The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has refuted reports that the 2023 governorship election in Adamawa State was rigged in favour of Governor Ahmadu Fintiri.
There are speculations that INEC officials deployed to supervise the gubernatorial election in the state collaborated with the incumbent governor to rig the March 18 poll after an alleged nocturnal visit to the state Government House before the election.
In a statement, however, on Thursday, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, denied the report saying the commission is not partisan.
The statement reads: “The attention of the Commission has been drawn to a Press Statement by a candidate in the recently concluded Adamawa State Governorship election in which officials deployed for legitimate duty in the State were alleged to have undermined the electoral process after a discreet ‘nocturnal’ visit to the Government House and ostensibly met with one of the candidates in the election who gave them a list of ‘collation and returning officers’ deployed for the election.
“Ordinarily, the Commission does not join issues with partisan actors, particularly where no evidence has been provided.”
Okoye reiterated that there was no such visit or meeting as claimed in the said reports.
He also denied the alleged compilation of a purported list of collation and returning officers.
“Such a meeting would have been contrary to the oath of neutrality that we all swore to. Moreover, every conscientious observer would have noticed that the Commission appointed and retained only one Returning Officer for the Governorship election who also doubled as the State Collation Officer for the Presidential Election (SCOPE).
“Like all Returning Officers nationwide, he was issued with a letter of appointment by the Commission and the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Adamawa State was duly informed. The list of Collation Officers was also forwarded to the State with every page of the list personally endorsed by the Chairman of the Commission well ahead of the arrival of the National Commissioners,” Okoye said.
According to him, the same Press Statement created the impression that the Commission’s national headquarters specifically targeted Adamawa State in its deployment of National Commissioners and other officials with the sole intention of influencing the outcome of the supplementary election held on Saturday, 25th April 2023 and sidelining the REC.
“Nothing can be further from the truth. For the record, it has been the standard policy and practice of the Commission to deploy National Commissioners, RECs and other staff from the headquarters or neighbouring States for supplementary or off-cycle elections where doing so is considered necessary.
“In the case of Adamawa State where supplementary governorship election was held in 69 polling units, two National Commissioners were deployed while for Kebbi State involving 142 polling units, three National Commissioners were deployed. Similarly, one National Commissioner each was deployed to Sokoto, Zamfara, Imo, Rivers, Ekiti and Ogun States. This has been the standard practice of the Commission of which all RECs are informed in advance. Therefore, Adamawa State was not specifically targeted. In all other States, the RECs worked cooperatively with the National Commissioners except in Adamawa State for reasons that are now obvious to all.
“The public is advised to discountenance these insinuations as nothing more than a claptrap. We also advise those behind the mischief to desist forthwith as such fabrications have endangered the lives of our officials (both ad hoc and regular) engaged in legitimate election duties. We expect well-meaning citizens to act within the bounds of propriety and decency”, Okoye stated.