Akwa Ibom Election Tribunal- The 12 Weeks Show Of Shame & Absurdity For The Forensics Exercise By Imoh Umoh
It’s been court order after court order from Uyo to Abuja as the INEC Uyo team makes a mockery of the institution that the survival of our democracy is hinged upon.
The Petitioner whose constitutional right it is to conduct a forensic examination on the election materials has spent 12 weeks on trying to conduct a simple exercise that should take 2 weeks maximum. It has been a cat and mouse game since May 15th 2015 as INEC Uyo and the PDP have used every trick unimaginable to frustrate the process. This is not only illegal but it is a great evil against us as a people, as any society that condones such flagrant abuse of the law can never secure the lives of those it exists to protect. Since the last court order given on Wednesday July 22 that mandated the Petitioner be given an extra 4 days due to the delays caused by the perennial non-compliance of INEC Uyo and the Sallah holidays, the forensic team have been at the institute since July 23 to start work at 8am. But the usual delay tactics are deployed as the Electoral Officer’s come late and the forensic team is not given access to the materials until after 11am. Then the forensic team are made to close at 6pm given them less than the 8 hours per day required to work. This of course makes it impossible to accomplish the herculean task of scanning thousands of ballot papers across the 31 LGA’s in a bid to ensure they don’t get a viable sample size to work with.
What is even more mind boggling is how the PDP who is a Respondent and who’s role in the Forensic exercise is to primarily observe the process were strangely given priority to determine how the process is carried out. It even gets worse as their role has been transformed from observers to conducting the forensics exercise alongside the Petitioner. What is really shameful and absurd is how the PDP began to insist that the forensic team must scan at their pace. This meant that as each bag of ballot papers per polling unit is being scanned by the forensic team, the PDP insisted they could not move on to scan another polling unit until they were done scanning the polling unit the team just concluded.
The question is how can INEC Uyo allow the Respondent (PDP) control the process that they are only meant to observe in the first place? How can they reduce their role as an electoral umpire to be facilitating vile delay tactics to make a mockery of an institution that should be respected? How can INEC Uyo be given so much room to manipulate the process in Abuja and the INEC Headquarters (HQ) is rendered useless as the materials remain in the sole custody of INEC Uyo? Even though the main reason on June 24 that the Judge ordered the materials to be brought to Abuja (accompanied by SSS and police) was for it to be handed over to the INEC HQ. But it is now clear why election materials were delivered after office hours on Friday July 3rd, with no one to officially receive it. It was eventually dumped at the Electoral Institute as the Electoral Officers immediately returned to Uyo knowing the implication of not handing over to anyone officially would mean no one could access the materials since legally it remains their property. On July 6, when INEC HQ summoned them, the Electoral Officer’s insisted their only mode of transport back to Abuja was by road which took days before they finally appeared. The delays were costly as the tribunal clock doesn’t stop and the 7 days given by the courts for inspection elapsed. Again the need for the petitioner to request an extension from the court was made. This has been the story of how INEC Uyo continues to play the leading role in the miscarriage of justice.
Below is a list of the ridiculous excuses that have hampered the process since May 15, 2015;
- INEC Uyo claims they need to sort & differentiate ballot papers as papers from the different elections were jumbled together (this should never be if elections held)
- INEC Uyo insists they count every single ballot paper before investigation can begin (This is unnecessary if there was counting on the day of election)
- INEC Uyo insists that the Forensic team is not allowed to use scanners to conduct the exercise
- INEC Uyo retracts and says scanners are allowed but only 4 machines are allowed
- INEC Uyo retracts and insists that only 3 scanners are allowed
- INEC Uyo then insists they could only use 2 scanners
- INEC Uyo insists they are responsible for sorting and counting even though the scanning machines count the papers
- INEC Uyo then insists the forensic team should sort the ballot papers, then they would need to count manually by LGA not by unit before they could scan
- INEC Uyo insists that an Electoral Officer (EO) is needed before scanning could commence, but no Electoral Officer’s were present at work for days (by the way EO’s are based in the same Akwa Ibom State)
- The initial court order for forensic examination granted to the Petitioner (APC) was open ended, but PDP went to court to vary it to 2 weeks to limit the Petitioners time to scan a million ballot papers
- INEC Uyo, Director Legal insists that scanning is not part of the forensic exercise. This resulted in constant arguments on the interpretation of the court order that would go on for hours rendering the forensic team unable to begin work.
- INEC Uyo staff frustrate the process by showing up late to work by 1pm while they insist the forensic team must conclude by 5pm
- INEC Uyo never showed up on weekends even though the varied days by the court included weekends
- Electoral Officers who delivered election materials on Friday July 3, returned to Uyo without officially handing over to INEC HQ in Abuja
- Electoral Officers claimed they didn’t have money to fly back to Abuja so they had to return by road which wasted valuable days as the tribunal clock kept ticking
- INEC Uyo insisted that the process could not commence without Electoral Officer’s (even though the process is currently going on without them)
- Electoral Officer’s from INEC Uyo showed up and claimed there were NO keys to the store (in Abuja) where the ballot papers were kept
- INEC Uyo finally find keys to store and then begin to insist via Director Legal that scanners was not part of the court order (even though in Uyo scanning began)
- INEC Uyo when asked about the EC forms used in election to photocopy while waiting for a specific court order to scan, they mysteriously claim they didn’t bring it from Akwa Ibom but it appears at 3am the next day
- INEC Uyo interpreted the court order to omit scanning but they couldn’t comply with providing ALL election materials to the team as directed in the same court order, they claimed they only came with ballot papers to Abuja
- As the forensic team wait for the court to order to confirm if they can scan or not, the Electoral Officer’s returned to Uyo suddenly and the key to the store was taken with them. INEC Uyo claimed they took the key to safeguard the materials that were sitting in INEC HQ premises
In Nigeria’s 16 years of uninterrupted democracy, this show of shame and absurdity puts a stain on the dividends of democracy. Is there really a democracy? One must ask if INEC Uyo expects to get away with shenanigans without fear of punishment. For such brazen acts to be imagined, planned and executed one must wonder that they must know something sane people don’t know, which is the fact they expect to be rewarded for such evil acts. Behind institutions are individuals and individuals are for the most part rational beings, therefore if the individuals behind these dastardly acts are acting without fear of punishment then it is probably because they expect to be rewarded.
Nigeria must do better. This cannot define us as a people and should certainly not define the institutions that determine if we have a democracy or not. As the additional 4 days for inspection granted by the Court elapses on Monday July 27, can justice really be served?