The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, Friday said though the commission had received petition from the All Progressive Congress (APC) seeking the cancellation of the November 16 governorship election in Anambra State, there was no enough evidence to warrant the cancellation of the controversial election.
It has therefore fixed a supplementary election for November 30, 2013.
But three aggrieved gove-rnorship candidates, Senator Chris Ngige, All Progressives Congress; Mr. Tony Nwoye, Peoples Democratic Party; and Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, Labour Party, have rejected INEC's position and resolved not to participate in the supplementary election.
INEC had earlier declared the governorship election in the state inconclusive because election couldn't hold in 210 polling units across 16 councils.
Speaking after reviewing the operational audit of the Anambra governorship election, the INEC boss said, "We recognize that the election we conducted in Anambra State is not perfect, but we are satisfied that the evidenced that was adduced is not sufficient to warrant a total cancellation of the election. I want to urge all the stakeholders to ensure that the elections are concluded on time and a return is made."
While specifically faulted the petition sent in by APC which demanded for the cancellation of the election, Jega said, "I have looked at it and have asked a team to also look at it. All the allegations contained there were a repetition made by the APC candidate which we have replied, to which as I said earlier, there was no sufficient ground to warrant the cancellation of the election. If the purpose of the petition is to convince us to cancel the election, I am sorry to say that there is no sufficient evidence to warrant the cancellation of the elections.
Jega expressed the commission’s regrets over the logistical challenges that marred the exercise, noting that the delay in the deployment of the electoral officers and materials accounted for the poor conduct of the election.
He said: "INEC prepared for that election more than it had ever prepared for any election, but there is no doubt that INEC's operational capability could not be said to be its best but we did our best under very difficult circumstances.
"Nigerians are aware that the Returning Officer while announcing the results of that election declared it inconclusive and announced that there would be a supplementary election, we have received complaints and petitions, some called for an outright cancellation marshaling out reasons why the election should be cancelled, we had meetings, received briefings, the commission met today and took a decision on the next line of action.
"We regret that inspite of the outcome of the election, the Anambra Election has not been the best of election, we regret that there is no other decision that could be taken by the commission other than to conduct a supplementary election in the areas where elections were cancelled. There is no substantial evidence to support the cancellation of the election as a substantial majority of the allegations that have been made cannot be substantiated."
On the allegation that the registers given to parties was different from the one used in the elections, the INEC Chairman said, "we have reviewed the register and are convinced that the register is the same we gave to parties."
Noting that, "It is very unfair to accuse INEC of giving out a different register. We challenge the parties to come out with evidence that the register that was used was different from the one that was given to parties two weeks before the election", Jega said.
Responding to allegations on the disenfranchisement of some people, the INEC boss said, "this is quite regrettable as we had briefed the parties on how the number of registered voters came down from 1.8million to 1.7million based on our efforts to clean up the voters as we were determined to discard the use of addendum register.
"We did continued voter registration and used it to correct the problem of the addendum register…. A substantial majority of those alleged to have been disenfranchised, if not all of them, must have been people who may have done multiple registrations or those who did not have their names in the electronic register."
On the claim that one of the candidates in the election could not vote because his name was not on the register, he said, the "Electoral Act is very clear and our guidelines are very clear that if on presentation of your voter's card and your name is not on the register, you will not be allowed to vote. Our electoral officers were trained to allow those whose names were on the register to vote. I can speak emphatically that Nwoye who alleged that he was not allowed to vote, that his name was on the manual register and since we were not using the addendum register and the manual register, he did not use the opportunity to get his name on the electronic register.
Assuring Nigerians that the commission was not partisan and had the capacity to ensure that anybody that compromised the election would be made to face the wrath of the law, the INEC boss said, "we have handed over the electoral officer who compromised the election in Idemili North over to the police and he is been investigated and would soon be arraigned.
He also commented on the arrest of some APC members, he said, For the Anambra State election given the complaints we received, we insisted that the would-be monitor must be in Awka to get his accreditation. We even arrested somebody that was trying to impersonate another person, he is with the police and would soon be prosecuted. It was that thorough accreditation that we did that aided the arrest of those of them from Osun State. They forged the documents they had with them, they did not come to Awka to collect their accreditation, rather they camped in Owerri, some of them have been arraigned before a Magistrate Court".
On the use of students from Unizik, he said in all elections, INEC had always ensured that NYSC were presiding officers and where there are insufficient number of corps members, the commission had always complemented them with students from Federal Universities.
We did it in Edo, we did it in Ondo and we also did it in the 2011 elections as they were not enough NYSC members to be presiding officers, even for us to get enough corps members to be presiding officers, we had to bring in some from Enugu and Delta States. We have been using tertiary education students to complement members of the NYSC", he added.
Meanwhile, reacting to the announcement of a date for the supplementary election at a joint press conference held at the residence of Uba in Maitama, Abuja, APC candidate, Ngige, said the three protesting candidates would reject to be used as 'guinea pigs'.
He also insisted that they had incontrovertible evidence that the Anambra election was rigged and marred by electoral irregularites.
Giving reasons why they would not participate in the supplementary election, Ngige said the faulty register was printed in Enugu. He argued that contrary to what the INEC chairman said at an earlier press briefing, the voters register given to them was different from the voters register used for the election.
Ngige also alleged that the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Anambra State, Prof Onukaogu, was the head of a cabal that rigged the election, explaining that the INEC administrative inquiry did not give them a fair-hearing.
He said: "The election has no result sheet. All we are saying is that the Electoral Officer of Idemili North, Chukwujekwu Okeke did not act alone. He is part of a syndicate that rigged the election.
"We will want to reassure Anambra people that we are here to fight for them. What happened in Anambra State was not proper. If those who rigged the election are allowed to escape, then annulment of my election in 2006 was not proper. They said that my election was tainted hence it was annuled."
The PDP candidate, Nwoye, said that he would not be part of the charade called supplementary election slated for November 30.
"My participation is to give credibility to the charade called November 30 supplementary election," said
Uba, on his part said, "I will not be part of the November 30 charade."
Also in a statement issued by its interim publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, APC rejected decision by INEC to hold supplementary election in Anambra, saying the announcement has confirmed its worst fears that INEC was working with the PDP and the Presidency to ensure that no election ever counts in Nigeria.