INEC declares APC winner of Ajeromi-Ifelodun rerun against court orders

FCT High Court ruled against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to hold a rerun election for Ajeromi-Ifelodun Federal Constituency in Lagos.

Against the ruling of a High Court sitting at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the weekend held a rerun election for Ajeromi-Ifelodun Federal Constituency in Lagos.

The court had barred the electoral body from conducting a re-run poll for the constituency until the results already announced at the various polling units and collated alongside the result of the Presidential poll are declared in accordance with the extant provision of section 69 and 71 of the Electoral Act 2010.

Justice Bello Kawu, who gave the order while delivering judgment in a suit, marked FCT/HC/CV/1252/19, brought before him by Honorable Rita Orji and her party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), held that any attempt by the electoral body to go ahead with the planned re-run without first declaring the already collated election results will over-reach the two applicants and other contestants for the House of Representatives seat for the constituency.

Kawu, in an enrolment order of Court, dated April 4, 2019, and signed by him and the Court registrar, Mr. Ebibrah Kingsley Okoroh, dismissed the objection of INEC and three others against the motion for lacking in merit and substance.

However, the electoral body conducted the supplementary polls in 71 polling units across eight wards.

The All Progressives Congress candidate, Kolawole Taiwo, won the election, which experienced high security presence, early arrival of electoral officials and low turnout of voters.

According to Prof. Olusoji Ilori, the Returning Officer for the election, Taiwo polled a total of 36,115 votes to defeat his closest rival from the PDP, Mrs. Rita Orji, who got 32,557 votes.

Also, the Accord Party candidate, Matin Iwonlaye polled 587 votes, the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) candidate, Jimoh Rasheed got 206 votes, Alliance for Democracy’s David Kola polled 158 votes while the All People’s Party (APP) candidate, Michael Ogoeke scored 149 votes.

Others are Julie King of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA) who got 112 votes, Adebayo Adegbenro of African Democratic Congress (ADC) with 107 votes, Kennedy Nzemiro of Providence People’s Congress (PPC) who had 90 votes, Morenikeji Oluwole of Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN) who polled 39 votes, Jacob Ogundiran of Democratic Peoples Congress’ (DPC) that scored 17 votes and Victoria Oladipupo of Democratic Alternative (DA) who polled 06 votes.

The Commission had declared the February 23 House of Representatives election in the constituency, inconclusive due to over-voting, non-compliance with the usage of smart card readers and violence.

Before the cancellation of the poll, Orji of the PDP was in an early lead with a difference of 3224 votes. The PDP candidate had polled 31, 982 votes, while Taiwo scored 28,758 votes.

But Ilori, a lecturer at the University of Lagos on Saturday declared, “Kolawole Taiwo Musbau of APC, having satisfied the requirements of the law and scored the highest number of votes, is hereby declared the winner and is returned elected.”

The rerun, which appeared a do-or-die for the parties, witnessed little delays in the voting process as a result of dysfunctional card readers. Despite the few number of voters, card readers in two of the four polling units visited by The Guardian correspondent, before he was attacked by hoodlums, were having issues of authentication.

At polling unit 030/Tolu, an agent of the APC, Garba Azeez said though INEC officials came early, the election started at about 9a.m because the two cards weren’t functioning and had to be changed. He also lamented that the huge crowd seen on the queue was as a result of the inefficiency of one of the INEC staff whose inability to attend to voters was slowing down the voting process.

An official of INEC who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity said, “the two cards were not working when we initially arrived, so we had to go back to get another from INEC office. But now, these two are working but not effectively. This one is having a problem of authentication, while the other one authenticates but takes a longer period of time.”

Also, some PDP and Accord party members lamented that INEC had connived with leaders of the APC to bring in voters who are not registered in the constituency.

One of them who simply identified himself as James said, “there is a well-planned effort by the APC and INEC to ensure victory at this election by all means. There is no proper verification of voters or authentication of cards. Members of APC brought people from outside this constituency to vote with any voter’s card available. It is not fair that the will of the people is being suppressed because those in power are interested in the victory of one candidate.

“A court had ordered that INEC declares the result but they went ahead to hold this supplementary. We are confident of reclaiming our victory however this result goes,” he added.

Earlier, PDP had accused INEC of plotting to cause crisis in Lagos State over its plan to go ahead with the rerun.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement, said by its plan to conduct a supplementary poll for “an already concluded election in defiance of the ruling of the court,” INEC had confirmed the fears that it had been compromised to create situations to subvert the will of the people and award the Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal Constituency seat to the APC.”

How the PDP intends to reverse the declaration of INEC and battle the ruling APC over its claimed victory remains to be seen in the coming days.

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