Ben Aroh investigates how electoral violence and the subsequent refusal by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a runoff election under the Elections Act 2022 deprived more than 10,000 Voters’ right to vote.
In Udenu LGA, the number of registered voters holding Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) in some of the affected areas are: Umugwu Village Square, Orba Ward I (001), 1, 152; Amaukwu 1 polling station, Orba Ward 1 (007) , 1, 069; Okpu Village Square, Orba Ward 2 (001), 1, 676; Nshama Village Hall, Obollo-Etiti Ward (007), 294; Uzoagu Village Hall (011), Obollo-Etiti District, 288, and Obollo – Agudele Village Hall (020), 385, Etiti District.
The same experience was also recorded in Nkanu West LGA, Primary School Ogbeke, Agbani Ward (003), with 492 voters holding PVCs; and Amakpu Village Hall, Agbani Ward (007), with 903 registered voters and their PVCs.
In Nsukka LGA, the same disenfranchisement took place at Amadim Village Square polling station, Ogbozalla/Idi Ward (017) with 522 registered voters holding PVCs; Idi polling station at Obuiyi 2 Ogbozalla Ward (021) with 377 PVCs There were 245 registered voters with PVC at Itako Idi polling station in Ogbozalla/Idi Ward (020).
In Igboeze South LGA, CPS Iheaka 1 (003) reported similar incidents with 1,491 registered voters holding PVC; CPS Ovoko (Ajuona Ward 001) with 2,378 PVC registered 004) with 1,457 PVC registered voters.
INEC Official Notice
Some election officials at the affected polling stations claimed that they had reported the incidents to the relevant authorities accordingly.
Wilfred Abigail Ifeyinwa is Assistant Presiding Officer attached to Obollo-Etiti 05, pu-004.
She wrote a report, “Report on the Attack and Hijacking of Our Materials During the Governor’s and House Elections,” addressed to election officials at the INEC Office of the Udenu LGA.
She wrote, “I, Wilfred Abigail Ifeyinwa, Assistant Presiding Officer attached to Obollo-Eke 05, pu-004 and my PO, at approximately 2:45pm on March 18, 2023, while sorting ballots and After the inventory, unknown gunmen attacked us and took our election materials, and housed us in an unknown location until about 1:34 am today, before we were released and started returning.”
A similar report was submitted by Daniel Onyebuchi of Ugwu, head of Obollo-Etiti Ward 05, pu-020.
He wrote, “I, Ugwu, Daniel Onyebuchi, Presiding Officer attached to Obollo-Etiti Ward 05, pu-020, and Ogbu, Patience Chinyere as my APO I, at approximately 02:45 PM on 18-03-2023, After sorting and counting, unidentified gunmen attacked us, took our election materials, and housed us in an unidentified location until we were released around 1:34 a.m.
lament for voters
whistling Interacted with some voters during voting. Uchechukwu Eze said he was registered with CPS Ovoko (Ajuona Ward 004).
According to him, “The vote was conducted peacefully. We were all satisfied because for the first time in our history, our votes would be counted. What a pity! When the counting started, LP had the advantage. Suddenly, some The thugs came and carried the ballot box after scaring us with gunshots. I don’t want to mention names but I heard it was planned by a senior public official in this community just to give his ward to his party. Makes me angry Unfortunately, the police were alerted in time, but they refused to take the initiative. So, I am not happy that this happened. After I worked hard to get my permanent voter card, I ended up not voting.”
In Lejja, Nsukka LGA, the same thing allegedly happened. Osita Odo said, “Where I was voting was polling unit 001. We had finished voting and were sorting when a thug we all knew came down with his hands.” We had about 600 people voting. That’s it. The mob burned all the materials and left. So far, the culprit is moving freely. I doubt if I will ever vote again in this country given how much INEC has lied to us about transparency.
“My take is that the attackers already knew which side our unit was winning. Since their party lost, the best they could do was truncate the entire exercise. We are in danger. Only the military saved the election that day. But because they were few in number, they would bring the crisis area back to normal and ask the police to keep the peace. Once they leave, the police will further assist the rigging.”
How INEC breached its own rules
Our facts show that INEC officials canceled elections at affected polling stations, but never fulfilled their runoff obligations.
Some of the canceled units seen by reporters included Obollo-Etiti pu 011, which read “Cancelled, Violent”.
It was discovered that the state Labor Party had written to INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu in a letter dated 24 March 2023 requesting a run-off for the affected polling stations.
The letter was signed by its state chairman, Barr Cosmas Agbo, and its gubernatorial candidate, Barr Chijioke Edeoga, and INEC’s national headquarters in Abuja confirmed receipt.
In the letter, the LP requested a review and conduct of the runoff elections for the six LGAs, of which more than 21, 156 PVC registered voters were allegedly refused to vote due to electoral violence.
LP contended that “several polling places across the state did not hold elections for various reasons, including the destruction of voting materials due to mischief and inoperability of the BIVAS machines. These incidents were recorded by the Commission’s responsible officers in their incident books These incident books/records are provided to return officers by the local government collation staff at the state collation center.
“The Electoral Act 2022 and the guidelines established under it provide that in such circumstances the election shall be declared inconclusive and that no return shall be made until a run-off election is held to determine the true winner of the contest. We are humbled We earnestly request the Commission to abide by the provisions of the Elections Act 2022 and the guidelines set by the Commission by declaring the Enugu State Governor’s Election inconclusive and conduct a run-off election to determine the winner.”
Mr. Victor Okafor, public relations officer of the state’s INEC, told our reporter, “The guber election is a matter before the courts, so I cannot comment on it. Awaiting the court’s decision.”
Another source on the committee, who claimed he was not authorized to comment, told our reporter, “As you can see, the matter moved to Abuja after observing excessive voting by LP proxies. So our Abuja office The division will be able to better determine how the score was arrived at. You know this is already in court. So, let’s not preemptively strike.”
Lawyer’s point of view
Constitutional lawyer Hyginus Ugwu said the 2022 election law and guidelines were clear: “When this happens there should be a run-off election. The point of the law is that the opposition can take votes that destroy opponents’ strongholds on Election Day to give their party Brings advantage. Therefore, it will be assumed that adequate security will be provided during the run-off period.
“The case of cancellation applies only to cases of over-voting, in which case you do not seek a response from me. It was INEC’s mistake not to re-poll in the affected areas. This is also one of the prayers Labor is seeking in the petition 1. The committee took this position in the guber race in Kebi state which was declared indeterminate for similar reasons as in Enugu state.”
The effect of negligence
There are many political parties involved in the election of Enugu Government House.
But the most important of these are the Labor Party gubernatorial candidate Bar Chichok Edeoga and the People’s Democratic Party candidate Bar Peter Mba.
Mbah was elected with a total of 160,895 votes to Edeoga’s 157,552.
Mathematically, Mbah’s advantage over Edeoga in the past was 3,345 votes.
The number of voters disenfranchised due to electoral violence in the selected ballots for the four LGAs reviewed was 12,729, which would change the result for or against the declared winner, Peter Mbah.
This report was published with support from Civic Media Lab.