The Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini, has disclosed that there are no polling units without registered voters in the state.
Igini made the disclosure weekend while briefing newsmen on activities and preparations being put in place by the Independent National Electoral Commissíon (INEC) ahead of the 2023 general elections.
He explained that the one thousand three hundred and seventy-four (1,374) new polling units in the state created to ease voting on election day are already having people through the ongoing Continous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise.
His words: “On the ongoing CVR the message to the people of Akwa Ibom State, is that those who have not registered before who have just attained the age of 18, this is the opportunity for you to get yourself registered.
We are now on the final phase of the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise.
“The good news, following some of the press statement we have issued before with respect to the one thousand three hundred seventy-four (1374) new polling units, is that as at today we do not have zero polling units, without registrants.
“This project 2023 is for all of us, to give meaning and purpose to the ballot as the best means of expression of the will of the people in a democracy”
The Akwa Ibom REC, advised that all stakeholders including permanent and Ad-hoc staff of INEC have a role to play in order to rekindle the faith and confidence of the public in the ballot as the best means of expression of the will of the people in a democracy.
Igini, pointed out that the crisis between party members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the state, due to falsification of the original result of the party’s Congress was exactly what led to the conviction of its Ad-hoc staff during 2019 polls, Professor Peter Ogban, for 3 years.
He wondered how the person who had in the original result scored 006 now scored 1006 and the person who scored 1,278, now scored 278, stressing: “This was the abracadabra that led to a crisis that is completely unnecessary. Our report cannot change.
“May the day never come when an umpire who took an oath to always keep its oath of office will see something in the morning and see something different in the evening. May the day never come when something that we have seen to be white suddenly become black.
“Those who desire the honour of a king, an honour of office must not break the Law of the land. As a Commissíon, since October last year we have not spoken on the matter, because it is a matter for them. They are in Court that is the much I can say with respect to that.
“In respect of INEC Ad-hoc staff, who generated false results and published same in 2019 election, the trial has been ongoing since December 2020 before an Akwa Ibom State high court. The Judge just recused himself at the last sitting.
. “In a democracy, effective power to govern must lie in the hands of those who are duly elected, therefore those whose actions undermine the process must be brought to book”, he asserted.
Asked if INEC feels frustrated over the ongoing trial, Igini said: “Because we are talking about due process we cannot be frustrated. Once you have chosen the path of due process you don’t worry about traffic.
All that we need to do and we have done is to register through a petition to the Chief Judge to chronicle how we got to this point.
“ Justice is three way directional- Justice to the Commissíon, the prosecution, to the accused person and more importantly justice to the society that its rules have been violated.
So what we are interested in, is that justice must be done.
“Five months after the prosecution had closed its case , the accused person have failed to open its defence, coming up with all manners of frivolous objections to avoid opening his defence. I must say that there are limits to some of these Shenanigans.
“ Since 2020 the idea is to frustrate the case so that justice will not be done. The defense Lawyer accused the Judge of bias, without proof, no evidence, or instances where the judge could be accused in the entire trial of bias. Such an accusation must not be taken lightly.
“And where a counsel deploy accusation of bias as a strategy to blackmail a judge, the judge is required to demonstrate the courage in line with the judicial oath to continue with that matter because what he is trying to do is for the case to start afresh”
Analysts Downplay Tinubu, Atiku Educational Certificates Controversy
The controversies surrounding the educational certificates of some presidential candidates who will be contesting the 2023 presidential election, have been described as a non-issue by some lawmakers and activists.
Those who spoke with The Tide over the issue, noted that such controversy was not new to the political system of Nigeria.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had claimed in the forms he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that his primary and secondary school certificates were stolen by unknown persons, who invaded his home during the military junta of the ‘90s when he fled the country over his support for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
For that, many Nigerians who had raised concerns over the development called for the disqualification and prosecution of the former Lagos State governor, whom they alleged lied under oath over academic qualifications.
A non-governmental organisation, Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy recently issued an ultimatum to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police to arrest and prosecute Tinubu for allegedly supplying false information to INEC.
Legal Adviser of the group, Mr Kalu Agu, at a press briefing in Abuja, said that the alleged offence committed by the former Lagos State governor breached both the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
In the same vein, Tinubu’s running mate, Kabiru Masari told INEC that his original certificates are missing.
Reports had it that Masari in particulars submitted to INEC deposed to an affidavit on the loss of his primary and secondary schools certificates.
He, however, said that he attended Masari Primary school, Katsina State between 1972 and 1978 and obtained a Grade 2 Certificate from Katsina Teachers College in 1982 and a Higher Certificate in 1995.
Masari in the sworn affidavit for ‘Loss of Some Original Documents’, obtained from Divisional Police Headquarter, Wuse Zone 3, Abuja attached to the particulars he submitted to INEC, said, in January 2021, that, while on transit within Wuse, Area FCT, Abuja, he lost his Certificate of Grade 2 Certificate from Katsina Teachers College and First Leaving Primary School Certificate issued by Masari Primary School, Katsina State, (1972-78).
He also said that all efforts made to trace the items proved abortive.
On his part, the presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had a few questions raised about his academic credentials.
Atiku, who served as the country’s Vice President from 1999 to 2007, was said to have not provided information on his primary education.
The 1965 West Africa School Certificate (WASC) result presented by him, allegedly identified the student as Siddiq Abubakar.
While reacting to the issue, a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Olanrewaju Oshun said the issue of certificates as far as he was concerned, is a non-issue and unfounded.
Oshun, the member representing Lagos Mainland Constituency 2, said, “This is a man that worked with Mobil and he was recruited from his school. If he didn’t have that qualification, how was he recruited from the school? Are we saying Mobil didn’t check his qualification?
”He was a Senator and he was governor of Lagos State for eight years. All these shouts about him not having certificates are mere political gimmicks.
“If you say he doesn’t have primary and secondary school certificates, how was he able to attend a prestigious university abroad.
“You can’t be admitted into any university in Nigeria without a secondary school certificate not to talk of attending a university abroad. This is not new. They said the same thing in 2015 about Buhari.”
A United States based public affairs analyst, Prof. John Oshodi said, “At no point did Tinubu say he had no primary or secondary school education.
Even if he is not able to show the concrete certificates, whether due to being lost or accidentally damaged, how does that show he has no basic educational background?
“One thing is certain: He is a Nigerian-educated person who earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business and Administration with a major in accounting from Chicago State University in 1979.
“In past election seasons, through media hysteria, President Buhari, also an American trained military scientist with post-secondary education, was said not to have a WAEC certificate and, so, he is not eligible to vie for any elective position.
“Let’s say that Buhari’s basic educational certificates were with the military, like he said, or they could not be located, what cannot be denied by the American government is that Buhari holds a diploma from the United States Army War College.
“On the part of Atiku Abubakar, the media has it that he holds a secondary school education, although not of the highest level.
“He has post-secondary education in hygiene science and a diploma in law, and in recent times, he has worked hard and now has a master’s degree in International Relations from the United Kingdom.
“What is most stunning about the current uproar is that a basic education such as a primary or secondary school certificate is required to be president, as in the case of Tinubu.
”In 2019, it became a settled matter when the Supreme Court held that Buhari, per the constitution, is not required to possess a secondary school certificate to be qualified to run for the presidency and does not have to submit it to INEC to run for the presidency.
“Yet in a society where lawlessness and lack of respect for operating laws are rampant, you in the media and the people should be asking the presidential candidates about how they will handle monumental problems like crime and security, poverty, unemployment, poor electricity, infrastructure and road hassles, illegal substitution of candidates’ names, and human rights abuses,” Oshodi added.
INEC Laments Poor Turnout For CVR In Katsina
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says some newly registered polling units in Katsina State have not recorded any registered voter. In July 2021, INEC upgraded 1,750 voting points to polling units in Katsina State.
Speaking in an interview with journalists on Friday, Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Jibril Zarewa, said there has been low turnout for the continuous voter registration (CVR) exercise across more than 60 percent of the new polling units.
He, however, said one of the reasons for the poor turnout could be the suspension of telecommunication services in some LGAs of the state due to insecurity.
“In May 2022, when we did analysis, we realised that out of the 1,750 newly established polling units, about 1,200 units did not have more than 50 people who registered in each of them,” The Tide source quoted him as saying.
“This registration involved transfers. Some of the polling units have zero registration; some have only one; some five, while some have not more than 50 people who registered.
“Although this can be attributed to the suspension of telecommunication networks in 17 of the 34 LGAs for about five months due to the security problem.
“Since the resumption of the exercise in March, out of the 1,750 polling units created, about 1,200 don’t have up to 50 people that registered in each of them.
“We are appealing to the people of those areas where the new polling units were created, to go and register, as INEC is always ready for them.”
Zarewa said initially, there were 4,902 polling units in Katsina, but with the creation of new ones, there are now 6,652 polling units in the state.
“The reasons for the creation of additional polling units are to serve the areas and decongest the congested polling units,” he added.
My WAEC Certificate Is Missing, Okowa Tells INEC
The Vice Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections and Governor of Delta State, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa, has told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that his WAEC certificate is missing.
Okowa, in an affidavit, said he enrolled and sat for the West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations in the year 1974 but the original certificate issued can no more be found.
The affidavit of loss of original certificate was obtained from the High Court of Justice, Delta State, in the Asaba Judicial Division on October 3, 2006.
Okowa, however, attached a Higher School Certificate obtained in 1976. According to the certificate, obtained at Edo College, Benin City, in 1976, the governor sat for four subjects, namely, General Papers (Grade B,) Physics (Grade B), Chemistry (A) and Biology (B).
The affidavit read in part, “I, Ifeanyichukwu Arthur Okowa, adult, male, Christian, medical doctor and Nigerian citizen of House No. 4, Commissioners’ Quarters, Asaba, Delta State, do hereby make oath and state as follows:
“I personally enrolled and sat for the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations in the year 1974 at Edo College, Benin City, in now Edo State.
“That I passed the said examinations and was subsequently issued the said certificate therefore. That the original of the said certificate issued to me is now missing, lost and cannot be found.
“That I make this oath for the records and do so knowing and believing the same to be true and in accordance with the Oaths Law of the Bendel State as applicable to Delta state” according to a document sighted by The Tide source.
Okowa will be the fourth politician running for the 2023 presidential election that could not present his WAEC certificate to the electoral umpire for verification and eligibility.
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