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  • INEC Under Fire For Declaring Orji Kalu Winner Of ‘Inconclusive’ Elections
  • The Independent National Electoral Commission has come under fire
    after declaring Orji Kalu winner of a senatorial election in apparent
    disregard of its own guidelines.
    Mr Kalu, a former governor of Abia State and candidate of the All
    Progressives Congress (APC), was declared the winner of Abia
    North Senatorial District election conducted on February 23, 2019.
    Mr Kalu polled 31,201 votes, according to Charles Anumudu, the
    INEC returning officer for the district.
    The incumbent senator, Mao Ohuabunwa of the Peoples Democratic
    Party (PDP), trailed Mr Kalu with 20,801 votes in the election.
    However, Mr Ohuabunwa argued, and election and civic engagement
    experts agreed, that the election should have been declared
    inconclusive without a winner.
    ‘Arbitrary pronouncement’
    According to a breakdown of the result by INEC, 38,526 votes were
    cancelled during the exercise, a number significantly greater than
    the margin of 10,400 between Messrs Kalu and Ohuabunwa.
    “The election should have been declared inconclusive,” said election
    expert Samson Itodo. “There should have been a re-run in the
    district.”
    Mr Itodo said INEC’s guidelines, drawn from Sections 26 and 153 of
    the Electoral Act, required a by-election when the margin of victory
    between highest and second highest votes scorers in an election is
    less than the total number of cancelled voters.
    “This should not be that hard, we saw the precedent in Osun State
    governorship election last September,” Mr Itodo said.
    The electoral umpire declared inconclusive, the governorship
    election that held in Osun State on September 22, 2018, citing
    insufficient lead by the PDP’s candidate in that election.
    At the end of the collation of votes, the PDP candidate, Ademola
    Adeleke, won majority votes of about 254,698 votes while Gboyega
    Oyetola of the APC came a close second with 254,345 votes. Both
    leading candidates had a difference of about 354 votes.
    The commission explained that the total registered voters in the five
    polling units where elections were cancelled is 3,498 votes. Since
    that figure was higher than the difference between the votes of the
    leading candidates, a re-run election had to be conducted, the INEC
    chief explained.
    A re-run was held a few days later on September 28, and Mr Oyetola
    was declared the winner.
    Similarly, in Abia South Senatorial District, INEC declared the
    election inconclusive after ballots were interrupted in some locations
    around Aba, the state’s commercial capital. Although leading by a
    good margin, incumbent Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe would have to
    wait until Saturday to know whether or not he would be returned to
    the Senate.
    Mr Itodo said the senatorial election in Abia North should have
    similarly been declared inconclusive, warning INEC to be wary of
    arbitrary application of the law.
    “We cannot have two different sets of electoral law,” Mr Itodo said.
    As the nation prepares for governorship and state parliamentary
    elections on Saturday, Mr Itodo warned INEC officials to desist from
    declaring results under duress from politicians.
    “Officials are coming under serious pressure to declare results
    without due process, and they often cave in,” Mr Itodo said. “This is
    a serious problem.”
    Mr Itodo said politicians are exploiting a section of the electoral law
    that prohibits INEC officials from reversing themselves on
    pronouncements.
    “The law says only the courts have the power to reverse any
    pronouncement by electoral officers, politicians know this and they
    are taken advantage,” he added.
    Joseph Iloh, the resident electoral commissioner in Abia, was
    unable to clarify the decision more than a week after INEC had taken
    it, telling PREMIUM TIMES the matter would be addressed later by
    INEC.
    It was not immediately clear whether INEC would reverse its
    decision before Saturday and allow supplementary elections to hold
    in the district, alongside several others were polls were cancelled on
    February 23.
    A spokesperson for Mr Kalu was unavailable for comments
    Saturday afternoon. But an aide to the former governor said his
    principal should not be made to explain a decision taken by INEC.
    “We are aware of the cancelled votes,” the aide said. “But all
    enquiries should be directed to INEC and not my principal.”
    Mr Ohuabunwa argued that INEC cancelled over 31,000 votes in his
    home local government area of Arochukwu, where he expected
    huge returns.
    The senator estimated about 76,889 votes were cancelled in across
    five local government areas that make up Abia North Senatorial
    District by INEC, but said even by the official figures of the
    commission, the election should have been declared inconclusive.
    Mr Ohuabunwa, 61, has been in and out of the National Assembly
    since 1999 when he was first elected a member of the House of
    Representatives.
    In 2015, he was elected senator representing Abia North, defeating
    Mr Kalu, who was the candidate of the Progressive Peoples
    Alliance, PPA, at the time.
    Mr Kalu, who still has a corruption case with the Economic and
    Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), challenged the results in court
    and received a judgment for a rerun in early 2016.
    Mr Ohuabunwa was again declared the winner in the March 2018
    by-election, and Mr Kalu challenged the results again in court. The
    Court of Appeal, however, affirmed the election of Mr Ohuabunwa in
    November 2017, sealing the former governor’s fate.
    Mr Kalu decamped to the APC ahead of the 2019 elections.
    Legal analyst Liborous Oshoma described the declaration of Mr Kalu
    as the winner of the election as a “terrible anomaly,” calling for
    urgent reform of the electoral process.
    “There has to be a reform that would make it difficult for officials to
    just announce results and ask people to go to court,” Mr Oshoma
    said. “There have to be consequences for electoral officers making
    arbitrary and undue pronouncements that usually undermine the
    electoral process.”
    “We can describe what happened in Abia North as a terrible
    anomaly, but INEC has a window to address it by conducting a by-
    election in the cancelled areas on Saturday,” the legal analyst said.
    Source:- Premiumtimesng

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