Festus Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress presidential campaign council, has challenged the credibility of the Rivers State Presidential Election.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday announced Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of Saturday’s presidential election in Rivers.
Keyamo challenged the credibility of the election result following the announcement of the result at the National Collation Centre (ICC) Abuja, by Prof. Udo Essien, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Uyo, who is also the Collation Officer for the election in the state.
Essien announced that Atiku polled 473,971 votes to defeat All Progressives Congress (APC)’s President Muhamadu Buhari, who scored 150,710 votes.
The senior lawyer in his reaction said the report of the State Collation Officer for the Presidential Election (SCOPE) in Rivers state was a source of concern to his party as the decision taken by the SCOPE had adversely affected the votes of his candidate in the state.
“We polled the highest votes in Emohua LGA (about 72,000 votes) as against 2,000 votes by our nearest political party rivals.
“The SCOPE in his report alluded to the fact that the LGA Collation officer made returns and so our source of concern is the legal implication of his account and that of our own collation officer.
“Now by a combined reading of Sections 27 and 68 of the Electoral Act and Clause 30 of the INEC guidelines issued on the Dec. 21, 2018, it thus confirms that what the SCOPE has done is to constitute himself into an electoral tribunal to cancel the votes of Emohua which was attributed to us.
“Because section 27 gives the power to make returns and to declare results to the local government collation officer and by section 68, the decision by the local government collation officer is final, that is the provision of section 68.
“For the SCOPE to now say that he went back the next day to begin to investigate what happened, calling the ward collation officers and the state electoral officer to ascertain whether figures were correct and unilaterally decided to overturn the decision of the local government collation officer.
“Who gave him such powers to overturn the decision of the LGA collation officer whose decision by law is final and cancel our 72,000 votes to ensure we do not have the 25 percent bench mark in Rivers state?’’ Keyamo asked.
Prof. Essien, however, maintained his position on the issue, adding that his view is that as the SCOPE his job was to collate.
“ In the case of Emohua LGA, the collation officer brought his result, however, all the 15 ward collation officers wrote jointly to disclaim that they never collated anything as to transmit to the LGA collation officer to collate.
“Even the Electoral Officer, who was supposed to supervise him, alluded to the fact that there were violence and interruptions, which prevented anything from being collated.
“So, in the face of such strong and unanimous disclaimers, we were unable to accept the results. In all therefore collation were done in only 17 out of the 23 LGAs, with a total of six affected.
“I have submitted all my reports with regards to the issue to INEC where the final decision on the matter will lies, ’’ he said.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC Chairman on his part noted that the argument of Keyamo, however, reminded him that it was not the right time and avenue to begin to challenge the credibility of INEC election results, adding “we are not conducting an inquest here.”
“However, the constitution and our laws are very clear on the procedures to be taken before making a declaration.
“I will look at the reports that emanated from the states alongside the constitution and legal provisions and do the needful,’’ he said.