The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has reacted to the suspension of the collation of the results of Saturday’s governorship elections in Enugu and Abia states.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Monday, ordered the suspension of results collation in two local government areas of Enugu State over alleged irregularities.
The two affected local government areas in Enugu State are Nsukka and Nkanu East.
Festus Okoye, the spokesperson for the INEC, said in a statement on Monday, that collation of the governorship results from the two areas was suspended due to reports from state collation officials calling for the review of the governorship election in the areas.
Similarly, Mr Okoye, a lawyer, said the commission also suspended the collation of the governorship election results in Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State over alleged attack and invasion of its local government office by suspected thugs in the area.
PDP speaks on Enugu
Reacting to the development, the PDP campaign organisation in Enugu State criticised the INEC for the decision, arguing that the commission lacked the power, by law, to suspend the declaration of already collated results.
The spokesperson for the PDP campaign council in the state, Nana Ogbodo, said this at a press conference on Monday.
Mr Ogbodo said INEC was also wrong to present Abia and Enugu cases as the same. He pointed out that unlike the case of Abia, the results from 17 local government areas of Enugu State had been collated since Sunday and only remaining to be tallied to declare the winner.
“That is why we are saying that INEC is overreaching itself, they have no powers at this stage to suspend the pronouncement or declaration of the winner of the election, which is our candidate,” he said.
He added, “Section 64 (8) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that where collation has been completed as in the present case of Enugu State, the duty of the collation officer, who collated the result is to announce the result and make a declaration.
“Therefore, having collated the results from Nsukka LGA and Nkanu East LGA, the statutory duty and legal responsibility of the state returning officer is simply to announce and declare the results, as INEC cannot, by law, suspend the declaration of the result already collated.”
During collation of the results on Sunday, some agents of other political parties had demanded the cancellation of the results from the Nkanu East Council Area on the basis that the number of votes cast exceeded the number of accredited voters in the area.
But the spokesperson for the PDP campaign said, even in such a situation, Section 51 (2) of the Act did not permit a returning officer to cancel any results at the stage of collation.
“The only option open to any person dissatisfied with the process is to resort to Section 130 91) of the Electoral Act, which vests the power to receive and adjudicate petitions complaining of an undue election or return in an election in the tribunal or court,” he said.
He added that the PDP was dissatisfied with the results from Nsukka, Udenu, Isi-Uzo, Ezeagu Local Government Areas but would challenge the results at “appropriate quarters” later, and not at the stage of collation.
“We therefore call on INEC to immediately announce the summation of the 17 local government areas it has already collated and declare Peter Ndubuisi Mbah the winner of the March election,” Mr Ogbodo added.
Meanwhile, based on the results announced on Sunday, the race for the Enugu governorship is a close one between the PDP and the Labour Party with the PDP having a narrow lead.
Party speaks on Abia
Also reacting to the suspension of the collation of the governorship election in Abia State, the PDP in the state said it was shocked and disappointed that the INEC would take such a decision in the state after the results had passed through polling unit, ward and local government collation processes.
The chairperson of the PDP in the state, Asiforo Okere, in a statement on Monday, said the party was not aware of any report from security agencies in the state indicating violence in Obingwa Council Area during and after the Saturday’s election to justify the suspension of collation.
READ ALSO: INEC headquarters suspends collation of governorship results in Enugu, Abia
“We suspect strongly that this so called review is another grand design to subvert the 2022 electoral guidelines, as published by INEC in our state given that in the case of presidential elections, PDP and other parties made similar calls for review without acceptance by INEC that simply asked them to go to court,” he said.
Mr Okere also claimed that there were reports that some INEC officials were held hostage in Ohafia, Umuahia South and Umuahia North local government areas but that the commission still accepted results from the areas.
He said the PDP and other political parties had complained about results that were allegedly changed at INEC office in Umuahia particularly in Umuahia North, Umuahia South, Osisioma, Aba North, Aba South and Arochukwu local government areas. But the commission did not take any action.
“We therefore call on INEC to immediately accept and announce Obingwa LGA results as collated from units through the wards, using the same guidelines and rules they applied during the 2023 presidential election,” the PDP chairperson added.
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