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INEC fires back: Don’t blame us for 2023 election fallouts, blame politicians

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“It is surprising how the mere filing of petitions constitute a blot on the integrity of the recent elections conducted by INEC when in fact they constitute an integral part of the democratic process,” were the words with which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), pushed back against its critics, who described their performance in the 2023 general elections as abysmal failure.

The commission, which had come under intense lampooning since the end of the election, was particularly held responsible in most cases for the unprecedented number of court cases trailing the outcome of the elections.

But beating back the allegations of poor performance, the electoral umpire in a statement on Thursday, rejected the verdict saying politicians and political parties should rather be blamed as the culprits, adding that most of the legal battles were pre-election matters arising from the poor handling at the party primaries level.

They argued that other cases that had to do with the main elections, had actually vindicated the commission, citing the manner the cases were thrown out by the various tribunals as evidence that INEC indeed did a good job.  of the

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INEC, in a statement by its spokesman, Sam Olumekun, referring to a particular report, which stated that more than 94 per cent of the elections it conducted turned out in the courts of law, which it saw as an evidence of a sinking credibility, debunked the conclusion as untrue.

The statement, said the report not only contained inaccurate figures, but was based on mix-up of pre-election and post-election cases, as well as skewed comparative perspective adding that the basic fact check on the information regularly published by the Commission, available on its website, would have shown the true picture.

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For instance, it said that in 2023, elections were not conducted in 1,280 constituencies, including 782 State Assembly seats, but on the contrary, in 1,491 constituencies across the country made up of 1 Presidential, 28 Governorship, 109 Senatorial, 360 House of Representatives and 993 State Assembly constituencies. Similarly, adding that the claim that state assembly elections were held in only 28 states of the country was made on the lazy assumption that no such elections were held in the eight states of the federation where executive elections are held off-cycle.

“As every attentive Nigerian knows, the tenure of legislators is tied to the legislative houses, which is a fixed term of four years from the date the assembly is inaugurated unlike the term of office of the executive which begins from the date they take the oath of office.

“Secondly, the report blames the pre-election cases arising from the conduct of primary elections by political parties on INEC. These are intra-party cases involving party members in which they join the Commission and seek for reliefs binding on it. As everyone knows, INEC does not conduct primaries for political parties,” the statement, said.

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It added: “In pursuit of their right under the law, many litigants in Nigeria unfortunately file election petitions over the most improbable cases and later withdraw them or they are dismissed by the tribunals. If the report had taken time to analyse the outcome of the cases decided so far by the tribunals, it would have discovered that out of 1,196 petitions, 712 were dismissed and 179 withdrawn. This means that in 891 cases (74.4%), the tribunals found no merit in the petitions and affirmed the result of the elections conducted by INEC.

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“It is surprising how the mere filing of petitions constitute a blot on the integrity of the recent elections conducted by INEC when in fact they constitute an integral part of the democratic process.

“Fourthly, the said report analysed the total number of petitions as if they were filed against the outcome of the election in 94% of all the elective positions without considering details of the cases. Multiple petitions were filed by candidates and political parties as petitioners in a single Constituency.

“For example, in one state in the South South geopolitical zone of the country, eight petitions were filed challenging the governorship election out of which seven were dismissed and one withdrawn. Therefore, the number of election petitions filed in respect of all elective offices will certainly outnumber the total number of constituencies/elective offices.

“To spread them across the constituencies and proceed to calculate the percentage is to count some constituencies several times which is methodologically problematic and statistically illogical. Five, it is pertinent to note that the grounds for challenging the outcome of an election as provided in Section 134 of the Electoral Act, 2022 are not limited to the conduct of election by the Commission.

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“An election may be questioned on the ground that the winner of the election was not qualified to contest the election by virtue of his academic qualifications, age etc. Many of the petitioners did not challenge the conduct of the elections by INEC but the eligibility of candidates or their nomination by political parties.

“Under the law, INEC has no power to screen candidates. Similarly, only the Courts can disqualify candidates.

Six, a comparative analysis would have addressed the deliberate effort in the report to portray the 2023 General Election as regressive on account of litigation without empirical evidence.

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“Over the last three electoral cycles, the number of election petitions may be rising but not the number of upturned elections. In 2015, 663 cases were filed at the tribunals, 87 (13.1%) were nullified and the Commission ordered to conduct re-run in some polling units or entire constituencies. In 2019, 807 petitions were filed but elections were only re-run in 30 (3.71%) consituencies (3 Senatorial Districts, 13 Federal Constituencies and 14 State Constituencies).

“While the 2023 post-election litigations are ongoing, all five petitions filed in respect of the Presidential election were dismissed while three are pending on appeal. As of Monday 16th October 2023, out of 82 Governorship election petitions, 72 (87.8%) were either dismissed or withdrawn by the petitioners.

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“For Senatorial elections, 146 petitions were filed out of which 100 (68.5%) were dismissed or withdrawn. For the House of Representatives, 413 petitions were filed out of which 309 (74.81%) were dismissed or withdrawn while for State Houses of Assembly, 550 petitions were filed out of which 468 (82.4%) were dismissed or withdrawn.

“The Commission wishes to restate that it is inappropriate to solely assess the credibility of INEC or the conduct of the 2023 General Election on the number of petitions filed by litigants who, in any case, have the right to do so under the law.

“While we wish to restate our continuing partnership with the media, it is prudent to state that the pen should be used to strengthen rather than impugn the integrity of public institutions particularly where basic statistics demand that we should be circumspect.”

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BREAKING: One week after US Congress threat, Court frees, Binance boss

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Exactly one week after the US Congress, moved against Nigeria, Tigran Gambaryan, Head of Financial Crime Compliance of Binance, was let off the hook on Friday, as the Federal Government, dropped charges against him, with a Federal High Court in Abuja, discharging him on the four-count charge of financial crimes.

Sixteen members of the US Congress, had last week, written a letter of protest to President Joe Biden, demanding his intervention into the case of Gambaryan, who holds US citizenship, who they said was in danger of losing his life under terrible conditions in detention in Nigeria, while insisting on his immediate release.

The letter had alleged that Gambaryan, “has been wrongfully detained since late February after granting the Nigerian government’s request for discussions regarding the crypto giant’s business in the country. The government of Nigeria took Mr. Gambaryan hostage and thus needs his government’s help to be freed.”

Raising alarm over the state of his health, the group of lawmakers, which said: “Mr. Gambaryan’s health and well-being are in danger, and we fear for his life. Immediate action is essential to ensure his safety and preserve his life. We must act swiftly before it is too late,” had emphasised “on behalf of Mr. Gambaryan, his family, and concerned Americans, we, the undersigned, urgently request and strongly encourage the transfer of his case to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.”

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Confirming that the government had dropped the charges against the Binance boss, on Friday, Dare Adekanmbi, spokesman to the FIRS, said: “Please note that the charges are being dropped against the second and the third defendants in the matter,” adding that the accused had been confirmed not to be a decision-maker at the cryptocurrency firm.

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He said in a statement: “We are relieved that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has served and filed amended charges today, resulting in tax charges against Tigran Gambaryan being dropped. Further illustrating that Tigran is not a decision-maker at Binance and does not need to be held in order for Binance to resolve issues with the Nigerian government. We await the court’s ruling on this, discharging Tigran from this matter completely.”

Elsewhere in court, the Federal High Court sealed the freedom of the accused, whose ordeal began on February 28, with Justice Emeka Nwite, discharging him of all the charges, bothering on tax evasion charge preferred against the company by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Nwite, in a ruling, discharged and struck out the names of Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, who had since fled Nigeria, after escaping from detention, in March, after Moses Ideho, lawyer to the FIRS, filed a fresh amended charge wherein Binance is listed as sole defendant.

Gambaryan, who was in court during Friday’s proceedings, had stepped into the dock, when Tonye Krukrubo, SAN, who appeared for Binance (1st defendant), then informed the court that the cryptocurrency firm had just appointed a representative in Nigeria in the name of Ayodele Omotilewa.

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Ideho, who confirmed that his office received a notice of appointment of a representative by Binance, also told the court that the notice was dated June 13, 2024, appointing Ayodele Omotilewa as its agent in the country, adding that against the development, an amended four-count charge listing Binance Holdings Limited as sole defendant was filed on June 13 and therefore Omotilewa should be docked to take a plea on behalf of the company.

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But Krukrubo in vehement disagreement argued that the company’s representative was yet to be served with the fresh amended charge, said Omotilewa was only appearing in court for the first time, adding: “I think my learner friend should confirm whether he has served him or not first. We are not there yet. The prosecution has not served us with the amended charges. He ought not to enter the dock. He was appointed for specific purposes, to receive processes. He is one of us; a legal practitioner. The proper thing for the prosecution to do is to address the court on the charge he intended to substitute.

Also arguing in the same direction, C.J. Caleb, who appeared for Gambaryan, argued that law on criminal trial of a corporation did not contemplate that a corporation or its representative should be in the dock, while the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJA) Act, particularly Part 47, was very clear on how a trial should proceed in respect of a corporation.

“The Act also specifies all that is required for a representative in criminal trial in Sections 478 , 481, 482 and 483. So I align with my learner colleague that the representative is enough to be in court but does have to be in the dock,” he said.

Ideho, however disagreed, citing Section 481 of ACJA to back his argument, while adding: “If my lord is to look carefully at the provisions of this section and subsection, a representative cannot just sit in the gallery and watch like a spectator how the trial is conducted. He should be in the dock because this is a criminal charge not civil matter.”

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But, Krukrubo while jumping into the matter, argued that there was no where in the section cited by Ideho where it was said that a company’s representative must be in the dock, adding: Section 481 is written in black and white and it does not say that a representative of a corporation must be in dock. What he is saying is not contemplated by ACJA.”

When Nwite directed Ideho to move the latest application, the FIRS, lawyer, said: “We will like to amend and substitute the charge with the earlier one of May 17, 2024, which was our last amended charge my lord,” which neither Krukrubo, nor Caleb, opposed.

Subsequently, Caleb applied that the court should strike out the two earlier charges that listed his client, Gambaryan, as 2nd defendant, dated March 22 and the amended charge dated May 17, adding that Gambaryan should be discharged from the dock and from the proceedings in its entirety.

Nwite, before adjourning the matter to July 12 for pleas, granted the Federal Government’s request for the substitution of the June 13 amended charge for the May 17 one, set aside the earlier order, directing Gambaryan to be served on behalf of the company, and thereafter discharged him from the dock, while ordering parties to file written addresses as to whether Binance representative should be docked or not.

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NLNG signs agreement for new cooking gas vessel

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Shipping and Marine Services Limited (NSML), a subsidiary of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) and Temile Development Company Limited on Tuesday, signed a Vessel Management Agreement (VMA) to provide comprehensive vessel technical management services for the new 23,000 cubic metre LPG vessel, LPG Alfred Temile 10.

At a ceremony in Abuja, NSML’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Abdulkadir Ahmed, and Temile’s Chief Executive Officer, Alfred Temile, signed the VMA at the event, witnessed by Adegboyega Oyetola, Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, represented by Ekanem Ogegere Celia, Deputy Director, Cabotage and Shipping; Felix Omatsola Ogbe, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development & Monitoring Board; Andy Odeh, General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development; Salihu Jamari, Chief Investment Officer, NNPC Gas & Power Investment Services, among others.

Speaking at the milestone event, NSML’s MD, Ahmed, emphasised that NSML will leverage its expertise and resources to ensure the safe, reliable, and efficient operation of the Alfred Temile 10. He stated that the relationship with Temile Development Company started with the delivery of the first LPG vessel – LPG Alfred Temile – to NLNG in 2020.

“The relationship grew and continued with the construction, supervision and delivery of the 2nd LPG Vessel – Alfred Temile 10 – to Nigeria in March 2024. This momentous occasion represents our shared commitment to excellence, safety, and innovation in the maritime industry. It also represents the tenacious can-do-spirit of Mr Alfred Temile who has grown his LPG vessel fleet within a span of four (4) years. The Alfed Temile 10 is a testament to our dedication to operating a modern, efficient, and environmentally responsible fleet. With its cutting-edge design and technology, this vessel will set a new standard for LPG transportation in Nigeria and the West Africa,” he said.

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Also speaking at the event, Mr. Temile, stressed that the new vessel will play a critical role in gas transportation in Nigeria, enhancing the company’s capacity to deliver high-quality services while adhering to the highest standards of safety and environmental stewardship.

“We are confident that this partnership will set a new benchmark in the industry, and we are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. As we embark on this new chapter, we also anticipate further strategic investment decisions including a third gas carrier later this year, demonstrating our commitment to deliver sustainable growth and value to our shareholders and Nigeria,” he added.

The keynote speaker, Engr. Felix Ogbe, commended NSML and Temile Development Company for partnering together. He stressed that there was ample human capacity, resources and tenacity in-country to achieve great feats, calling for increased colloboration and cooperation in the maritime industry.

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Presidency to get two new aircraft for Tinubu, Shettima

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President Bola Tinubu and Vice President, Kashim Shettima, would be cruising in brand new aircraft soon, going by the indications coming from the National Assembly, which has announced its approval to allow the acquisition of two of the flying birds for the Presidency.

The House of Representatives, which gave indications on Wednesday, explained that the need to acquire the aircrafts was to ensure maximum security for the President and his deputy, as part of its findings after an audit of the presidential fleet currently serving the two principal officers of the nation.

The House relying on the recommendations of its committee on National Security and Intelligence, said: “The committee is of the strong and informed opinion that considering the fragile structure of the Nigerian federation and recognising the dire consequences of any foreseen or unforeseen mishap that may arise as a result of technical/operational inadequacy of the presidential air fleet, it is in the best interest of the country to procure two additional aircraft as recommended.

“This will also prove to be most cost-efficient in the long run apart from the added advantage of providing a suitable, comfortable and safe carrier befitting of the status and responsibilities of the office of the president and vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

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The investigation, which was sequel to the inability of the VP to travel with his aircraft in May this year owing to technical faults, was instigated by a motion by Satomi Ahmed, member from Jere Federal Constituency of Borno State, who had raised an alarm over the matter, on the floor of the House, leading to a comprehensive investigation being ordered by the members.

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Despite the heated debates over the matter, with some lawmakers, who were uncomfortable with the suggestion, citing the current poor economic situation in the country, urging the Tinubu and Shettima to use commercial aircrafts of travel by road, Ahmed explained that the proposal remained the best solution at the moment.

The committee had met the commanders of the Presidential fleet, when Shettima, was forced to use a chartered plane from the Netherlands to Saudi Arabia during his recent trip abroad, after initially cancelling a trip to the US to represent Tinubu at the 2024 US-Africa business summit.

Ahmed, who told reporters on Wednesday that the committee would set up a technical committee to interface with the officials at the presidential air fleet and come up with a resolution.

Reports say the six aircraft currently in the Presidential fleet, include one Boeing 737 (19 years old, currently unserviceable and undergoing maintenance); one Gulfstream G550 (13 years old, in good condition), one Gulfstream GV (23 years old, unserviceable); two Falcon 7Xs (one serviceable, one unserviceable); and one Challenger CL605 (12 years old, serviceable).

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The helicopter fleet includes two Agusta 139s (17 and 18 years old, both unserviceable); four Agusta 189s (no information on their condition).

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