The Independent National Electoral Commission, on Thursday, declared the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Godwin Obaseki, the winner of the Wednesday, September 28 Governorship Election in Edo State.
A short but heavy rain momentarily dispersed a crowd that had started gathering at the popular Ring Road in the state capital.
The APC supporters later regrouped to celebrate the victory in the keenly contested election, where Obaseki defeated the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
The APC candidate polled 319,483 votes to defeat Ize-Iyamu of the PDP, who scored 253,173 votes in the election.
Soremekun said Obaseki “having satisfied the requirement of the law, scored the highest number of votes, is hereby declared the winner and is returned elected.”
The announcement of the results was, however, not without a drama.
Soremekun fought off stiff resistance from the PDP’s State Agent, Mr. Chris Agbonwanegbe, who refused to sign the final result sheet.
Agbonwanegbe had, during the collation of results, demanded the cancellation of the election.
When called to sign the final results, he protested that the results were “rehearsed and produced.”
The submission jolted Soremekun, who could not hide his shock.
Agbonwanegbe said, “Mr. Chairman, please don’t disagree with me; let us say it the way it is.
“The theatre has been on for some time, it has now been finally produced. I can’t endorse it (final result). I want it to be on record that I refused to endorse it. I can’t sign this document.
“I made a request that you should look at the collation of Etsako West and other local governments, you said I should go to court instead of looking at it. Even when some of your officers said they were threatened with guns. I can’t endorse the result”
While the collation of the results from the local governments was going on, angry supporters of the PDP stormed the INEC’s office in Benin.
The protesters alleged that INEC connived with the APC to manipulate the results of the governorship poll.
They sang solidarity songs to protest alleged cancellation of results of some poling units and manipulation of result sheets by INEC officials.
They brandished placards with inscriptions such as “Oshiomhole must go”, “Ize-Iyamu won the poll”, “Peace not war, INEC,” and “Poll results unacceptable to us.”
Riot policemen, stationed in front of the INEC office, tried to pacify the protesters to no avail while a police helicopter hovered in the sky to monitor the situation.
One of the PDP leaders, who led the protesters was the Senator representing Edo South Senatorial District, Matthew Urhoghide.
Addressing journalists at the INEC’s office, Urhoghide said, “I came here to tell the Resident Electoral Commissioner about my disgust about the results that the commission has been announcing. I voted at Ward 2, Unit 9, Oredo Local Government Area.
“The exercise was very peaceful there and there was no record of violence. I was, however, surprised to hear INEC say that results of two units in the ward were cancelled owing to electoral violence. I felt highly dehumanised and disenfranchised.
“The figures they are brandishing now do not correspond with the large turnout of voters yesterday. We hereby demand that the result of the cancelled units should be announced.”
As of 11.am, the protesters had increased in number, and were becoming more aggressive.
After results had been announced for nine of the 18 local government areas in the state, the INEC officials announced a break. This further aggravated the supporters.
The police deployed in the area fired canisters to disperse the angry protesters. Many residents, who were observing the exercise, scampered for safety.
On resumption, the Collation Officer for the Etsako West Local Government Area, Prof. Adewole Atere, while defending the cancellation of 10,158 votes in some polling units, alleged that Obaseki’s running mate, Philip Shuaibu, threatened to attack INEC officials at collation centre.
He said this while reacting to an allegation by the APC State Agent, Samson Abu, that he (Atere) mutilated the result sheet for the area during the announcement of local government results at the state headquarters of the commission.
Abu had protested the cancellation of results in Wards 5, 7, 11 and 12, where he said his party’s candidate was popular.
He stated, “The collation officer, from the record before me from our agents, the result sheet was mutilated by you, if you can produce it and sample it for everybody here to see. For example, in Ward 5, three units (were) cancelled. In Ward 11, units 1, 5, 6, 12, 15, 16 cancelled. In Ward 12, two units cancelled. In Ward 7, one unit cancelled.
“The excuse you gave our agent was that as a result of error in calculation committed by you. You know, in these areas, I suspect foul play, although I’m not from that place, because the running mate to the APC governorship candidate is from there and is very popular.
“All the areas that you cancelled the votes for one reason or the other are the areas that harbour the family of the running mate to the APC governorship candidate.”
But Atere said, “I thought we would just allow the sleeping dog to snore. It was the same candidate of yours who accosted the CO in Unit 11 with about six guns and drove him (CO) to the corner of the collation centre, forcing him to mutilate. I did not mutilate any paper; my papers are here.
“Number two, this same candidate went to the office of INEC to repeat the same thing on the electoral officer and later came to the collation centre, where I served with 10 gun-toting men, threatening to kill all of us.
“I want to say that this same candidate several times told the man, who handled that Ward 11, that he was a dead man. He repeated it three times and that was why we managed to put him (electoral officer) on the security vehicle to get him to Benin City here.”
When asked by the Action Alliance candidate, Ishaka Paul, if he reported the incident to the police, Atere said, “For the case of the man who handled Ward 11, all the security men deserted him. For the EO, he was locked up in his room. In our own case, we were rescued by the men of the quick intervention force, who drove the Auchi vigilante people out of the place. They were actually coming for me, when the men of quick intervention came in. So, the police are aware of it.”
Meanwhile, the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP said that its agents were currently collating results of the governorship election.
Spokesperson for the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led committee, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Wednesday.
He said the committee would react to the result by INEC on Friday.
Adeyeye added, “We are collating the results of the election as obtained by our agents.
“When we finish doing that, we shall react to the release of the result by INEC tomorrow (today). For now, we have no reaction.”
Also, the factional National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, said he had not accepted the result of the election, adding that his reaction might not be different from the general position adopted by the majority members of the PDP.
He stated this in a statement by his media aide, Inuwa Bwala.
“We have had situations in the past where results were released via the media only for the official results to turn out otherwise,” Sheriff stated.
Ize-Iyamu, rejects results, cite irregularities
Also, Ize-Iyamu rejected the result of the governorship election, describing it as predetermined.
The PDP candidate said the result of the election, held across the 18 local government areas, did not reflect what was collated by agents of the party and independent observers.
He also alleged that there were irregularities during the exercise, adding that a plot was orchestrated to ensure that the PDP lost the election.
According to him, before the earlier scheduled date of the election, serial numbers of result sheets were allegedly released to parties on September 8, adding that that information was used to write fake results.
Ize-Iyamu was flanked by the state Chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, who declared that the results announced by the presiding officers at different polling units revealed that the PDP was ahead of the ruling APC by a minimum of 30,000.
Orbih further alleged that in areas, where the PDP was declared winner, the party’s votes were removed on the excuse of faulty card readers, a plot he said the party had alerted Nigerians and other relevant stakeholders on.
Ize-Iyamu, a former Secretary to the State Government in Edo State, also alleged that between N3bn and N4bn was spent by the state government to induce voters in the presence of security agents on Election Day.
Ize-Iyamu explained, “The delay in announcing the official result by INEC was clearly predetermined and designed to announce fabricated results that are completely at variance with what happened at the units.
“To show that the result was predetermined, if you look at the result, it does not even reflect the huge turnout they (APC) even attested to. Even their national chairman commended the huge turnout.
“The result was written without taking into cognizance the huge turnout. We have told our agents to bring out their results; we do not want to rely on the messages sent to us.
“In the next three or four days, we shall have the complete record of the results. I can, however, tell you that from our findings, a lot of manipulation took place.”
No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari
The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.
The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.
Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.
Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.
Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.
According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.
In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.
This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.
King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.
She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.
“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”
It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador
Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.
He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.
China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week
China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.
“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”
China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”
“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”
The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.
Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.
Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.
“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.
Lawmakers Tensed Over Possible Boko Haram Attack On National Assembly
Lawmakers have been notified of a possible attack by Boko Haram insurgents on the National Assembly complex and other public buildings in Abuja, The media gathered.
Several members of the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, confirmed to Punch correspondent that they had been notified of the imminent attack by the terrorist group.
One of them, who is from a state in the South-West, said his presence would henceforth be limited on the premises.
“That is the security alert I saw today. I’m already moving out of here. I’ll only be around when there is a major reason to do so. Nowhere is safe in the country anymore,” he said.
Already the notice of the impending attack has been made available to the lawmakers.
The notice, a copy of which our correspondent obtained, was sent to the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, other principal officers and all members of the House.
The ‘security alert’, dated May 4, 2021, was issued by the Chairman of the House Committee on Internal Security, National Assembly, Mr. Usman Shiddi.
It was titled ‘Re: planned insurgent attacks on VIP locations, government facilities and assets in Abuja.’
The alert read, “I refer to the above subject of which a copy of the intelligence report from the Force Intelligence Bureau of the Nigeria Police Force in the National Assembly Complex has been made available to my office.
“The report indicates planned insurgent attacks by some elements of Boko Haram on some VIP locations, government facilities and assets in Abuja, including the National Assembly complex.
“In view of the above intelligence, I have considered it paramount to advise that all members should, henceforth, use the presidential gate for ingress and egress.
“This is to avoid the unforeseen congestions that are sometimes encountered at the main gates since such congestions could easily be the targets for these insurgent elements.
“Security agencies are, however, actively on top of the issue to unravel and to contain the intended menace. Accept the assurances of my highest regards, please.”
Security has been beefed up in and around the complex since Thursday last week.
For the first time, security operatives on that day checked vehicles entering the premises, causing traffic congestion especially at the third (and last) gate, a process that has continued to date.
Before now, the security operatives were only after the identities of drivers and passengers to confirm that they were staff members, legislative aides, journalists, or persons working in private businesses in the complex.
The media correspondent observed that soldiers joined the regular sergeants-at-arms and men of the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps that manned the gates.
Recall that the Governor of Niger State, Sani Bello, had on April 26, 2021, raised the alarm over Boko Haram terrorists taking over a part of the state, hoisting their flag in Kaure village from where they had made incursions into more than 50 villages.
Bello said Abuja was not safe, with Boko Haram’s presence in Kaure – a two-hour journey from the Federal Capital Territory.
He said, “I am confirming that there are Boko Haram elements here in Niger State. Here in Kaure, I am confirming that they have hoisted their flags here.”
The same day, Gbajabiamila had met with the President, Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, in company with the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa.
On the next day, the House held a long executive (closed-door) session to discuss the rising spate of insecurity across Nigeria, calling on Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security.
At the secret session that lasted over three hours, the lawmakers unanimously adopted a series of resolutions, one of which was that “the Federal Government should ensure the protection of national infrastructure and assets, particularly the Shiroro and Kainji Dams in Niger State.”
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