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INEC Denies Receiving Buni’s Handover Letter To Bello

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INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

The quest by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to cover up its gaffes has suffered a setback as the  Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it had not received communication from the party’s chairman, Mai Mala Buni handing over to the Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello. 

Bello had on Monday taken over the party’s affairs following President Muhammadu Buhari’s alleged order to sack of Buni, who had been piloting the affairs of the party since June 2020 when the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) was sacked.

On Wednesday, Bello wrote the INEC in his capacity as the acting national chairman of the APC’s Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), inviting it to the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting scheduled for next week Thursday via zoom.

Swiftly, the commission replied the ruling party, saying it was not aware of leadership change and that only the duo of Buni and the secretary of the CECPC, Sen John James Akpanudoedehe, could relate to the commission on behalf of the party.

The commission, via a letter dated March 9, signed by the secretary, Mrs Rose Oriaran-Anthony, advised the ruling party to follow due process.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that the development worsened the confusion in the ruling party, and to address the situation, top shots of the party came up with the idea of the handover letter allegedly written by Buni.

The letter, it was gathered, was written in the office of one of the key functionaries of the government on Wednesday.

Dated February 28, the letter went viral on Thursday, March 10, a day after the INEC queried Bello’s communication to it.

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In the letter, Buni allegedly directed Governor Bello to act in his absence as the chairman of the CECPC because he would be away for a medical trip to Dubai.

The letter was purportedly copied the INEC and all members of the CECPC. However, Governor Bello denied receiving any letter from the embattled Governor Buni.

INEC’s national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Festus Okoye, said, “We did not receive any formal letter from  the National Chairman of APC transferring power or duties.

“All registered political parties are obligated to comply with the provisions of the constitution, the Electoral Act and the Regulations and Guidelines of the Commission.

“We asked the Party to note the issues raised in our letter for compliance.” 

He told Daily Trust Saturday that registered political parties have a known and formal way they communicate to the commission.

According to him, Article 1.1.3 of INEC’s Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Political Party Operations (2018) provides that “the national chairman and national secretary of the party shall sign the notice of meetings, conventions or congresses and submit same to the commission”. 

Okoye said the commission had in its docket, the specimen signatures of national chairmen and secretaries of all the registered political parties in Nigeria.

“The letter referenced was not signed by those whose signatures are domiciled in the commission. 

“Political parties are constitutionally and legally obligated to inform the commission of any change in their leadership in accordance with the law and the constitution. 

“Furthermore, any political party that wants to effect alterations or change in its governance structure in any meeting, congress or convention must give the commission 21 days’ notice of its intention to effect such a change,” he said.  

‘Buni still in charge,’ Bello’s c’ttee makes u-turn

Our correspondent reports that after the INEC’s damning letter which punctured the anomaly in the power tussle in the ruling party, the Governor Sani Bello-led CECPC yesterday made a u-turn and said Buni remained in charge of the party.

Addressing the media at the national headquarters of the party in Abuja, the spokesman of the committee, Ismaeel Ahmed, said Buni was still the chairman.

“Somebody asked about the position of Governor Mai Mala Buni in the party. I think it is pretty simple. I don’t know why this is a complicated process for a lot of people not to understand. Since the inception of this CECPC on June 25, 2020, whenever the chairman is not around and Governor Sani Bello is around, he acts on behalf of all as the chairman.

“It has always been the case that has never changed. Now, we have a convention on March 26. The chairman wrote a letter and transmitted power to Governor Bello to enable him go for medical treatment. Those are two emergencies. He has a medical emergency that cannot wait for convention. We have a convention that cannot wait for him to be healthy.

“So, one has to leave for the other; whichever, he has transmitted a letter and Governor Sani Bello has been acting appropriately. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that? I cannot understand why people are making this allegation.

Governor Bello is acting on the full authority of the caretaker committee and stakeholders, and with the full consent of Governor Mai Mala Buni. It is very clear and simple. If anybody has issues with any of our decisions, he can head to court. For now, we are doing it with the full backing of the law. So, there is no ambiguity on this, absolutely none,” he said.

Meanwhile, reacting to questions from journalists, Ismaeel Ahmed disclosed that the previously scheduled zonal congresses would now be part of the national convention. He assured that the March 26th national convention was on course and sacrosanct.

How Buhari’s directive on Yobe governor was watered down

The directive of President Buhari on the sack of Buni as chairman of the party’s caretaker committee has been watered down because of the procedural glitch around the move that might cause the party serious trouble.

Buhari had, during a meeting with some APC governors, including Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), while on his way to London for medical attention, reportedly ordered for the immediate sack of Buni for deliberately working against the March 26 national convention of the party.

While handing down the directives, the president, after he was told that Buni and his co-travellers had secured a judgement to frustrate the convention, said the Yobe governor and the party’s secretary, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, should be sacked “immediately.’’    

Daily Trust Saturday reports that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, were directed to ensure the proper implementation of the president’s directive.

The two appointees of the president were to work with the governors to carry out the assignment, it was gathered. 

They were to announce the sack of Buni and the emergence of Governor Sani Bello on Monday.

The deployment of security operatives to the APC secretariat on Monday was part of the move to implement the presidential order.

But Daily Trust Saturday gathered that a governor from the North-East moved in to save Buni from being embarrassed.

A top source said the governor went to some of his colleagues and pleaded that Buni should be given a soft-landing on the ground that the announcement of the sack would not only embarrass the Yobe governor, but it was capable of inflating the crisis in the party.

Other loyalists of Buni, including those in the presidency joined the governor in the quest to soften the directives. The North-East governor was said to have assured his colleagues that he had secured the commitment of Buni that he would not interfere and fight back.

It was based on the intervention that the Niger governor, rather than declaring himself as the new chairman of the caretaker, said he was in charge following the absence of Buni. The Yobe governor had, penultimate Wednesday, left the country for Dubai for medical attention.

Recall that when Bello took over on Monday, he said he had the blessing of the president to assume the mantle of leadership, but he was doing so because Buni had travelled.  

“I have been acting for a while since the chairman (Buni) travelled,” Bello said while responding to questions on why he presided over the party’s affairs.

Buni’s latest moves

Report has it that Buni, who has been piloting the affairs of the ruling party since June 2020, is also planning to meet Buhari in London. A credible source said this was why the Yobe governor, who ought to have returned to Nigeria on Wednesday, was not yet back.

It was, however, gathered that Buhari was in a dilemma at the moment, considering that he had already taken a stand sequel to the discovery of a court judgement said to have been ‘procured’ by the Yobe governor and his backers.

The judgement stops the party from holding the convention. 

A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court sitting in Bwari has asked the ruling party to pull brakes on the conduct of its convention pending the determination of the matter. 

“The whole thing is dicey now because if they ask Buni to leave, it would not be possible for them to conduct a legitimate convention, and this will ultimately hunt them before or after the 2023 elections.

“I think they have to basically manage themselves and learn from their mistakes. All of them are at fault because of the struggle of who gets what during the transition,” the source said.

Pro, anti-Buni take fight to London  

As the tussle persists, the pro-Yobe governor and those who are against him have taken their struggle to London to meet President Buhari, our correspondent learnt.

It was gathered that four ministers and some aides of the president who are in support of Buni travelled to London to convince the president to rescind his decision on the Yobe governor’s sack.

A source last night told our reporter that the ministers and other pro-Buni aides of the president departed the country on Thursday.

“They have gone to plead with the president to allow Buni conclude the assignment of the caretaker committee, which is to organise convention of the party,” he said.

It was also gathered that governors who met the president before his trip are preparing to go to London.

El-Rufai had on Wednesday said 19 of the 22 APC governors were in support of Buni’s removal.

Daily Trust

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2023: E-Transmission Of Election Results Has Come To Stay – INEC

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Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Wednesday promised that the results of the 2023 general elections would be transmitted electronically.

There have been calls by stakeholders that the deployment of technology in the country’s electoral processes be enhanced to address hitches witnessed in previous elections.

It was against this backdrop that the Electoral Act was amended by the National Assembly. President Muhammadu Buhari had, on February 25, assented to the Election Act 2022 after its passage by the National Assembly.

One of the key provisions of the law is the deployment of technology in the electoral process.

Section 52(2) of the Act says: “Subject to Section 63 of this bill, voting at an election and transmission of results under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the commission (INEC), which may include electronic voting.”

Speaking on Wednesday in Abuja when he hosted a delegation of Media Trust Group (owners of Daily Trust newspapers and Trust TV) on election debate, the INEC boss said going forward, the electoral body would transmit election results electronically.

Media Trust Group is organising a series of debates for presidential and governorship candidates ahead of the next year’s general elections, dubbed ‘Media Trust Nigeria Election Debate 2023’.

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Yakubu, told the delegation that the transmission of elections results from the polling units (PUs) would be a permanent feature in the nation’s electoral processes.

“Yes, it is going to be permanent in all elections conducted by the commission going forward. But I wish to draw your attention to the fact that we did not start the electronic transmission, at least, from the polling units to the IReV Portal, in Anambra or FCT elections.

“It was actually on August 2020 that we deployed that for the Nasarawa Central State Constituency by-election, the first election conducted under COVID-19. So, if you look at the IReV Portal, you could see all the results from the 2020 to the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections and all the other by-elections we conducted,” Yakubu said.

What INEC learnt from Kenyan presidential poll

On lessons learnt from the just-concluded Kenyan presidential election, Yakubu said that the INEC had received a letter from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) of Kenya that it wanted to deploy the Kenya Integration Election Management System (KIEMS) and that it was going to transmit polling unit level results to the collation centre. KIEMS is the equivalent of the Nigeria’s Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

He said like Nigeria, the transmitted results were collated manually.

He also noted that Nigeria’s BIVAS is a significant improvement on the Kenya’s system because in Nigeria, the collations have to pass through several stages from the polling units to the ward level, to the local governments and the states before reaching the national portal for the presidential election.

This, Yakubu said, allows agents of all political parties and candidates to observe the collation process at all stages, unlike in Kenya where results go straight to the national portal.

The INEC chairman also said that while Nigeria learnt from the 2017 Kenyan elections, the Kenyans had also learnt a lot from the conduct of the 2019 and 2023 general elections in Nigeria.

He said the collation of results was faster in Kenya possibly due to the fewer numbers of polling units and registered voters compared to the larger number of same in Nigeria.

On pending by-elections, the INEC boss said that there were 27 pending by-elections across the country.

He said the commission would conduct the elections pending when court cases and insecurity in some of the affected constituencies were resolved.

Speaking further, Yakubu said the INEC would support the Media Trust Group’s debates in order to deepen issue-based politicking ahead of the 2023 elections.

According to him, there are other debates and more expected to be conducted ahead of the 2023 elections.

He, however, said that the commission would be watching all the debates like other Nigerians.

Daily Trust reports that for four months, three Senate seats: Borno North, Nasarawa West and Zamfara Central Senatorial Districts have been vacant following the resignation of the occupants, including the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu; Senator Abubakar Kyari and Senator Muhammad Hassan Nasiha.

The Media Trust Group delegation, including the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO), Mallam Mounir Haliru Gwarzo, was led by the MTG’s Election Debate Committee Chairman, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim.

Ibrahim had earlier said that the visit was to seek the support and participation of the INEC in the coming debates and other activities to promote and sustain issue-based politics and campaigns in Nigeria.

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PDP crisis: Pressure mounts on Ayu to step aside, old video surfaces

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PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu

National Chairman of People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Iyiochia Ayu, is under fresh intense pressure to step aside as a video of him pledging to do so should a northerner emerge as presidential candidate of the party is trending in the social media.

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APC supporters hold carnival as Tinubu visits Obasanjo

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Obasanjo, Tinubu

The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday, met behind closed doors with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeokuta.

Both leaders had frank discussion.

Scores of supporters of the APC in state stormed Obasanjo’s residence, dancing and singing praises of the candidate while the meeting lasted.

The meeting, which started at 1.09pm, lasted for three hours and ended without either of the parties speaking with newsmen on the outcome.

Tinubu was believed to have seized the opportunity of the meeting to seek Obasanjo’s support for his presidential ambition.

The former Lagos State Governor was accompanied to Obasanjo’s Penthouse within  the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Oke- Mosan, Abeokuta, by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; a former National Chairman of the APC, Bisi Akande; and a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu,  among others.

He was received by the state governor, Dapo Abiodun; and former Governors Segun Osoba and Gbenga Daniel.

Also at the gathering were former deputy governors of the state, Gbenga Kaka and Salimot Badru and other state government functionaries.

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While Tinubu emerged from the Penthouse into the hands of the  crowd which  included newsmen, Obasanjo remained indoor as his guests made their way out after the meeting.

The presidential candidate did not grant press interview as he entered a waiting vehicle which conveyed him to the MKO Abiola Stadium for another programme.

When he was asked to address members of the Artisan Association of Nigeria, Ogun State chapter at the stadium, Tinubu only prayed for them and left the venue.

A source, who did not want his name because he was not authorised to speak to journalist on the outcome of the meeting, told our correspondent that some selected persons were allowed to join Tinubu and Obasanjo for the second phase of the meeting.

The source said a pre-meeting was held where almost all the personalities that followed him were in attendance.

The second phase of the meeting was said to have had only five persons who joined the two leaders in the inner room.

The source described the meeting as fruitful, saying the two parties agreed that no one should make the meeting a media affair.

The source said, “It was a very truthful and tough discussion from both sides.

“Obasanjo, as usual, was direct and Asiwaju was very straight forward in his report.”

Punch

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