Nigeria News

Fire Guts INEC Again, Alternative Dispute Office Affected

 Attahiru JegaAPGA: Umeh petitions Jega over faction’s national convention

For the fifth time since Prof. Attahiru Jega’s assumed office as the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a fire has again gutted some offices of the commission.

The last fire incident that engulfed the Voters Registration Office was on January 7 this year. In the fire incident at the commission Monday, the former Department of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) of the commission was also burnt.

This came as the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) petitioned Jega, alleging that 21 out of the 29 persons listed as state chairmen of the party were impostors, who were not even members of the party.
But Jega’s Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr. Kayode Idowu, described the fire incident as a minor one that was quickly put off by the Fire Service attached to the commission.

The fire incident affected the INEC security office at the gate, Jega visitors’ room, Voters’ Registration office, INEC Electoral Institute and the former department of ADR of the commission.

The ADR office is located at the INEC headquarters annex built by the administration of Dr. Abel Guobadia and inaugurated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005.
The building also harbours other departments like Legal, Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison, among others.

At the INEC headquarters, some journalists were prevented from entering the building to assess the extent of the damage caused by the fire incident, while some photojournalists were prevented by security men from taking photographs of the building.

When asked why journalists were prevented from accessing the building, Idowu, explained that the commission had decided to lock up the office.

Idowu, in a statement tagged: 'Minor Fire Incident at INEC Headquarters', said: “There was a minor fire incident at about mid-day on April 22 at the headquarters of the INEC in Abuja.
“The fire occurred in the office of former Director in charge of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), located in the ICT building and was restricted to that office when it was put out.

“Men of the Fire Service attached to the commission swiftly responded to put out the fire. There was no damage whatsoever to any vital facility of the commission. Formal investigation of the cause of the fire has commenced. Initial assessment, however, suggests that it might have resulted from an electrical fault.”

Meanwhile, APGA in a petition dated April 15, addressed to Jega and signed by its National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, and National Secretary, Alhjai Sani Shinkafi, alleged that 21 out of the 29 persons listed as state chairmen of the party were impostors, who were not even members of the party.

The letter read: “With shock, we write you this letter to protest the reported purported national convention of APGA on April 8, at Awka, Anmabra State, held between the unholy hours of 1a.m. and 5 a.m. of the said date with the other associated fraudulent manipulations. More shocking was the reported attendance of officials of INEC at the said event at the odd hours.

“Indications that something sinister was in the offing emerged in the afternoon of April 5, when a news flash was circulated by telephone that INEC has approved that the purported convention will go on. On inquiry, we were told that the commission took the decision on same April 5."

The letter further stated that “firstly we wish to state that we were surprised at the turn of events. You will recall that earlier, Mr. Peter Obi, had written the commission on February 25 giving the commission notice for the congresses and convention of APGA with a schedule of programmes based on the same lame grounds. On March 1, the commission rightly dismissed the request as lacking in credibility.

“The commission wrote that under the constitution of APGA, the power to convene a meeting of any organ of the Party  is vested on the chairman of that organ. The National Chairman is, therefore, the one vested with the power to convene the national convention. In the absence of the national chairman, the National Executive Committee (NEC) in line with Article 22(C) of APGA constitution can summon an emergency meeting.

“The commission’s overruling of Obi led them to attempt to activate the power of Article 22(C) of the APGA constitution. When we read that they purportedly held a meeting on March 9 at Awka where they claimed that 36 states chairmen of APGA were in attendance, we immediately applied for the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the letter they sent to INEC for the congresses and convention as we knew same to be false, on the April 5, we obtained the CTC from the Commission.

“From a perusal of the list, we discovered that 21 names listed out of 29 were not state chairmen of APGA as recorded for their various states. We attach herewith, the CTC from INEC, the attendance list for the APGA NEC meeting held on December 1, 2010, at the NICON Luxury Hotel, Abuja which was monitored by INEC. Going by APGA constitution, even if the 29 names were the authentic state chairman, they had no capacity to convene a NEC of APGA in line with Article 22(C) of the constitution and also the national convention.

“Another point that needed to be made apart from the fraudulent representation made to INEC is the fact there was no real congresses and convention held by the group. They purported to have held congresses on April 4 and 5, local government congresses on April 5, state congresses on April 6 and national convention by 1a.m. on April 8.

“Since the commission took the decision to monitor the exercise on April 5, 2013 it is obvious that at least the commission did not monitor the ward and local government congresses. This makes the exercise a charade. From the published outcome of the convention, 18 out of the 29 NWC members sacked by the judgment of the Enugu State High Court were returned at the convention. These were people who said they accepted the judgment, excluding Alhaji Habib Gajo, who was said to have been elected National Financial Secretary. He neither accepted the judgment nor attended the convention. How then did he win?”

Umeh, however, asked the commission to overrule the convention as according to them it was fraudulently convened and without capacity as enshrined in the party’s constitution, urging the commission to exercise its powers of monitoring as provided in the Electoral Act to overrule the illegality.

“The essence of monitoring is to ensure that the political party complies with its constitution in the conduct of its convention and all processes leading to it. In this case, the APGA Constitution was blatantly breached,” Umeh stated.

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