Not less than 60 political parties are defending the integrity of the last general elections amid a dispute over the electoral umpire’s “server”.
The Joint Forum of Presidential candidates and chairmen of the parties, which participated in the last presidential election, on Tuesday accused the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of heating up the polity to destroy the electoral process.
It asked the main opposition party to desist from acts capable of tainting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
PDP has vowed to appeal a tribunal’s verdict, which rejected its plea for access to INEC’s server.
The electoral agency says it did not use any “server” to store results.
The parties’ logic is that since INEC did not collate and transmit the election’s results electronically, the so-called server is not credible.
The parties, however, passed a vote of confidence on the electoral management body for conducting hitch-free elections despite some challenges, including sabotage and the non-signing into law of a legal instrument for the election.
The Forum made its position known at a briefing in Abuja by its chairman, Alh. Shittu Mohammed Kabir.
Kabir read an address on behalf of the parties instead of the Joint Convener, Chief Perry Opara. He said PDP was on a wild goose chase.
He said it was out of place for PDP to be insisting on inspecting INEC’s server when the commission informed all parties before the elections that it would not deploy the server for the election because it was not backed by law.
Kabir said the political parties agreed on certain guidelines with the commission for the elections, adding that using electronic transmission of results was not part of them because of the legal implications.
INEC, he said, informed the parties that it only experimented the electronic transmission of results during the stand alone elections in Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states.
But INEC said it dropped the idea when the Electoral Act giving legal backing to electronic transmission was not signed into law.
Kabir said: “In the build-up to the elections, we as presidential candidates and our political parties held several meetings with INEC. The delay in finalising 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.”
Kabir gave insights into talks between parties and INEC on the poll.
He added: “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.”
Kabir said the Forum faulted the report of the European Election Observation Mission on the conduct of the election.
He added: “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 11 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 lack of transparency in putting up guidelines for the elections?
He said the 60 parties believe “the just-concluded 2019 presidential election, the most recent in our democratic journey, was very eventful.”
He said: “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 seven 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.”
The group urged President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment into law once it is presented to him again by the National Assembly, adding that the amendment “will hugely improve our electoral system and its processes.”
Besides, it demanded a “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.”
In his goodwill message, the Joint Convener, Joint Forum of 60 Presidential Candidates, Chief Perry Opara, urged the political class to “give peace a chance and seek redress in court where there are issues as a way of growing the nation’s democracy.”
Some of the presidential candidates at the briefing include Alh. Shittu Mohammed Kabir(APDA); Charles Ogboli (ANDP); Danujma Mohammed (MRDD); Kenneth Ibe Kalu (UPC) and Alh. Isa Danbaki (MMM).
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Adapted from The Nation