The Coalition of Election Observers in Benue State has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to forthwith announce Emmanuel Jime, the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) as winner of the March 9 governorship election.
Like in six other states, INEC had declared the polls in Benue inconclusive, alleging that 121,011 electorates were either not able to vote or election did not hold in their areas.
However, in a statement by Convener Princess Ajibola on Saturday, the election observers urged the electoral umpire to adhere to the constitution and declare the APC flagbearer winner having picked up the highest number of votes in areas where card reader machines were used for accreditation.
The group of observers, who thoroughly monitored the exercise asserted that the incumbent and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Samuel Ortom, connived with some INEC officials to deliberately sabotage the entire process in his favour.
According to the observers, “ It is no coincidence that the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Samuel Ortom, only scored high votes in places where Card Readers were deliberately sabotaged by his agents to force electoral officers to resort to manual accreditation. In course of our observation, we documented that Card Readers were not used in Logo, Guma, Vandekiya, Konshisha, Buruku and Gwer West Local Government Areas.
“ The manual accreditation gave room to vote manipulation in the identified local government areas. Incidents documented included over voting, accreditation of people that are not registered voters, ballot stuffing amongst others. These incidents do not in any way form part of what INEC had promised when it announced its determination to conduct acceptable elections and they certainly do not indicate credible elections in any part of the world.
“ The knowledge on the part of other candidates that violations occurred on this scale is reasons for the election results so far announced are being met with rejection. The results have become controversial and are now a subject of protests by many candidates and observers.
“ Public anger will continue to grow for as long as INEC continues to delay in declaring a rejection of results from locations where Card Readers were not used. This is because INEC had issued a guideline that specifically directed that the use of card reader machine must be complied with.
“ In a bizarre development, the PDP candidate has connived with some INEC officials in Benue state to rig the elections through the failure to use Card Readers and is now parading himself as the winner of the election while citing some outrageous votes.
“ The rigging is so brazen that the leading APC candidate was allocated zero votes in places where it had large turnout of its supporters and polling agents, which would suggest that even the agents were not allowed to vote.
“ We see the case in Benue State as test for INEC that it can take electoral decisions that will ensure that every vote it organized do not end up being tabled before Election Petition Tribunals for adjudication. The Commission must begin to put an end to the practice of deprived winners being asked to go to court to reclaim their victories. INEC should therefore cancel the results from local government areas where Card Readers were not used and declare the Emmanuel Jime/Sam Ode ticket as winner.
“ We urge the international community to keep close watch of the development in Benue state so that the world will know what truly transpired in the state since it will become necessary to make interventions at some point based on the way the electorates will likely respond to their votes being stolen.”