Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar, has been told by president Buhari to go to court to challenge the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission to resume the collation of the results of March 9 governorship polls in the state.
The governor, who said INEC’s decision was “illegal,” spoke on his next line of action after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday at the Presidential Villa.
Gov. Mohammed Abdullahi of Bauchi State on Monday visited the Presidential Villa barely 24 hours after the Presidency distanced President Muhammadu Buhari from the activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
After a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa on Monday, March 18, Governor Abubakar said he’s considering legal action against INEC for interfering with the decision of the returning officer, Prof. Mohammed Kyari.
“I am a lawyer and I am pursuing the legal angle. I briefed him and he emphasised on that legal angle that it is the best way to go,” he said.
He said INEC’s decision is “extra illegal” because only a court could take the decision that it did by cancelling the supplementary election after the initial inconclusive verdict.
“It is a straight forward matter. The returning officer is the final arbiter even with respect to scores and declaration of result. And once he makes a declaration, no power can reverse that declaration except duly constituted court of the land,” he said.
The governor said he briefed President Buhari about the situation without expecting any special favours as the decision has the potential of touching on the security of the state.
He expressed confidence that he would win the supplementary election over his opponent who is in the lead and could end his second term ambition when the collation of results is resumed on Tuesday, March 19.
The governor had met with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo last week and declined to speak on the outcome of the meeting.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the closed door meeting with president, the governor revealed that he briefed the president on the latest political development in Bauchi state.
However, the Presidency in a statement by Malam Garba Shehu on Sunday said the president had vowed never to interfere in the forthcoming re-run elections in some states, describing it as unfair and ridiculous criticisms of President Buhari’s apparent disinterest in the exercise.
“Past Presidents of Nigeria were known to interfere in inconclusive elections, and that is why party members appear to be upset that the same thing is not happening now, but President Buhari is a different kind of leader.
“He swore to defend the constitution and will not veer off from that. The constitution of Nigeria gives the President no such powers,’’ the statement said.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had, on Friday, decided to resume the collation of the governorship election result in Bauchi State and may declare the winner of the poll, hitherto ruled as inconclusive along with five other states across the country.
The decision by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to resume collation and announcement of result for Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, which was hitherto cancelled, has sparked huge controversy in Bauchi State.
Consequently, diverse groups have reacted to the development.
The Body of Bauchi Lawyers of Conscience (BOBOLAC) had backed INEC’s reversal of the cancellation of the votes of the Governorship polls of Tafawa Balewa Local government area saying “We consider INEC’s decision as the best and most proper thing to do under the circumstances”
Addressing Journalists on Monday over the development, the convener of the body, Shipi Rabo Esq, said INEC acted in accordance with the dictates of the law and in the greater interest of all in taking the decision in question.
Shipi therefore called on all political actors to demonstrate the support, cooperation and understanding necessary for INEC to successfully conclude the process and formally announce the winner so the waiting game characterized by tension, rumours, would be over.
Meanwhile, the Concern Citizens, Tafawa Balewa, has opposed and INEC’s decision saying it is “Ultra Vires” contrary to law and therefore illegal with no regards to the provision of Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and INEC guidelines for 2019 general elections.
The group stated that INEC has no power to reverse any decision taken by a Returning officer concerning election result at the collation centre.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, the Caretaker Chairman of the Concern citizens of Tafawa Balewa, Salihu Barau, said the law provides that such a decision can only be reversed by a court of law or Tribunal and not the Commission for whatever reason.
“There is no certainty on the genuineness of the allegedly generated results. Thus, we have lost confidence in INEC as it is apparent there would be no justice in the whole exercise.”
It would be recalled that a fact-finding committee was set up by the commission to investigate the circumstances that led to the cancellation of results for Tafawa Balewa Local government and following the findings of the committee, INEC had approved the resumption and conclusion of results for Tafawa Balewa in relation to the Governorship election.
The Commission also directed that error in total number of cancelled votes in four polling units in Ningi Local government area which was recorded as 25,330, in form EC40G (i) be corrected to 2,533.
The ruling All progressive Congress, APC, in Bauchi State is currently trailing the opposition People’s Democratic Party and its candidate, Bala Muhammed, with 4,059 votes.
The APC and the incumbent governor, Mohammed Abubakar scored 465,453 votes against the PDP’s 469,512 votes.
419 votes were rejected while 45,312 votes were cancelled but with the error of cancelled votes discovered in Ningi Local Government where the number of cancelled votes in four polling units were recorded as 25,330, in lieu of 2,533, the cancelled votes has been reduced to 22,515.
The collation process which will commence on Tuesday 19th March will definitely determine if there would be a rerun or not.