JUSTICE Inyang Ekwo has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to go ahead with the collation of result in Tafawa Balewa local government area of Bauchi State.
This is following an application filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bauchi State chapter and the Governor of the State, Mohammed Abubakar on Tuesday.
Justice Ekwo ordered INEC not to proceed with the scheduled resumption of collation until the matter has been determined. The hearing of the case was fixed for Wednesday, March 20.
INEC had issued a statement on Saturday saying that it would resume the collation exercise in the Bauchi gubernatorial election on Tuesday. The election had earlier been declared inconclusive because the number of cancelled votes in some polling units were higher than the margin between the two leading candidates. The returning officer announced that a supplementary election would be conducted to establish a clear winner in the election.
However, following further investigations, INEC said it discovered that the number of cancelled votes was tampered with. “The number of cancelled votes for the four polling units in Ningi Local Government Area, which was recorded as 25,330 in form EC40G (1) was incorrect. The actual figure is 2,553,” the commission stated.
It was based on the findings of the investigation that INEC said it would no longer conduct a supplementary election in Bauchi State, but would rather go ahead with the collation of result and the subsequent announcement of a winner.
This development, however, did not go down well with Governor Abubakar and his party, the APC, who, as at the time the election was declared inconclusive, was trailing behind the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, Bala Mohammed.
Abubakar insisted that once the returning officer has made a pronouncement, only the election petitions tribunal can upturn such pronouncement.
The Governor was at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa on Monday to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the development and reiterate that he would challenge INEC’s decision in court.
“Where a Returning Officer has declared the result, only an election petition tribunal can reverse the result,” Abubakar insisted. “INEC is attempting to reverse itself in the case of Bauchi. And when one juxtaposes that of Bauchi and other states with inconclusive elections, one wonders why that is happening only in Bauchi State.
“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 a duly constituted court of the land. I am a lawyer and I am pursuing the legal angle.”
Meanwhile, INEC has announced the suspension of the scheduled resumption of the Bauchi State gubernatorial election result collation exercise.
As at Tuesday morning when the court judgement was delivered, the venue for the exercise has been set up at the INEC headquarters in Bauchi. Heavy security presence was noticed around the area while supporters of some political parties were seen at the premises waiting for the commencement of the collation exercise.
But Ibrahim Abdullahi, the Bauchi state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), addressed a press briefing later in the day saying that the exercise has been suspended.
“I am to inform you formally that the Independent National Electoral Commission is in receipt of a court order restraining it from proceeding with the collation and announcement of results in respect of Tafawa Balewa only,” Abdullahi told pressmen.
“I’m also to add that the order which was sort and granted does not include the Tafawa Balewa constituency, hence we will make arrangements to continue with the state constituency collation and subsequently announce the results.”