The Returning Officer for the Adamawa State governorship election, Prof Mohammed Mele, on Tuesday declared Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, the winner of the state governorship poll.
Fintiri secured a second term in office having scored 430,861 votes to beat the rival All Progressives Congress candidate, Aisha Dahiru, popularly known as Binani, who amassed 398,788 votes.
Also on Tuesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission said it had asked the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, to draw the attention of “the appointing authority’’ to the behaviour of the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Hudu Yunusa-Ari.
Fintiri’s victory took place 48 hours after Binani was controversially declared the governor-elect by Yunusa-Ari.
Binani was trailing Fintiri by over 31, 000 votes in the first round of the election held on March 18.
The electoral agency had declared the exercise inconclusive because the margin of lead did not exceed the number of cancelled votes in 69 polling units with 37, 016 voters.
The collation of results of the April 15 supplementary election was going on when the REC took over the duty of the returning officer and announced the APC candidate as the winner sparking an uproar.
In response, INEC promptly declared his action null and void and also summoned the REC and his colleagues in the Adamawa State office to Abuja.
The commission in a letter by the Secretary to the Commission, Rose Oriaran-Anthony further barred Yunusa-Ari from coming to the office and directed the Administrative Secretary to take charge of the INEC office in the state.
Mele at the resumed collation of the results on Tuesday pronounced Fintiri as the election winner to a wild jubilation by the anxious residents of the state.
The event was witnessed by the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye.
Announcing the winner, the returning officer said, “Ahmadu Fintiri, having satisfied the requirement of the law, is hereby returned duly re-elected.”
The total number of registered voters was 2,196, 566 while the accredited voters were put at 876,387.
The returning officer said the valid votes were 853,819, rejected votes, were 15,287 and the total votes cast were 869,106.
Giving an update on Yunusa-Ari’s unethical conduct after a meeting of its management comprising national commissioners and the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, in Abuja on Tuesday, the electoral umpire requested the SGF to call the attention of “the appointing authority’’ to the unwholesome behaviour of the REC for further action.
Under the constitution, the appointing authority refers to the President who is empowered to appoint INEC commissioners as provided by section 154 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The section provides that: “Except in the case of ex officio members or where other provisions are made in this Constitution, the chairman and members of any of the bodies so established shall, subject to the provisions of this Constitution, be appointed by the President and the appointment shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.’’
To remove a REC, the President can only act on an address by a two-thirds majority of the Senate in accordance with section 6(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Disclosing the decisions reached the meeting on its official Twitter handle, the INEC said, “At its meeting today, April 18, 2023, the commission discussed matters arising from the Adamawa governorship election and decided to:
“Write to the Inspector-General of Police for the immediate investigation and possible prosecution of the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Adamawa State, Barrister Hudu Yunusa-Ari.
“Request the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to draw the attention of the appointing authority to the unwholesome behaviour of the REC for further action.
“The collation process shall resume at a time to be determined by the returning officer.’’
In line with the INEC resolution, the Nigeria Police Force has promised to probe the incident at the Adamawa collation centre in collaboration with the electoral electoral commission.
Responding to an inquiry by our correspondent on Tuesday, the Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, noted that the police had yet to receive the letter from INEC, adding that the police will, however, collaborate with the electoral umpire to investigate the matter.
He further noted that the IGP had ordered the immediate redeployment of the Commissioner of Police on election duty in Adamawa State, Mohammed Barde from the state, and ordered that the CP in charge of Gombe State, Etim Equa, immediately proceed to Adamawa.
Adejobi said, “We have not received any letter (from INEC), but we will carry out a thorough investigation on the Adamawa incident in collaboration with the INEC. So, if INEC sends in any letter, we will treat it as recommended as well.
“Also, the IGP has ordered the redeployment of the CP-election, Adamawa, and replaced him with CP Gombe, Etim Oqua, who has been directed to proceed to Yola immediately for the conclusion of the guber election process in Adamawa. We are committed to having a more secure and successful process in Adamawa.”
In a new development, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday refused to entertain an ex-parte application brought before it by Binani.
The defendants in the suit are the INEC, PDP and Fintiri.
In the ex-parte application filed by her lawyer, Mohammed Sheriff, the APC candidate was asking the court to determine whether the INEC can take any further steps on the declared governorship election results made by the Adamawa REC.
However, when the ex parte motion was about to be moved, Justice Inyang Ekwo cut in and asked Binani’s lawyer first to address him if his court had jurisdiction to entertain such a matter.
He subsequently asked the lawyer to file his address on the issue and fixed April 26 for a hearing of the ex parte application and the motion on the jurisdiction of the court.
Earlier, another lawyer, Afeez Matanmi, who claimed to be the counsel to Governor Fintiri had sought to address the court but was shut out on the ground that the issue before the court was an ex parte application.
Shortly after Fintiri was announced as the winner, Yola the Adamawa State capital broke into wild jubilation as residents hit the streets in celebration.
Motorists and motorcyclists swarmed the major roads and streets honking and doing various stunts.
At the popular Bekaji junction, a major intersection, leading to Galadima Aminu Way, where the state headquarters of the INEC was located, many residents braved stern-looking security personnel to set up bonfires in celebration of Fintiri’s win.
Security checks at the government house were relaxed as many thronged there to rejoice with the governor.
The uncontrollable crowds who gathered at the governor’s official residence interrupted him while he gave his acceptance speech.
Fintiri lauded the citizens over their conduct when the first round of elections was declared inconclusive.
He said he remained indebted to the citizens for deciding their future and that of the state wisely by re-electing him.
While savouring its victory in Adamawa, the PDP has asked the IG to prosecute the Adamawa State Commissioner of Police, Afolabi Adeniyi for allegedly providing the enabling environment for the illegal declaration of Binani as the election winner in the state.
Addressing a news conference at the party’s national secretariat, Abuja, the PDP acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum, equally demanded the trial of the Adamawa REC.
“The Inspector-General of Police should, as a matter of urgency, remove, investigate and sanction the Adamawa State Commissioner of Police for providing cover and enabling the perpetration of this grievous criminal act against our democracy,” Damagum said.
He described Yunusa-Ari’s conduct as “a reckless, inexcusable and unpardonable assault on our democracy, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act, 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission’s guidelines and the manifest will of the people of Adamawa State, which they expressed in voting en-masse for the PDP.”
According to him, Yunusa-Ari’s action was a “civilian coup with the sole intent to take control and install an illegal government in Adamawa State contrary to the provision of Section 1 Sub-section 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria 1999 (as amended).’’
Responding to a question on the sideline of the press conference, the PDP National Legal Adviser, Kamaldeen Ajibade, SAN, said the quest for an exparte order by Binani and her counsels is known to the party, noting however, that the PDP had not been served any notice.
“We are aware they are in court. We have not been served but when we are contacted, we will respond appropriately,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Democracy and Development has warned the judiciary not to be cajoled into interfering with the electoral processes in Adamawa state, following the false declaration of a winner of the supplementary election.
The CDD had earlier rejected the result in a statement on Sunday, noting that the announcement was in violation of section 25 (2f) of the Electoral Act, 2022, as well as sections 65 and 66, which empowered only the returning officer to make such a declaration.
However, in another statement, signed by the CDD Executive Director, Idayat Hassan, on Tuesday, the group warned against attempts by political actors to derail the process through the intervention of the judiciary before the election was concluded.
The statement read in part, “CDD has observed that some political actors are now dragging the judiciary into the issue by making demands that run parallel to democratic norms and laid down laws and guidelines for the conduct of elections. It is strange for the judiciary to be called in midway into the electoral process to interpret any action.
‘’Since it is abundantly clear that the now suspended Adamawa REC acted only as an imposter in announcing the so-called winner, no one ought to be told that the action was a nullity. The judiciary should not be dragged into what is clearly an illegal affair ab initio.”
Hassan called on the leadership of the judiciary to avoid any forms of unwholesome interference in the process while admonishing political actors to allow the elections to follow legally laid down processes.
She noted, “We reiterate our stance for all actors to allow the process as spelt out in the law to be followed in promptly declaring the winner of the governorship election. INEC should be allowed to follow its laid down legal means of collation and announcement of result before any aggrieved party approaches the right court for any needed redress.’’
Commenting on the incident in Adamawa, Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke described the development as a serious threat to the country’s nascent democracy.
Adeleke, in a statement by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed expressed solidarity with his Adamawa state counterpart.
The governor, who expressed shock at the drama around the Adamawa governorship election results, described the attempt to truncate the collation of results as a direct assault on electoral democracy.’
The statement further read, “I stand by democracy, rule of law and due process as stipulated by the Constitution and the Electoral Act. We oppose any shenanigans to tamper with the will of the Adamawa people who have the inalienable right to choose their leader.
“Democracy is premised on people’s choice freely expressed through the ballot. That process has now been standardized and rig-proofed with BVAS machines which further strengthened the safety of voters’ choices. We stand by the Constitution and the Electoral Act.”
In a statement signed by IPAC National Chairman, Yabagi Sani, the body described Sunday’s declaration by Yunusa-Ari as “outrageous and a mockery of the nation’s emerging democracy which has caused undue tension in the polity.”
The statement read, “IPAC demands the immediate sacking and prosecution of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Ari and his accomplices in this deliberate assault on our hard-earned democracy to serve as a deterrent to others who would contemplate such heinous crime against the fatherland.
“The need for Electoral Offences Commission to try electoral offenders cannot be overemphasized.
“It is inconceivable that a Resident Electoral Commissioner would usurp the powers of the returning officer and announce the result of a governorship supplementary election, more so, when the collation of results was ongoing.
‘’It is a sad commentary on the nation’s electoral process and a dent on the Independent National Electoral Commission, as an umpire.’’
IPAC reiterated its call for a review of the process of appointing resident electoral commissioners ‘’as some of them are partisan and ignorant of their statutory duties and will go out of their way to foist their preferred candidates, thus subverting the will and mandate of the people which could lead to political upheavals.’’
The group vowed to strongly resist any attempt to impose an unpopular leader on Nigerians, noting that the ballot is sacrosanct and must be respected as power belongs to the people.
‘’Anything short of this is unacceptable. Together, we will build a strong, progressive, prosperous, and equitable nation,’’ IPAC stated.
Against the backdrop of reports that she doled out N2bn to procure her declaration as the election winner, Binani has described the allegation as unfounded.
In a statement on Tuesday, the senator denied giving an unnamed Department of State Service operative the huge amount to induce electoral officials during the election.
She stated, ‘‘My attention has been drawn to a very bizarre, unfounded wild allegations purportedly made by an officer of the Department of State Services to the effect that, I Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed ( Binani) gave out the sum of N2b to procure a favourable declaration as governor-elect to some unnamed INEC staff. I never did; I would never do such.
‘’This said the statement was allegedly made when the officer was being tortured at gunpoint by the agents of the Adamawa State governor and the Government House police team alongside their political thugs.
‘’I wish to reiterate that I am a democrat, I have always been a committed democrat and will never do anything to subvert the democratic process. I am not a do-or-die politician. In the past, I have won elections into the House of Representatives and the Senate in a free and fair manner.’’
The lawmaker hinted that the incident at the Adamawa collation centre was masterminded by the governor who she alleged connived with some senior INEC officials
She stated, ‘’What happened in Adamawa was an unsuccessful attempt to subvert the will of the people. The REC was illegally told to stand down by two INEC national commissioners from Abuja who were supposed to be in Adamawa in a supervisory capacity.
‘’Even more curious is the nocturnal visit of some INEC national officers to Adamawa State Government House and bizarre
declaration the same day after the visit that they have taken over the collation through the backdoor, with the collation and returning officers selected by the governor of Adamawa.
‘’The roles of these INEC officers from Abuja and the real mission of the two to the Government House should be of interest to all democrats.’’
Responding to Binani’s allegations, the governor described as preposterous the accusation that he influenced the postings of the returning officer and two other INEC commissioners to the state.
Fintiri, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, said the circumstances surrounding the draft of the two national commissioners who were sent into the state to conclude the election process were known to everyone.
He said, “ Senator Aishatu Binani has just suddenly awakened to the realization of her battered public image as a desperate politician bent on grabbing power at all cost, has decided to put out half-truth to redeem herself.
‘’Governor Ahmadu Fintiri has neither a hand nor how those appointed by the electoral empire are done. Perhaps Binani should explain to the world how she came to this discovery because everyone knows how the appointment of the INEC national commissioners was done after the meeting of the board of INEC national commissioners in Abuja. They were sent from INEC headquarters so why would you accuse Fintiri, excerpt that she needs to repair her already battered image by churning out such falsehood.”
He commended the intervention of the INEC leadership, which nullified the declaration of the election results by the REC.
On its own part, the Inter-Party Advisory Council called for the immediate dismissal of the Adamawa REC.
The umbrella body of registered political parties also mooted sanctions for all the officials who played a role in the debacle in Adamawa.
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