The controversy trailing the 2019 presidential election assumed a new dimension yesterday as 60 presidential candidates who took part in the February 23 election rose in defence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and absolved it of all blames and shortcomings in the conduct of the election and transmission of results.
The candidates, operating under the aegis of the Joint Forum of 60 Presidential Candidates of 2019 Elections and Political Party Chairmen, said that given the “unfavourable and hostile environment” that INEC operated and the extant laws under which the elections were conducted, the election management body performed creditably well.
Chairman of the Forum and presidential candidate of the Advanced People’s Democratic Alliance, Alhaji Shittu Mohammed Kabir, said the forum would commend rather than condemn INEC for its performance in the conduct of the 2019 elections, adding that the identified shortcomings in the elections were due to some extraneous factors beyond the control of the electoral umpire.
He said that the current controversy over the INEC server and whether there was electronic transmission of results were unnecessary as INEC had told all the political parties before the elections that results would be transmitted and collated manually.
“In the build-up to the elections, we as Presidential candidates and our political parties held several meetings with INEC. The delay in finalizing the electoral legal framework and the eventual withholding of assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill deprived the nation of the much-needed reform of our electoral process which must be anchored on the rule of law.
“The needless controversy over the INEC server would have been lawful if it had been mandatory for the commission to deploy the server. We are aware that INEC had run pilots on electronic transmission of results. It had informed us that these pilots were deployed in Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections.
“However, INEC informed all political parties in the election following the withholding of assent by the President that it would not deploy the electronic transmission of results since it would not be lawful to do so.
“We must inform Nigerians now that the PDP was represented in those meetings and we do not know why they are heating up the polity with the server story,” he said.
Kabir described the INEC server controversy as a deliberate ploy by the PDP to destroy the credibility and integrity of the electoral process.
“Parties agreed on a lot of issues with the commission and those were implemented. It is worrisome that only one political party, out of 91, is saying a different thing on the Presidential election while at the same time praising its performance on the other elections, especially governorship, conducted by the same INEC. We hereby unequivocally reaffirm our confidence in INEC for its performance against all odds in the conduct of the 2019 general election,” he said.
The forum urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sign the Electoral Act Amendment into law once it is presented to him again by the National Assembly.
Prominent among the presidential candidates at the news conference were Alhaji Isa Dansaki (MMN), Moses Ayibionu (NUP), Nwokeafor Ikechukwu (ACD), Shittu Mohammed (APDA), Dr. Hajiya Rabia Cengiz (NAC), Danjuma Muhammad (MRDD), Dr. Kenneth Ibe Kalu (UPC), Tosho Babatunde (NEPP) and Bawa Umar Yusuf of Kowa Party.
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