Barely four months to the 2023 general elections, a plot to remove the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, is being hatched by top political actors in the country, Daily Trust has gathered.
Top politicians and persons close to the seat of power in Abuja are said to be firming up the plot as a last ditch plan should the INEC chairman fails to accede to their demands regarding the conduct of the elections.
Preparations for the conduct of the elections are in top gear following the lift of ban on campaign activities by the INEC on September 28.
The INEC, on its part, said it had reached an advanced stage with the process including procurement of materials. The commission has also advertised for the temporary election
The INEC chair, in an exclusive interview with Daily Trust penultimate week, had reiterated that the commission would deploy Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) as done during recent off-season elections.
Yesterday, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) addressed a press conference in Abuja and raised the alarm over the plot to remove the INEC chairman.
CUPP spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, who spoke on behalf of the opposition parties, said the coalition had also uncovered fresh plots to deactivate the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) from being used in the election and ultimately stop electronic transmission of results.
Prior to the CUPP’s press conference, sources had told Daily Trust that political actors believed the elections would be difficult to manipulate under the current circumstances.
The three “unwanted” elements about the elections which the politicians wanted expunged, Daily Trust gathered, include the use of BVAS for accreditation of voters, cancelation of the use of incident forms and electronic transmission of election results.
Two governors–one from the South East and another from North East–are said to be in the forefront of the plot to kick out the INEC chairman. Also, a leader in the National Assembly, who allegedly felt betrayed by the INEC chairman, is said to have joined the prey “to get back at the chairman”.
The fear over BVAS
BVAS, introduced by INEC to replace the smart card reader used in the 2019 elections, is a biometric system that recognises voters based on their finger prints or faces.
An INEC insider said politicians are now wary of the use of BVAS and cancellation of the use of incidence form for voters not recognised by the BVAS device.
“The BVAS is very advanced. It’s different from the smart card reader in many ways. If it cannot capture your fingers, it can capture your face, and there is no excuse for not using it.”
According to the source, the agitations that that the INEC brings back the incident form and cancel the use of BVAS and the IREV platforms have thickened since the Anambra State governorship election.
A governor from the South East was said to have made frantic efforts to have the election swayed but was made impossible because of the adamant nature of the INEC top leadership and the electronic transmission of results.
“They had results from 10 local governments which they wanted the INEC to accept but they were told it was impossible with the current system. It was frustrating for the governor who had already told one of the candidates he woukd be declared as the winner,” said the source.
According to another insider in the commission, rather than work with the party, the governor later discovered that three senior INEC officials, including one in charge of the electronic systems had “compromised” to pave way for another party to win the election.
“They obtained security reports about the three of them, showing the transactions they had. This was how they pushed the person in IT out of his seat and blocked the reappointment of another senior commissioner,” said the source who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Aside the political pressure being exerted on INEC, there were reports of a lawsuit instituted before the Federal High Court in Owerri, Imo state, seeking to stop INEC from using BVAS for the 2023 elections.
Yakubu in the eye of the storm
Some politicians are said to be uncomfortable with the INEC chairman’s rigid posture and unwillingness to help them during critical periods.
Yakubu was also lately embroiled in allegations around his assets declaration.
In late September, a Federal High Court in Abuja okayed hearing in a suit asking to compel the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to release the assets declaration forms of the INEC chairman.
The plaintiff in the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/33/2021, is one Emmanuel Agonsi.
Daily Trust gathered that this was not the first suit of this nature against the INEC chairman.
“There was another suit in Abakaliki. It went up to the Court of Appeal, they wanted to stop his renomination for second term. They nearly succeeded both at the level of Presidency and the National Assembly.
“He was there thinking his name would be submitted for reappointment when he was told that they had tabled the name of one professor, who was later appointed a national commissioner. When it came to the screening there was move to also block him but a presiding officer gave him a smooth sail, it is for that reason that the man now feel pained for INEC to have rejected him as candidate of his party,” one of our sources said.
Use of BVAS irreversible– INEC
INEC yesterday dismissed the call for the re-introduction of the incidence form and the suspension of the use of BVAS for the 2023 general elections.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, in a chat with Daily Trust yesterday, said: “The decision of the commission to introduce and use the BVAS is final and irreversible. It is backed up by the law and a substantial number of the BVAS for the 2023 elections have been delivered. The BVAS is the game changer and has buried the incident forms.
“Those engaged in identity theft should not near the polling units. Those that have stolen or bought over PVCs are out of business and should not attempt to access the PUs. The commission is focused on delivering on its mandate.
“The commission is not and will not pay attention to the negatives or the antics of those that will want to delegitimize the electoral process and the commission. The commission has reached the critical stage of the electoral process and all Nigerians, and all the critical stakeholders should join the commission in delivering a clean election.”
Executive Director Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, told Daily Trust that,
“I won’t be surprised if there are plans to blackmail INEC to suspend the use of the BVAS. Nigerians have endorsed the use of BVAS, and that is what matters. Any attempt to stop the use of the BVAS should be considered an assault on the sovereignty of Nigerians and an effort to subvert the popular will of the people.
“INEC should continue to resist the attempt to capture the institution by all means possible. It is within INEC’s constitutional powers to undertake, organize and supervise elections. Its powers cannot be subjected to any authority. The commission has insisted that the use of the BVAS for election has come to stay. Stakeholders should respect the commission’s powers.”
Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said:
“We know there’s a vast array of political and partisan interests who may want to subvert the electoral process for their own self-serving ends. It’s however important to note that the will of these elements should not be allowed to prevail over the will of the Nigerian electorate.
“The key to ensuring desperate elements don’t undermine the process is to ensure there is vigilance.”
Also, Chairman, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said:
“In elections, numbers that have no relationship with the votes cast are routinely written up all over the country. This is what we call rigging. In 2015 INEC used a technology solution in the form of Card Reader to verify the PVC and close the gap between the voting tallies and achieve over 50% in using the device to accredit voters in the presidential election.
“The result was that for the first time in Nigeria’s presidential election history, the loser declined to sue and, overall, the percentage of elections ending in the courts fell to about 43%. In 2007, 86.25% of all offices contested ended in court while in 2011, it was just about 51%.”
Source: Daily Trust