Uzodimma wins Imo, Ododo wins Kogi as Diri leads in Bayelsa

  • INEC declares six LGAs’ results in Bayelsa, to resume collation today
  • SERAP, YIAGA Africa slam INEC over irregularities in Imo
  • Uzodimma, APC faithful rejoice as governor dedicates victory to God, loyal citizens
  • Imo guber: LP rejects result, heads for court

After a pulsating suspense amid anxiety of cancelled results in some Polling Units (PUs), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last night declared Usman Ododo of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the off-cycle governorship election in Kogi State.

Ododo polled 446,237 votes to defeat Murtala Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who came second with 259,052 votes, while Dino Melaye, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), scored 46,362 votes.

For the other two states of Imo and Bayelsa states where elections held on Saturday, there was no major upset as INEC declared Governor Hope Uzodimma of the APC winner, while Governor Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in a comfortable lead after collation of results were adjourned till 12noon today with results from two LGAs – Brass and Southern Ijaw –yet to be collated.

As of yesterday, Diri extended his lead in results so far declared by INEC. With the final results from six out of the eight LGAs of the state, Diri is leading by 64,106 votes, after scoring a total of 137,909 votes from the six LGAs. He won in five LGAs, while his closest challenger, Timipre Sylva of APC, has won in only one LGA – Nembe.

But for conducting a less than satisfactory election, INEC has come under fire for going ahead to collate results despite instances of alleged over-voting in the election in Kogi.

Some stakeholders alleged that election results displayed on the IReV portal revealed cases of over-voting in Okehi, Adavi, and Okene LGAs. However, the Kogi State Collation Officer, Prof. Sani Mohammed, went ahead to uphold the results.

The situation sparked concerns about the process, with stakeholders demanding immediate intervention from INEC headquarters to address the alleged irregularities and uphold the integrity of the electoral system.

Commenting on the development, Murtala Ajaka, governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), noted that INEC cancelled results in Bayelsa over cases of over-voting and urged the Commission’s headquarters to intervene in Kogi.

Speaking at a press briefing, Ajaka said: “We are being punished for being obedient to the law. We had every opportunity to inflate the result in our own local government, but we decided to be on the side of the law.

“When people are oppressed, we are left with no alternative but to defend ourselves. Given the current trajectory, if this pattern continues, we will be compelled to protect our democracy, and we are committed to doing so if providence permits.”

Candidate of the PDP, Senator Dino Melaye, called for the annulment of the election, citing widespread irregularities that he deems unprecedented in the state’s history.

Addressing the media at a press conference in Lokoja, the state capital, on Sunday, Melaye expressed dismay at the irregularities that marred the election across all three Senatorial districts, describing the electoral process as ‘shameful and unhealthy’.

However, INEC had slated Saturday, November 18 for the conduct of fresh elections in polling units where the exercise was earlier suspended in Kogi.

National Commissioner and member of INEC’s Information and Voter Education Committee, Mohammed Kudu Haruna, disclosed this in a statement issued Sunday night in Abuja.

He said: “Further to our statement on Saturday, we have received an update from our Kogi office regarding the suspension of election in some locations in the state where result sheets were completed before the commencement of voting. The most critical incident occurred in nine out of 10 wards in Ogori/Magongo LGA.

“We received reports of similar and other incidents in Adavi (five Polling Units (Pus) in Okunchi/Ozuri/Onieka Ward), Ajaokuta (five PUs in Adogo Ward), Okehi (one PU in Eika/Ohizenyi Ward) and Okene (five PUs in Obehira Uvete Ward). Results from the affected PUs have been accounted for in Form EC40G for the four LGAs .

“However, in the case of Ogori/Magongo LGA, only the result of Oshobane Ward II with eight PUs and 2,264 registered voters has been collated. Elections in the other nine wards (Eni, Okibo, Okesi, Ileteju, Aiyeromi, Ugugu, Obinoyin, Obatgben and Oturu) involving 59 PUs and 15,136 registered voters remain suspended. In line with Section 24(3) of the Electoral Act 2022 and Clause 59 of INEC Regulations and Guidelines on the Conduct of Elections 2022, fresh election will be held on Saturday, November 18, in the affected Pus.”

According to him, the decision to hold fresh elections is subject to the Returning Officer’s determination of the application of the Margin of Lead Principle.

IN BAYELSA, there was heavy security presence around the capital city of Yenagoa, particularly the state INEC headquarters, where collation was ongoing. The election was won largely on the strength of money, voter intimidation and to some extent performance between the duo’s time in office.

It was too close to call until the finish line, as the two main contenders were equally matched. But like many residents and PDP supporters said, it would have been closer had APC presented its former candidate in the 2019 election, David Lyon, noting that the party would have witnessed many defections of members.

Earlier, there was massive protest at the INEC office over alleged concocted election results from Nembe Bassambiri. Top Bayelsa-based civil society operatives, women groups, youth groups, state and National Assembly members gathered at the INEC office to protest alleged moves by the top leadership of INEC to distort the votes. The angry protesters blocked the busy Swali Road, location of INEC, to prevent the commission from accepting the results from Nembe Bassambiri.

Also, INEC on Sunday called on security agencies to immediately facilitate the release of its officials held hostage in Brass LGA of Bayelsa. The commission described the development as detrimental to credible elections.

The APC had earlier kicked against what it described as an attempt to move the collation of results for Brass to Yenagoa, the state capital. The party alleged the move was a calculated attempt to manipulate the result of the votes in favour of PDP.

MEANWHILE, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to promptly establish a joint, broad-based investigation into allegations of electoral bribery and violence in the off-cycle elections. The body also urged him to identify, arrest, name and shame suspected perpetrators and their sponsors of the grave human rights crimes, and ensure their effective prosecution, regardless of political status or affiliations.

According to reports, the elections witnessed cases of electoral offences, including electoral violence, vote-buying, conspiracy, and undue influence.

In the letter signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said if INEC is to live up to its constitutional and statutory responsibilities, it must take bold and effective measures to combat the culture of impunity for electoral bribery and violence in the country, which make a mockery of Nigeria’s electoral process and participatory democracy.

The body further urged Yakubu to disclose the spending details on the governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa, including the specific amount spent to conduct voter and civic education and activities carried out in these states.

Reacting to the conclusion of the polls in Imo, Uzodimma dedicated his victory to God. He was declared winner with a wide margin score of 540,308; defeating his opponent, Samuel Anyanwu of PDP, who had 71,503 votes and the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Athan Achonu, who came third position, scoring 64,081. There were 18 candidates in the contest.

Returning Officer, Prof. Abayomi Fasina, declared Uzodimma, yesterday, about 10:00a.m, for scoring the highest number of votes and also scoring the majority votes in all the 27 LGAs of the state, satisfying the constitutional requirements.

Uzodimma dedicated his victory to God who made it possible and loyal Imo citizens for being behind him.

He declared his commitment to use the opportunity for his second tenure to do more work for the people of the state as promised during his campaign.

Ironically, Uzodimma, defeated both Anyanwu and Achonu in their local councils. However, both Anyanwu and Achonu have faulted the process, maintaining that there were electoral flaws. Uzodimma is expected to be sworn in for a second tenure on January 15, next year.

Achonu, who rejected the result, said he would seek redress in court. While addressing newsmen in his Umulomo country home in Ehime Mbano LGA, Achonu alleged that the election was “marred by irregularities, including vote buying and physical assaults of LP agents, and thus deserving of outright cancellation.”

He further alleged that voting in many locations was done without BVAS accreditation, contrary to the assurances by INEC before the election.

Achonu also alleged compromise on the part of security personnel, adding that “recorded evidence abound, such as that of a police officer who was beaten by voters for attempting to snatch a ballot box.”

He commended LP supporters for their steadfastness in the face of provocation and assured them that they would get justice through the courts.

“Our democracy was raped in the full glare of security personnel, whose salaries we pay from our commonwealth. Collation was suddenly moved from the ward to LG centres, and only APC agents were allowed to enter, while agents of other parties were locked out.

“I have not lost hope in the judiciary, there are so many men of integrity therein, and we shall reclaim our mandate,” Achonu said.

Election monitoring group, YIAGA Africa, has sought clarification from INEC how it managed to upload results form EC8A for some of the sampled polling units in Imo where elections were not conducted.

Chair, YIAGA Africa WTV Working Group, Dr Hussaini Abdu, who sought this clarification in a statement in Abuja listed the LGAs results that INEC uploaded without conducting elections to include: Orsu, Oru East, Oru West, Ideato North, Ikeduru and Okigwe LGAs.

Abdu called on INEC to clarify the status of voting across polling units in Orsu, Okigwe, Oru East and Orlu LGAs in Imo.

The statement reads: “YIAGA Africa calls on INEC to clarify the status of locations where elections did not hold, including the upload of results from polling units where elections did not hold.

“According to reports from some YIAGA Africa’s Watching The Vote (WTV) observers in Imo, it indicate elections did not take place in 12 per cent of sampled
polling units. These cases were prevalent in Orsu, Okigwe, Oru East, and Orlu LGAs. YIAGA Africa also monitored the upload of results on the IReV, especially those from polling units where elections did not hold.

“There were speculations that INEC may have relocated all polling units to the LGA headquarters on election day. YIAGA Africa notes that voters in Orsu LGA were not informed of the change in polling unit location and INEC failed to issue an official statement on the supposed temporary re-location of polling units.

“In Okigwe LGA, our observers also reported that elections did not occur in eight sampled polling units. In Oru East LGA, the election was not held in eight of sampled polling units. In addition, elections were not held in seven of our sampled polling units in Orlu LGA and in one of our sampled polling units each in Ideato North, Ikeduru, Oru West and Owerri West LGAs.

“YIAGA Africa is deeply concerned with the upload of results form EC8A for some of the sampled polling units where elections were not conducted in Orsu, Oru East, Oru West, Ideato North, Ikeduru and Okigwe LGAs on the IReV. To ensure transparency and to protect the integrity of the process, we call on INEC to clarify the status of voting across polling units in Orsu, Okigwe, Oru East and Orlu LGAs in Imo.”

Civil rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), yesterday, condemned the sporadic violence, armed political thuggery and electoral heists that characterised the off-cycle elections in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi. The group expressed regrets that despite all the assurances by the service chiefs, including the National Security Adviser (NSA), Nuhu Ribadu, that there will be peaceful polls in those three states, the opposite was the cases as ballots boxes were viciously snatched and in Imo, even armed police operatives were participants in the violent snatching of ballots boxes.

The group cited an example of the citizens’ arrest of a uniformed senior police officer in Ikeduru, Imo, caught carting ballot boxes away and handed over to the police.

HURIWA’s national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said it was condemnable that security forces in Imo supervised the violence unleashed on LP agent in the state, Calistus Ihejiagwa, who was in the early hours of Sunday, beaten and bundled out of the Imo Collation Centre in Owerri, the state capital.

The group stated that it was criminal that the security agencies whose operatives were on ground at the collation centre permitted the dehumanisation of Ihejiagwa, who was protesting the results being presented at the collation center even as he argued that the results collated from the LGAs that were being presented did not tally with the ones on the Result Viewing Portal (IReV).

HURIWA also condemned the reported widespread manipulations of the electoral processes in Bayelsa and Kogi just as it wondered why the influence of cash-for-votes is still in practice during elections so much so that operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) successfully arrested 14 suspected vote-buyers and confiscated millions of naira from suspects in Otuoke, Adawari playgrounds in Bayelsa, and at various polling units in Imo and Kogi.