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BREAKING: CSOs write off Imo, Kogi, Bayelsa polls *Say Nigeria fully back to dark days

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“The disturbing reports of high levels of results falsification and other forms of electoral irregularities in the governorship elections in the three States raise serious questions about the credibility of elections and the future of democracy in Nigeria,” were the words with which last Saturday’s elections were dismissed as a non-event by some critical observers.

The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room), one of the prime election observers in the country, while roundly condemning the outcome of the election, said in a statement, on Monday that it observed clear cases of falsification of result sheets and other electoral irregularities in the election, which took place in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states.

The group in giving a comprehensive report on the situation, said: “Nigerians had expected that the lessons learnt from the 2023 General elections by stakeholders, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), would have been taken to improve the conduct of these elections.

“Unfortunately, this seems not to be the case, as these elections have proved to be another huge disappointment. The governorship elections conducted in these States represent a major setback for Nigeria’s electoral democracy.”

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The body, while speaking on other processes, observed lapses in the actual operations of the election, saying: “Situation Room observers reported that voting commenced late in polling units visited Imo State only 29 per cent of the polling units had commenced voting by the official time of 8:30 am.

“According to reports of Situation Room observers, election officials did not turn up in several polling units in Ideato North and Ideato South LGAs and a few polling units in Orlu, Orsu, Okigwe and Oru East LGAs. The failure of INEC to turn up disenfranchised voters in the affected areas.

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“The situation was relatively different in Bayelsa and Kogi States, where 66 per cent and 86 per cent of the polling units observed commenced voting by the official time of 8:30 am. Voting in Bayelsa State was, however, affected by the incidents of the capsized boat in Southern Ijaw LGA and the abduction of INEC’s Supervisory Presiding Officer assigned to Registration Area 06 (Ossioma) in Sagbama LGA.”

“The BVAS functioned optimally in most polling units where it was used for accreditation in these States. However, Situation Room is concerned by reports of over-voting in the three States and INEC’s failure to apply the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 in addressing the menace last Saturday.

“Also, the inability of INEC to synchronise the record of accreditation by the BVAS with the Result Viewing Portal (IReV Portal) in real time despite improved access to internet broadband in Nigeria is questionable. By permitting the bypass of the BVAS, INEC has effectively rolled back the gains of electoral reform recorded in recent times.

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“The Situation Room received reports of falsification and mutilation of polling unit-level results in the three States. INEC had acknowledged incidents of pre-filled result sheets before the commencement of polls affecting 5 LGAs in Kogi State -Adavi, Ajaokuta, Ogori/Mangongo, Okehi and Okene. Regrettably, INEC has gone ahead to collate results from these LGAs without conducting any thorough investigation and making its findings public. This is condemnable.

“With respect to Imo State, the Situation Room is surprised to see INEC transmit results for polling units where the election was not held in the earlier mentioned LGAs. In Bayelsa, politicians attempted to exploit INEC’s weaknesses to tamper with results, especially in Brass, Sagbama, Southern Ijaw and Nembe LGAs.

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“These incidents question INEC’s integrity and the willingness and ability of the Commission to conduct credible elections. To ascertain the depth of the damage, Situation Room is calling on the Commission to release data of accredited voters as recorded on the BVAS and total votes cast on a local government basis in these States.”

The group also spoke on voter turnout during the exercise, stating: “Situation Room finds it hard to ascertain the most probable turnout of voters in these elections as a result of the reported irregularities, especially in Imo and Kogi States. Situation Room’s network of partners reported incidents of violence in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi States.

“In Bayelsa State, an observer of the Situation Room was chased out of the Ward Collation Centre in Ogbia township by personnel of the Nigerian Army, while an observer working with the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) was attacked and her phone confiscated by a party agent in polling unit 003, Ogboloma Town Square, Ward 11, Kolokuma LGA without any intervention from the security agents present at the polling unit.

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“Situation Room partners also reported 19 incidents of violence by noon on election day in the three States. These incidents of violence were recorded in Anyigba, Dekina LGA of Kogi State, Sagbama and Brass of Bayelsa State and Ikeduru LGA of Imo State.

“It will seem that security agents deployed for election duty, rather than help in securing the process and ensuring its integrity, they opted to collude with politicians and even in some cases, protected the politicians, enabling them to indulge in vote buying and other conducts that compromised the elections in these three states.

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“The commercialization of Nigeria’s elections appears to have reached unprecedented heights. Political parties and their agents operated openly and with impunity, distributing money in the purchase of votes without any effort from the security agents to contain it. Sums paid at polling units ranged from N1,000 to 30,000, along with cooked and uncooked food items. There has to be an effective mechanism to halt politicians weaponizing poverty to win elections in Nigeria.

“These elections represent a major setback in Nigeria’s democratic development. Situation Room calls on INEC to fully review the elections in Kogi and Imo States to identify the incidents of malpractice that took place and reflect the genuine vote of the people. Situation Room is reiterating its earlier call for an independent audit of election administration in Nigeria and compliance with electoral law by INEC. Without this, we are worried that not much improvement can be achieved.”

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Obi: Lagos-Calabar coastal highway, not now, may take 20-30 years

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Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), in the February 25, 2023 election on Monday, raised issues with the controversial Lagos-Calabar coastal highway awarded by the Federal Government to Hitech Construction, at the whopping amount of N13trillion, saying such a gigantic road project was not needed now at a time most of the Federal roads across the country are death-traps.

Obi, former Governor Peter Obi, who broke his silence for the first time over the project, since the news was first broken that the Federal Government had since awarded the contract, while acknowledging its potential benefits, expressed serious concerns about its pricing and raised questions regarding the timing and prioritization in the current Nigerian situation.

The LP boss, who highlighted the pressing issue of numerous uncompleted roads across the country, emphasising their role in economic growth and regional connectivity, maintained that the government should invest such huge resources to deal with the various roads across the country which were in various stages of disrepair, rather than plunging it into one road.

He listed critical roads in various zones, many of which have been under construction for several years due to poor funding and planning to include:

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  1. NORTH-WEST Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Road, – Sokoto – Funtua – Zaria Road, Kano – Hadejia Road, Kano – Katsina Road , Zaria – Funtua – Shema – Tsafe – Gusau – Talata – Mafara – Sokoto Road , Kano – Kwanar – Danja – Hadejia Road
  2. NORTH-EAST Kano – Damaturu – Maiduguri Road – Mubi – Maiduguri Road, Nguru – Gashua – Bayamari Road, Gombe – Biu – Numan Road, Dikwa – Marte – Monguno Road, Potiskum – Fika – Bajoga – Gombe – Biu Road, Mayo Belwa – Jada – Ganye – Tongue Road, Tumu – Pindiga – Kashere – Bashar – Wase – Wamba – Nassarawa Road.
  3. NORTH-CENTRAL Abuja – Lokoja – Okene – Auchi – Benin Road, Ilorin – Jebba Road, Kabba – Omuaran Road, Suleja – Minna Road, Makurdi – Gboko – Yandev – Katsina-Ala Road, Buruku Bridge across Katsina River.
  4. SOUTH-WEST Lagos – Badagry Road, Ibadan – Ife – Ilesha – Osogbo Road, Itoikin – Ijebu Ode – Ibadan Road, Ibadan – Ilorin – Jebba – Mokwa – Bokani Junction Road, Abeokuta – Ibadan Road, Ikorodu – Shagamu Road, Ado – Igede – Aramoko – Itawure Road, Ajasse Ipo – Offa – Erinle – Osun State Border Road.
  5. SOUTH-EAST: 9th Mile – Oturkpo -Makurdi Road, Enugu – Port Harcourt Road, Onitsha – Awka — Enugu Road, Onitsha – Owerri – Umuahia Road, Bende – Arochukwu – Ohafia Road, Okigwe – Afikpo Road, Nsukka – Obollo Afor – Ehamafu – Nkalagu Road, Oba – Nnewi – Okija Road.
  6. SOUTH-SOUTH: Benin – Sapele – Warri Road, East – West Road, (Warri – Kaiama – Ahoada – Port Harcourt – Eket – Oron) Yenegoa Road, Junction – Kolo – Otuoke Road, Sapele – Agbor – Ewu Road, Benin – Akure – Ore – Ife Road, Ikot Ekpene – Aba – Owerri Road, Jattau – Fugar – Agenebode Road, Bodo – Bonny Road with Bridge across Opobo Channel, Port Harcourt – Onne Road, Agbor – Sakpoba – Ogharefe Road, Odukpani Junction – Itu – Ikot Ekpene – Umuahia Road.
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With the Federal Ministry of Works allocating a capital budget of N892 billion for 2024, in addition to funding from multilateral loan projects and other sources, Obi questioned the wisdom of embarking on another massive project that may not be completed for the next 20 or 30 years.

He warned against exacerbating the problem of abandoned, incomplete projects that do not contribute to economic growth, urging the prioritisation of existing uncompleted projects, while emphasising the need to allocate resources towards repairing and completing vital infrastructure.

The former governor, who stressed the importance of focusing on the urgent needs of the people and ensuring that investments serve the collective good of the nation, advocated for prioritising the completion and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure over embarking on colossal new projects with uncertain completion timelines, adding that fiscal discipline and strategic prioritisation in addressing the country’s infrastructure challenges, must be paramount to leaders of the country.

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Fubara, Rivers assembly return to trenches! Lawmakers override gov on LG laws

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The seemingly unabating schism between Siminalayi Fubara, Governor and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, assumed another stage on Monday, with the lawmakers deciding to pass the local government Amendment Bill into law without the assent of the state governor,

The Assembly, in apparent defiance of the state High Court’s order directing the status quo on the issue of elongating the tenure of elected local government officials, which formed part of the amendment, went ahead to screen as well as confirm the chairman and other members of the Assembly Service Commission in the spirit of the new law.

Martins Wachukwu, spokesman of Martin Amaewhule, Speaker of the assembly, conveying the development in a statement, said the lawmakers made the decision at its 159th Legislative sitting held at the Assembly Quarters in Port Harcourt, which has since served as their sitting venue since the demolition of the main House of Assembly quarters by Fubara, last year.

Stating that Fubara declined assent to the Local Government (Amendment) Bill initially passed into law on March 13, 2024, by the House, the statement, said the lawmakers were bent on performing their constitutional duties and therefore decided to override the governor’s decision on the matter by a two-thirds majority.

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The statement read: “Determined to perform its Constitutional duties, the Bill was represented by the Majority Leader, Hon. Major Jack and debated upon by Members. Thereafter, the House in accordance with the provisions of Section 100(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as altered, which empowers the House to override the Governor, where he withholds his assent; the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Martin Amaewhule put the question, and with a two-thirds majority vote, the House agreed to override the Governor and passed the Bill into Law.”

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In another development, the House screened and confirmed nominees for the position of Chairman and Members of the Assembly Service Commission, including: Sampson Worlu as Chairman, Abinye Blessing Pepple, Blessing Belema Derefaka, Gbaranen Robinson, and Dorcas Amos as Members.

The statement recalled that on March 22, 2024, the House passed the Rivers State Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Bill into Law, wherein the House donated back to itself the power to appoint the Chairman and Members of the Assembly Service Commission.

The statement added: “On a sad note, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Amaewhule, announced the demise of Mr Lucky Amadi, the husband of the honourable Member for Obio/Akpor Constituency II, Hon. Emilia Lucky Amadi, and stated that Members would pay a condolence visit to their colleague.”

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BREAKING: Five days after sacking Ganduje, Kano judge reverses self

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Justice Usman Mallam Na’Abba, of the Kano State High Court, on Monday, reversed himself five days after making an order barring Abdullahi Ganduje National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), from parading himself or performing any official function in that capacity.

In vacating the order made ex-parte, following a plea by Haladu Gwanjo and Laminu Sani Barguma, who claimed to be the Chairman and Secretary of the APC Ganduje Ward in Dawakin Tofa Local Government area of the state, for the suspension of the former Governor of the state from his present job, Na’Abba said he relied on fresh arguments made on the matter.

The fresh applications were brought by Glory Adah, a litigation secretary at the law firm representing the APC boss in a motion ex-parte, accompanied by a 27-paragraph affidavit in support, and a written address dated April 22nd, countering the grounds of his previous orders.

Na’Abba, who adjourned the case to April 30 for the hearing, said: “An order of interim injunction is hereby granted staying the execution of the order of interim injunction contained in the ruling of this court delivered on 17h April 2024 directing parties to maintain status quo ante as at the 15th day of April 2024 in relation to the suspension of the 4th respondent/applicant from the 1st respondent by the Ganduje Ward Executive Committee pending the hearing and determination of the 4th respondent/applicant motion on notice.”

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