By Nsa Gill
…they should apologize before rerun is ordered
A stalwart of the All Progressives Congress APC in Cross River State Mr James Ebri has noted said that the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC is liable for the poor results recorded for the APC in the 2019 General Elections in the State.
Ebri who is one-time governorship candidate in the State for one of the defunct political parties in the country associated with Professor Wole Soyinka, noted that APC had no level playing ground as INEC, through the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, “jumped into the arena and weaponized the opponents against the APC. An act they must apologize publicly to Cross River people cancelled the polls and effect a re-run”.
He explained that “in less than 12 hours to the opening of polls on February 23, the REC, Frankland Briyai called a press conference and announced the delisting of APC candidates from the polls. INEC preferred to rely on a high court order over an Appeal Court Order. The REC jumped into the arena and acted in a partisan manner. Called a press conference to hand APC opponents tools to use. Both INEC and the opponents made use of the tools against the APC as even party agents were denied accreditation on the basis of the party no having candidates as claimed by INEC”.
He reiterated that teeming supporters of the APC and the entire electorate in Cross River State demand a public apology from INEC for meddlesomeness in the politics of General elections in Cross River State.
His words, “I am talking from even the national assembly elections where, in less than 12 hours before the polls, the REC came up to show that APC was not going to be part of that, and the law doesn’t not allow you, within 48 hours to come in a say that a party, cannot present candidates, and in any case, that letter, if there was any of such, it’s supposed to be that a silent thing. Even if a court gave an order, you as INEC don’t need to come and authenticate it with a letter. And say that the party doesn’t have candidates. It means you have more like, disenfranchised all the members and supporters of the party and its candidates. You gave the opposition party a tool to walk with. Saying that the party had no candidate. Even at the polling units, APC agents were being denied because of a-no-candidate-status-declaration. Some would say the agents are not authentic. On the basis of that, the party was completely disenfranchised from that election.”
Ebri also alleged the partial approach of the state REC noting that there were many instances of inconclusive elections which warranted a re-run but the REC denied such and even accepted some already cancelled results and cancelled some already documented ones.
He continued, “situations where you have elections not held like Etung, Boki and parts of Obubra, all of which they did not use the card reader, but were thumb printing, you could not even follow them up because the cover was that you had no candidate. So they were able to go away with it.”
“The elections were tilted against APC and INEC was conniving with PDP in Cross River State. INEC entered into the arena to play the game. They were those who caused APC to lose. APC did not have a level playing field in Cross River State.”
“It is coming to a situation whereby, subsequently, a party will sponsor problems within the opponent’s party and makes sure that on the last day, you are not able to settle because of a court case and by the last day, INEC will come and say you do not have a candidate. And INEC will exclude you. The situation must be nib on the bud.”
“The National Chairman of INEC owes Cross River State an apology over the letter that was written by the National Secretary of INEC and relied upon by the REC. Nothing short of an apology should be tendered and elections reordered.”
“INEC has a lot of people who are legally educated and they are in their legal departments in the states and at the national level. They should be able to know what a legal memo or order says. In this case, there was nothing binding in any court order against APC in Cross River State which says that the party cannot present candidates, but for the political advantage of a preferred opponent, the REC damned all moral reasoning and electoral provisions. He called a press conference few hours to open of polls, So we demand that an apology must be tendered and new elections ordered in Cross River State,” Ebri maintained.
He insisted that “there must be a complete fresh National Assembly elections in Cross River State. When APC won in Abi/Yakkur Federal Constituency, they came up to say that it is not Alex Egbonna, meanwhile, they had a list the party had submitted. And the Appeal Court granted the stay of execution over the High Court Order, demanding that Status quo be maintained. INEC did not have any second list to consider from the National Working Committee of the APC. They just put the confusion to favour the PDP”.
“In my constituency, at Mkpani Agbagansan ward in Yakurr local government area, we found out that after voting, they had collated at the ward level, and the results sheets were there, suddenly they came up to say there were some errors in two wards because they looked at votes that had been entered. It was not favourable to their wish and they would not allow those votes in. There was another instance in Nko area where the put cancelled on the final results after it was declared at the ward level. They cancelled about 7,000 votes in Yakurr state constituency 2 and went ahead to declare the winner with only 300 votes difference. What it means is that if you insist on cancelling the 7,000 votes, you should not declare a winner with only 300. What should have been done is a re-run”.
Ebri acknowledged that going to “the tribunal may be the option but as a follow-up, we are saying that all the elections were compromised. The bigger option is to cancel the entire results of Cross River State. Even the governorship elections were compromised by massive thumb printing in various locations which I know and at the appropriate time, they will be able to know that was what happened”.
Asked if he was confident that APC would have won, given a level playing ground, he responded, “I cannot say that APC would have won if there was a level playing ground, but what I am saying is that they should have given a fair chance to all.”
“There are so many constituencies and areas where votes were cancelled which required re-run but INEC took a partisan decision against it. We don’t want to benefit from fraud but with what has happened in CRS, if it is not nib in the bud, there will be a continuous occurrence.”