training of AdHoc Staff in Rivers State by the Commission for the conduct of the March 18, 2023 governorship and State House of Assembly elections in Rivers State did not only fall extremely short of the minimum standards of neutrality allowed by law. It is a recipe for crisis having escalated tension in the already overheated polity. From the recruitment of known card-carrying members of the PDP, the Commission willy nilly destroyed public confidence in her capacity to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the decision to host AdHoc personnel trainings at buildings and facilities owned by or under the direct control of leaders of the ruling party in the State in the various Local Government Areas of the State. In Emohua Local Government Area, for instance, INEC was insensitive enough to train her AdHoc Staff at Visa Karena Hotels, off Olu Obasanjo Road in Port Harcourt even though without conducting due diligence the Commission could still have ascertained that it is owned by a visible ally of Governor Nyesom Wike, leader of the PDP and Nyeweli Emohua, His Majesty Ohna Sergeant Chidi Awuse. From Eleme to Ikwerre Local Government Areas, the same scenario is what obtains across the State. This is unacceptable by any standards from a Commission that is bound by the Constitution, law and ethics to maintain absolute neutrality in the conduct of the elections and the processes that lead thereto.
8. The Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC Rivers State is respectfully requested to also note that the general public is aware that Council Chairmen in the State who are members of the PDP took full advantage of the Commission’s indiscretions to threaten, coerce and induced AdHoc Staff undergoing these trainings to sabotage clear provisions of the law in the voter accreditation and results uploading processes with a view to hijacking the final collation thereby undermining the will of the electorate as witnessed on February 25, 2023.
9. INEC should note further that where it fails to take urgent steps towards addressing the grounds for loss of public confidence in the Commission’s neutrality and fairness ahead of the elections on Saturday, March 18, 2023, the Commission will be culpable for any conflicts, violent attacks and security breaches that may arise in the State at, before and after the March 18, 2023 governorship and State Assembly polls.
10. INEC is again invited to note that the general public, and the electorate in particular, are disturbed with the recruitment and deployment of card-carrying members of the PDP to manage the RACTECH centres in the various LGAs. Suffice to state that the episodes of sabotage of the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines which sparked public outrage at the February 25, 2023 leg of this general election was largely orchestrated by the these RACTECH centre Officials at the polling units.
11. We have observed that the INEC Ward Collation Officers do not accompany other AdHoc personnel of the Commission to the respective Wards for the collation of results. INEC should note that it is within the general knowledge of the voting public that the Electoral Act and her Guidelines for the conduct of the 2023 general elections provide no grounds for withholding Ward Collation Officers by the Commission at the time of deployment of election materials and AdHoc Staff to the various Registration Areas (Wards) for the purpose of conducting the elections.
12. Furthermore, INEC should note that the general public is agitated by the obtrusive behaviour and unmitigated unlawful interference with the elections and electoral processes by elected officials of the PDP in Rivers State during the February 25, 2023 elections and at previous polls in 2016 and 2019. INEC in Rivers State has allowed Governor Nyesom Wike free concourse and interferences with elections in the State, particularly with his unfettered access to his home Obio/Akpor Local Government Area Collation Centre. Council Chairmen, particularly Samuel Nwanosike of Ikwerre Local Government Council, Senators, members of the House of Representatives and State House of Assembly, serving Commissioners and other appointees of the Governor enjoy uninhibited access and exit from Wards, LGA to State Collation centres even though the Electoral Act is succinct enough on only Agents of the respective political parties are allowed access to such highly sensitive venues.
In view of the foregoing, we pray the Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC Rivers State as follows:
1. INEC must resist the manipulation of the BVAS Machine by Polling Unit AdHoc Staff at the March 18, 2023 governorship and State House of Assembly elections. This prayer is anchored on the information at our disposal from the training conducted by INEC at the various centres controlled by the PDP where the Commission’s AdHoc Staff were tutored to deliberately sabotage the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) at the polling units to render the very critical voters accreditation process of no consequence to the final determination of the results as provided by law. This plot is a grave violation of Section 47(1)(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act 2022 and must be jettisoned.
2. Sabotage of uploading Polling Unit results realtime by INEC officials must not be witnessed at the polling units to avoid a backlash and unpleasant consequences. We are informed from field reports at the Commission’s training sessions that proceeding from the manipulation of the BVAS during the process of voter’s accreditation, some extremely desperate politicians are determined to present the electorate with a fait accompli from allegedly malfunctioning machines. Aided and abetted by unscrupulous and compromised Staff of the Commission, Wike and members of his faction of the PDP are determined to sabotage the outcome of the elections by repeating the same strategy of INEC inability or failure to upload the unit results at the Units as provided for in Clause 38 of the 2023 Elections Guidelines issued by the Commission pursuant to the clear provisions of the Electoral Act 2022. This is clearly unacceptable to us and must also be jettisoned to avoid confrontation and possible resort to violence.
3. The role of INEC and some law enforcement agencies in sabotaging the elections is another critical issue that requires the urgent intervention of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC Rivers State. The necessary inference to draw from your Commission’s deployment of officials and security agencies who cannot be neutral and fair to all political parties and candidates at the elections is to cause chaos, have citizens of the Republic disenfranchised from exercising their constitutional rights to vote and thereby undermine the election of the candidates of the people’s choice. Consequently, we pray that AdHoc Staff whose allegiance is to the PDP and who are commissioned to ensure that there is no strict compliance with the Act and the Guidelines for the conduct of the elections should be subjected to immediate debriefing by the Commission as the deployment of such characters is a clear recipe for crisis.
4. INEC Rivers State must commit her officials deployed to the 6866 Polling Units in the 319 Registration Areas (Wards) crisscrossing the 23 Local Government Areas of Rivers State to work strictly within the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and its own 2023 Elections Guidelines.
5. INEC must de-emphasize the tendency to abort the application of technology in the elections by officials who have been tutored to rely on provisions such as Section 135(1) of the 2022 Electoral Act and the 2023 Guidelines. We make this submission in the full knowledge that compromised INEC AdHoc Staff have been indoctrinated to rely on judicial precedents where non-compliance with some provisions of the Act or Guidelines by the Commission did not invalidate elections. INEC should note that reliance on judicial discretion exercised to dismiss election petitions on grounds of same not being substantial enough to affect the outcome of the results declared by the Commission would naturally be viewed with consternation by a voting public that is infuriated by judicial interventions that have dispossessed them of their mandates on mere technicalities.
6. We pray the Resident Electoral Commissioner to act henceforth in a manner that shall disabuse the minds of the general public that the Commission through her field officials is not in collusion with criminal political elements and security agencies to subvert the electoral processes and rig the March 11, 2023 elections or on any other date same may hold. It is incumbent on you to assure stakeholders of the fairness and neutrality of the Commission by directing Local Government Area Electoral Officers and AdHoc personnel to guard against undermining the credibility of the process. This is feasible where they work to change public perception that they are not bound in any shape, form or manner to those whose best elections strategy is winning elections at all costs and ask that their victims proceed to Court to seek redress.
7. The Resident Electoral Commissioner is further requested to note that we are aware of electoral officials deployed to manage the polls armed with a Template of the combined effects of Section 134(2), Section 135(1) and Section 64(6)(a-d) of the Electoral Act 2022. We counsel that AdHoc Staff of the Commission who approach the management of their assignments with negligence, connivance with mandate thieves, etc with the orientation that the Courts can uphold an election without an uploaded result citing Section 60(4) or Section 47(2) of the Act run the high risk of incurring the wrath of the people. For the avoidance of doubt, uploading of polling unit result was provided for in Clause 38 of INEC Guidelines for Conduct of 2023 elections. Therefore, those working to rely on judicial decisions in the past which held that non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act or INEC Guidelines is insufficient grounds for the nullification of an election, as was the case in the Rivers State Governorship election of 2015, run a grave risk of infuriating a people too incensed to accept further glitches on their rights to freely elect their leaders. We make this solemn prayer since the principal beneficiary of the Supreme Court decision that disregard for INEC Guidelines on the use of card reader for accreditation of voters was not sufficient irregularity to nullify that election, same not being a provision of the Electoral Act 2010, is bent on rigging the 2023 governorship poll via perpetuating similar irregularities by himself and through proxies. Our prayer is not unfounded noting that even though the uploading of results to the electronic register of results is now a provision of Section 62(2) of the Electoral Act 2022, we caution INEC to quickly check the desperation to doctor polling unit results not uploaded realtime to align with manipulated returns made by INEC returning officers.
8. We pray that pursuant to the provisions of Section 43(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, the Resident Electoral Commissioner issue a directive in writing to the Electoral Officers in the 23 Local Government Areas to disallow the Governor, Deputy Governor, Senator and Senators-elect, members and members-elect of the House of Representatives, Local Government Council Chairmen and Vice Chairmen, Commissioners, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants and Special Assistants access to the Ward, LGA and State Collation Centres. We note, very specially, that the non-existence of this written directive or Circular has made the enforcement of this provision of the law against these categories of government officials impossible or very difficult by compromised security agencies following objections from party Agents.
9. We pray that the indifference, silence or inactivity of the Commission in the face of the grave violations of the Electoral Act 2022 by the People’s Democratic Party and its Government in Rivers State be discontinued. Recalling how the ruling party was emboldened by Executive Orders 21 and 22 issued by Governor Nyesom Wike to infringe on the rights of other parties and candidates to campaign freely in Rivers State with the grave silence of INEC on same even though the Orders ran counter to the clear provisions of Section 91(4) of the Electoral Act 2022, we humbly request that the Resident Electoral Commissioner break the cycle of political violence by the PDP across the State by ordering the arrest of the 200,000 polling unit special assistants appointed by Wike to induce and wield undue influence on voters in contravention of Section 127 of the Electoral Act. Evidence abound from the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections of undue influence by these illegal presence at polling units who also threaten voters who do not succumb to their corruption in grave violation of Section 128 of the Act.
10. The Resident Electoral Commissioner is put on notice, in particular, by this prayer that our party shall not accept further violation of Section 25(1)(b) and Section 62(1) of the 2022 Electoral Act by INEC officials in collating polling unit results at LGA Collation Centre or INEC LGA office instead of Ward Collation Centres. We urge the Commission to ensure strict compliance with the law and its own Guidelines to avert avoidable crisis at the very crucial elections.
11. We pray INEC to make sufficient logistics available at all Ward Collation Centres for result collation at that level.
12. We pray the Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC Rivers State direct full compliance with the mandatory provisions of Section 60(4) of the Electoral Act 2022 by presiding officers. For the avoidance of doubt, the Section states, “The presiding officer shall count and announce the result at the polling unit.”
13. Pursuant to the mandatory provisions of Section 47(2) of the Electoral Act 2022 which states “To vote, the presiding officer shall use a smart card reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the Commission, for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate the particulars of the intending voter in the manner prescribed by the Commission”, it is unambiguous that the principal law guiding the conduct of elections in Nigeria makes no exception to the use of technology for the accreditation of voters and voting as can be gleaned from the provisions of Section 47(3): “Where a smart card reader or any other technological device deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function in any unit and a fresh card reader or technological device is not deployed, the election in that unit shall be cancelled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours if the Commission is satisfied that the result of the election in that polling unit will substantially affect the final result of the whole election and declaration of a winner in the constituency concerned”. We therefore pray that the Resident Electoral Commissioner direct officials within his jurisdiction to adhere to this strict provision of the Act to deliver elections that Rivers people and the watching public would accept as credible enough. We must emphasize that no part of the INEC Guidelines for the conduct of the 2023 general elections can vary, alter or otherwise replace these provision of the law on accreditation of voters and transmission of results from polling units.
14. We pray the Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC Rivers State to fully activate Clause 38 of INEC Guidelines for Conduct of 2023 elections in the conduct of the governorship and State House of Assembly by AdHoc Staff of the Commission to exterminate any plot, design or scheme to rig the elections by those who profit from irregularities at elections. The said Guideline provides thus: “On completion of all the Polling Unit voting and results procedures, the Presiding Officer shall: (i) Electronically transmit or transfer, the result of the Polling Unit, direct to the collation system.”
15. We finally pray the Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC Rivers State to keep the promise of the INEC National Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, to remain an unbiased umpire in the interest of the peace of the State. On no account must INEC sacrifice democracy in Rivers State on the altar of inefficiency and collusion with unscrupulous politicians who are bent on hijacking the people’s will en route colonizing the commonwealth of the State as the people are resolved to vehemently resist and insist on offering stiff resistance to the machinations of those who have set their rigging machinery in motion to either steal votes or suppress the freedom of the people to elect their Governor and representatives and the State House of Assembly.
We believe, hold and canvas the view that credible elections are possible in Rivers State when the Resident Electoral Commissioner takes full charge of the process in accordance with the law. We have no doubt that we have provided sufficient grounds in this petition for you to act in a manner that delivers on your constitutional mandate.
We therefore call on the President and Commander-in-Chief, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR to direct security agencies to intensify surveillance on INEC and the Central Bank of Nigeria to safeguard the electoral process and forthcoming elections in Rivers State. Foreign missions and International Elections Observers must take deep interest in the elections in Rivers State to avert any danger and subversion of the will of majority of Rivers people and the electorate here.
Yours very sincerely,
1. Resident Electoral Commission,
Independent National Electoral Commission,
2. The Inspector-General of Police,
Police Force Headquarters,
3. The Director-General,
Department of State Security Service,
4. Commissioner of Police,
Rivers State Command Headquarters,
Department of State Security Service,
State Command Headquarters,
6. The Ambassador of the United States in Nigeria
7. The High Commissioner of the UK to Nigeria
8. The Ambassadors of the European Union Commission in Nigeria
9. All EU and other Foreign Elections Observer Missions to Nigeria
10. The Nigeria Peace Committee,
C/o General Abdusalami Abubakar,
Minna, Niger State.