By Gena Lubem
A coalition of several Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have alleged that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has taken upon itself to carry out injustice in the December 2020 Senatorial re-run for Cross River North district.
The group while addressing journalists in Abuja, Monday morning emphasised that the case in the election stands out as one in which the supposedly election umpire is bent on causing great damage to democracy in Nigeria and robb the duly elected candidate, Senator Stephen Adi Odey of the victory.
According to Comrade Chijioke Onyekaonwu, Coordinator of Network of Democratic Watchdogs of Nigeria (NDWN) who addressed alongside Dr. Gabriel Nwambu, ‘the defense of our democracy is not only sacrosanct but a responsibility for all men of good will. It is a fact of reality if I say that the survival of our nascent democracy will be highly jeopardized if the electioneering process is marred by corruption, deceit, and bribery thereby breeding injustice and political instability.
He stated that, the election management is agreeably the most sensitive process in a democracy and it is expected that the umpire shouldered with such important and sensitive responsibility must have transparency and rule of law as his or her beacon. This is in order to produce a credible outcome or result.
Part of the address reads:
“The Cross River North senatorial district election held on December 5th 2020 will stand out as dark era in the annals of election conduction in Nigeria. The INEC involvement and actions in the said election amounts to a total decampment from the electoral process and is nothing short of standing the electoral law on its head. The PDP primaries for the December 5th election was held on November 5th according to the provisions of the electoral act.
“The primary election was held and all requirements according to the electoral provisions were put in place including the presence of the INEC chief observe and the local government EOs. The party electorates voted overwhelmingly to elect Senator Stephen Adi Odey as winner. The closest runner up with a high margin Hon Jarigbe Agom on sensing his loss walked away before the end of the election. His exit notwithstanding, the party concluded the primaries with Senator Stephen Adi Odeys declared winner and his name was duly submitted to INEC. Hon Jarigbe exercising his legal right, challenged the outcome of the primaries in a federal high court in Calabar and on December 3th 2020 the court struck out his claims as lacking merit. The INEC was compelled by this to issue Senator Adi Odey a form EC9 which he filled swore to and returned to INEC via the party.
“The senatorial election was held on the 5th December 2020 and after the election, Senator Stephen Odey came out on top with a high margin and a total vote of 129,207 to beat his closest rival Joe Agi the APC candidate who scored 19,165.votes and Subsequently, INEC issued Senator Adi Odey with a certificate of return. The intrigues and desperation of INEC and Hon Jarigbe did not end with the election as they in connivance with one chief John Alaga, a close friend of Hon Jarigbe who now filed an isolated matter in FCT high court Abuja purportedly to challenge the qualification of Hon Jarigbe whom he mischievously referred to as the winner of the primaries in the motion, stating that his certificates are questionable and as such not qualified to run for the election.
“The court ignorant of the real status of Hon Jarigbe and treating the matter on its face value dismissed the certificate issue as it was not proved beyond reasonable doubt intentionally by the conspiring ally Chief Alaga. INEC in an open bias and acting in grievous error hurriedly issued another certificate of return to Hon Jarigbe without recourse to their election records. It is worthy to note that neither Senator Stephen Odey nor the PDP was joined as parties in the said suit.
“This unfolding comic drama being directed by the INEC chairman has in its characters a stranger with a strange interest, how else will one describe the sudden interest of Gov. Nyesom Wike in the internal politics of Cross River North
Senatorial district? The enormous size of blunder presently going on display is an indication that an equivalent size in sum is passing as bribe under the table. It is obvious where the funding for this democratic blunder is coming from.
“We are not unaware of the relationship between Gov. Nyesom Wike and the INEC chairman dating back to many years of close affiliation. Wike should face the task of governing Rivers state and desist from stirring trouble all over the country. Just to fan his vice presidential ambitions. He has a right to aspire to any elective position but that will not be at the detriment of societal peace and collective interest of the country”, the Network said.
The rest of the text of the address reads as follows:
Questions for the INEC chairman
- Which party submitted the name of Hon Jarigbe to INEC as its candidate for the 5th December 2020 by-election as required by the electoral act?
- Did Hon Jarigbe fill any form EC9 as mandated by section 31 of the electoral law?
- According to section 285(13) of the 1999 constitution as amended. It states No tribunal or court shall declare anybody winner of an election when he has not participated in all the various stages of election. Did INEC have the name of Hon Jarigbe on the list of candidates for the senatorial by-election on 5th December?. These are pertinent questions and Nigerians demand answers. The instrument which is being peddled by Hon Jarigbe is a strange court judgment obtained in an isolated matter between him and his friend Chief Alaga that has no relationship with the senatorial election won by Senator Stephen Odey or the primaries as conducted by the PDP for that election. The court order is obtained in a case between Hon Jarigbe and chief John Alaga without PDP or the election winner Senator Stephen Odey being joined as parties. There is no judgment or order of court issued by any court anywhere in Nigeria nullifying the position and candidacy of Senator stephen odey. I challenge anyone to produce such order or judgment. All the judgment so far declared in this matter both at the high court and the court of appeal were all in favor of senator stephen odey and both judgments are subsisting. There has not been any counter judgment from any court in the contrary.
“No court at any level ordered INEC to issue Hon Jarigbe with a certificate of return nor did any court direct that Hon jarigbe should be sworn in as the senator representing cross river north senatorial district. Hon Jarigbe on national television yesterday 14th march 2020 told the whole country that he has secured his swearing in for Tuesday 16th march, as according to him, he has his report sitting at the senate presidents table. His statement further indicates his desperation and connivance with some dark forces to truncate our
democratic gains and values in the national assembly. Any action by INEC or anybody based on the purported judgment is tantamount to usurping the power of the judiciary and a recipe for anarchy.
“This rascality and open bias by INEC in this matter can only mean one thing, that a personal interest is trying to override a public interest and we as watchdogs of democracy cannot sit by and watch democratic principles truncated by
anyone no matter how highly placed. We demand that the INEC chairman should retrace his steps in his present action of subversion of justice. We also demand that that a high level commission of enquiry be set up to measure the culpability of the INEC personnel involved in this. This action has become a source of international embarrassment to our electoral system, and our nation at large.
“We commend the resilience, transparency and commitment of the senate president Ahmed Lawan, PHD and the principle officers of the 9th senate for standing for justice and rule of law at this point of our democratic history. The senate president’s dismissal and refusal to implement the demands of Hon Jarigbe is an indication of strength of character and patriotism. Posterity will remember you for standing with the people in our country’s quest for democratic excellence.
“Finally, we call on Senator Stephen Odey to disregard the distractions and actions of Hon Jarigbe and INEC and concentrate on his duty of giving the Cross river north senatorial district the excellent representation they deserve”.