Tuesday, March 24, 2015 6:19 pm
*Party decries multi-pronged moves to rig Saturday’s polls
The opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, has expressed alarm about the various moves by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to get Saturday’s election go its way, even if it will mean flagrantly violating the country’s constitution.
Our sources said, the party hawks have intensified their plans, after Monday’s setback, in which a Federal High Court categorically ruled out of order, the deployment of soldiers for election duties.
No sooner Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court gave his ruling in the case filed by Femi Gbajabiamila, the minority leader in the House of Representatives, than the party, acting through surrogates vowed to pursue another case before the judge seeking to stop Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from using the card reader for the election.
The party may file a new action in case Buba rejects its prayer. To this end, it is said to be desperately shopping for a pliant judge, both in Lagos and Abuja that will give a ruling before Friday to stop INEC from using the card reader.
So far, the electronic card reader has been tested and INEC has vowed to use it on Saturday to reduce electoral fraud, multiple voting and other ills that normally plagued elections in Nigeria. But the PDP that is accused of being the greatest beneficiary of the widespread fraud has been canvassing through its governors and militant groups working for it to stop its use, including for the outright the sack of the recalcitrant INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega.
“Their plan is to get an order on Thursday or Friday, to tie INEC’s hands. We have it on good authority that INEC has promised to obey any court order on the issue and use the temporary voters card instead,” said a leader of one of the opposition parties, who spoke on Tuesday.
A Federal High Court in Abuja, presided over by Justice Adeniyi Ademola on 20 March stayed proceedings in the card reader challenge filed by four parties, following an appeal by the APC.
In Warri, Delta State, the local Nigeria Bar Association has dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, before a Federal High Court in the oil city, seeking an order to guard against any attempt to prevent the commission from employing its voters card reading machines, VCRMs, in the general elections.
The case is before Justice Abubakar Shittu and hearing date has been fixed for 26 March, two days to the election.
Waliu Taiwo, a member of the party, filed the case before Justice Buba in Lagos.
In suit FHC/C/CS/296/15, Taiwo asked for a restraining order against the INEC from using the Card Readers during the elections.
Vice President Namadi Sambo was quoted recently as saying that the INEC would have no choice, but comply once a court rules against the use of Card Readers for the elections.
As at 21 March, out of 68 million voters registered, 56.4 million have collected their PVCs, representing 82 per cent of the voters. There are millions of cards awaiting collection in many states of the Federation. Collection of the cards officially closed on 22 March, but even then INEC said the cards would be given to their owners till 27 March.
The opposition is also worried about the moves by the PDP to employ the coercive power at its disposal to intimidate opposition leaders, arrest them on trumped up charges and restrict their movement on or before Election Day. The party deployed the tactics during the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, arresting leaders, including youth leaders of the All Progressives Congress in many local council areas. In one instance in Ekiti, the man who was to pay party agents was arrested on the eve of the election, with the money he was to use on Election Day.
Sources said that in Lagos, the GOC has ordered armoured tanks to be deployed to the home of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Bourdillon Road in Ikoyi. Soldiers posted there are said to be under instruction to ‘shoot him’ if he plays tough.
Despite the order by Justice Buba in Lagos on Monday, soldiers are in deployment in some parts of the country. Today, in Ila-Orangun, Osun State, a heavy presence of soldiers was noticed in the town. The fierce looking soldiers, armed to the teeth ordered drivers and passengers down from their vehicles and asked them to trek with ‘hands raised”.
Part of what the opposition labelled the PDP desperate strategy was also to impose curfew on Lagos and many parts of the country, to curtail the movement, most especially of opposition leaders.
Apprehensions of PDP possible crackdown on opposition elements, informed a special message by President Barack Obama of the United States, to Nigerian leaders and the people, appealing for a credible, peaceful, fair poll, free of fear and intimidation.
“For elections to be credible, they must be free, fair and peaceful. All Nigerians must be able to cast their votes without intimidation or fear. So I call on all leaders and candidates to make it clear to their supporters that violence has no place in democratic elections—and that they will not incite, support or engage in any kind of violence—before, during, or after the votes are counted,” Obama said.
It is not clear if President Jonathan and his PDP hawks are heeding Obama’s admonitions.