Eternal vigilance, they say, is the price for freedom. Nigerians appear to be on red alert mode as the country wobbles its way towards the 2023 elections. Although, still a clear five months away and campaigns have not formally commenced, allegations of bullying and plans to rig the polls have become widespread among both state and non state actors.
The barrage was opened by the notorious gun remark allegedly made by Kogi State Governor Alh, Yahaya Bello. While launching a program in Ihima, headquarter of Adavi Local Government, the Governor who spoke in Ebira, his mother tongue, said the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC must win 100% all elections in the state.
He was interpreted to have indicated that he was adept at handling a gun and would lead the fight against opposition politics. He allegedly threatened to burn opponents with fire light (ira chenyi in Ebira). Video of his comments went viral on social media.
Bello later modified the comments explainning that it was directed at criminals or trouble makers. Even at that, many groups called for his probe based on the horrible experience of Mrs Salome Abuh. She was an opposition women leader when she was set ablaze by thugs iaftermath of Bello’s second term election in 2019.
The dust raised by the Governor’s outbursts were yet to settle when the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, raised the alarm over an alleged grand plot to compromise outcome of the yet to be conducted polls. According to the whistle blower, legal hurdles, fake voters register and other surreptitious moves to force the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to breach constitutional standard of the polls are crystals of the plot.
CUPP spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, addressed a press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday. He revealed that a suit had been filed at Owerri to stop INEC from using the Biomodal Voters Accreditation System, BVAS, in the elections.
It was gathered that a Suit No. HOW/OW/CS/144/2022 Between NWANKWERE MORALE CHINWEN V. INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION & 1 ANOR was filed through Originating Summons by one O.J Abaziie at the Federal High Court, Owerri. The suit aims to frustrate the use of technology in the electoral process.
The CUPP spokesman added that the opposition also uncovered cases of fake voter registration by some politicians during the just-concluded Continuous Voter Registration ( CVR).
He explained that those concerned allegedly conducted their own CVR, using computer generated photos, noting that “they had access into the system and these fake registration have all passed through successfully into the data base.
“First, we commend the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and the commission for the bold step of internal cleansing of the voter register, which they have commenced using the Automated Biometric Identification System, ABIS.
“We state that the discovery we have made goes beyond the case of double registration. It is a case of monumental compromise of the national voter’s register. We, hereby, call on INEC to reassure Nigerians that the elections have not already been determined. We demand that the commission makes categorical commitments towards the protection of the sanctity of the ballot and restore the confidence of the Nigerian people in the electoral process.”
In a swift reaction on Thursday 15 September, the electoral umpire disconttenanced the CUPP alarm. It assured of its readiness to conduct a credible polls using BVAS and cautioned the group against misleading members of the public.
Its written response reads in part: “It is important to reiterate that no new registrant has yet been added to the Register of Voters for the 2023 General Election or will be included until these supplemental activities have been completed in line with the law.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we restate the main components of these activities. First, the Commission is conducting a comprehensive Automated Biometric Identification System, ABIS cleanup of the registration data by scrutinising every record.
“Based on the Electoral Act 2022, any record that does not meet all the criteria for inclusion as stipulated in Section 10, including the appearance in person by the registrant at the registration venue with proof of identity, age and nationality and our business rules requirements of an adequate number of fingerprints and clear pictures will be invalidated.
“Further, in line with Section 19(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, after the ABIS and clean up, the Commission shall appoint a period of seven days during which the register will be published for scrutiny by the public for objections and complaints.
“Finally, it is only after the cleanup and claims and objections have been completed that the final registration will be published.”
In a related development, Abaziie, the lawyer alleged to have filed the Owerri case has disowned it. In a terse statement he denied involvement in the matter. He said the suit was filed without his consent and the signature on the process is not his. He then provided a lead to the riddle.
“The person behind this unfortunate act is one Blessing Iwuajunwa, Esq, a colleague in Owerri who was the only person I have given my NBA stamp since this year and she told me that she needs the stamp to prepare a land instrument owing to unavailability of her stamp.
He denied knowing Nwankwere, the purported plaintiff in the Suit adding “he is not my client and neither did he brief me for any matter whatsoever.”