The Joint Forum of Presidential candidates and Chairmen of 60 political parties that took part in the last Presidential election have said that before the conduct of the 2019 Presidential election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) informed political parties that it will not be using electronic transmission of result for the election because there was no legal instrument backing it.
The forum, therefore, asked the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party to stop heating up the polity with the server controversy which they say is unnecessary a deliberate ploy by the opposition to destroy the integrity of the nation’s electoral process, saying whatever results collated from the so-called server cannot be said to be credible.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja on Tuesday, Chairman of the Forum of Presidential candidates, Alhaji Shittu Muhammed said it was out of place for the PDP to be insisting on inspecting INEC server when the commission informed all parties before the elections that it will no deploy the server for the election because it was not backed by law.
The Forum, however, passed a vote of confidence on the electoral management body for conducting a hitch-free election despite the challenges it faced which they said include sabotage and the non-signing into law of a legal instrument for the election.
Muhammed said that the political parties agreed certain guidelines with the commission for the conduct of the 2019 elections, but the issue of the use of electronic transmission of results was not part of it because of the legal implications.
He said further that while INEC informed the parties that it had experimented the electronic transmission of results in the stand-alone elections in Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun, it dropped the idea when the electoral act giving legal backing to electronic transmission was not signed into law.
Mohammed said: “In the build-up to the elections, we as Presidential candidates and our political parties held several meetings with INEC. The delay in finalizing the electoral legal framework and the eventual withholding of assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill deprived the nation of the much-needed reform of our electoral process which must be anchored on the rule of law.
“The needless controversy over the INEC Server would have been lawful as it would have been mandatory for the Commission to deploy the server. We are aware that INEC had run pilots on electronic transmission of results. It had informed us that these pilots were deployed in Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections.
“However, INEC informed all political parties in the election following the withholding of assent by the President that it would not deploy the electronic transmission of results since it would not be lawful to do so.
“We must inform Nigerians now that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was represented in those meetings and we do not know why they are heating up the polity with the server story.
“This INEC Server controversy is a deliberate ploy to destroy the integrity of our electoral process. Can the so-called results from the server be referred to as credible where INEC could not have legitimately transmitted results of the Presidential or any of the other elections electronically?
“We reiterate that the INEC server controversy is unnecessary. It is a plot to discredit the election as political parties never agreed with INEC in any of the several pre-election meetings that results will be transmitted electronically.
“Parties agreed on a lot of issues with the Commission and those were implemented. It is worrisome that only one political party out of 91 is saying a different thing on the Presidential election while at the same time praising its performance on the other elections, especially Governorship, conducted by the same INEC.”
While faulting the report of the European Election Observation Mission on the conduct of the election, the Forum said “there were several innovations introduced by INEC which made the 2019 elections freer, fairer and more credible than what was obtainable in the past elections such as the simultaneous accreditation and voting; the introduction of assistive innovations for physically challenged voters; the Continuous Voter Registration which added fourteen (14) million new voters to the register were but a few of the innovations introduced by INEC.
“Therefore, the report of the European Union Election Observation Mission released over a week ago wherein they alleged a lack of transparency in the guidelines of election is bewildering. With all due respect to the EUEOM, it is left to Nigerians to decide how we conducted our 2019 general elections.
“INEC consulted widely and extensively, and together with stakeholders of which we are a part of, came up with the guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 general elections, which the Commission followed to the letter.
“We recall that nine out of the eleven points for consideration we raised as candidates under the auspices of the IPAC and CUPP respectively were adopted by the Commission. How then can the EU-EOM accuse the Commission of a lack of transparency in putting up guidelines for the elections?
The group said further that: “the just concluded 2019 Presidential election, the most recent in our democratic journey was very eventful. Nigerians must recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, most commendably released for the very first time the timetable for the elections a full year before the poll day.
“The activities preparatory to the elections were all done in line with the timelines hence Nigerians were in shock when the elections were postponed.
“The events that foisted the shift on INEC, we later discovered, were due to sabotage and political manipulations which were prompted by politicians to gain undue advantage in the elections.
“We, however, applaud the proactive leadership of the Electoral Commission for taking the best decision in the interest of the nation to shift the opening of polls and conduct of the elections.
“For us who were direct participants in the election and with the information we had, we felt the election was impossible in 7 days, hence it was a major pull off for INEC to have conducted it that time without any major hitches.
“Having gathered as Presidential candidates and thoroughly x-rayed the 2019 election, the unfavourable and hostile environment the election management body operated under, and the extant laws under which the elections were conducted, have come to the emphatic conclusion that the INEC performed creditably well and we hereby unequivocally reaffirm our confidence in INEC for its performance against all odds in the conduct of the 2019 General Elections.
“Going forward, we would like to urge President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sign the Electoral Act Amendment into law once it is presented to him again by the National Assembly. That amendment will hugely improve our electoral system and its processes.
“We also demand the immediate setting up of the process that will lead to the sanctioning of all personnel of security agencies who compromised the elections to serve as a deterrent to others and to exhibit that there are consequences for risking the peaceful coexistence of the country and putting the country in danger.
“We urge all Nigerians to remain peaceful and law-abiding and go about their lawful duties as we believe that the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has for now put the controversy to rest with the ruling it gave yesterday.
“Let us support our electoral system to make it better and secure the rights of Nigerians to freely choose their leaders”.