Civil Society Organizations have condemned the alleged illegality and unfairness displayed by the leadership of the All Progressive Congress at the recently-conducted senatorial primary elections in Abia Central District where it was claimed the party leadership unlawfully and deliberately substituted the name of a winner, Sam Onuigbo, with that of another aspirant, who lost during the May 26th indirect gubernatorial primary election.
The APC had claimed its actions were on the basis of harmonizing interests but the CSOs maintained that such action by the APC negated democratic principles.
The Foundation for Natural Justice & Good Governance (FNGG), and the Nigeria Civil Society on Development and Rights Advocacy (NCSDRA) raised made the condemnation on the heels of the recent pronouncement by the Independent National Electoral Commission, that it would recognize candidates based on monitoring reports by its officials in state offices following the controversies trailing the outcomes of the concluded primary elections conducted across the country by registered political parties.
INEC’s press release read partly, “to set the record straight, the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria mandates the commission to monitor the organization and operations of political parties, including their finances, convention, congresses and party primaries.
“In line with its constitutional and legal obligations, the Commission deployed the monitors to the various constituencies and received reports of such exercise.
“In relation to the primaries in Akwa Ibom North-west and Yobe North Senatorial districts, the commission stands by its monitoring reports received from our state office.
“For this reason, the Commission did not publish personal particulars of any candidates for the two Constituencies at variance with the state reports.
The INEC further clarified the issuance of Certified True Copies (CTC) of the Documents and disclosed that the commission has processed 433 requests involving the certification of one million, six hundred and sixty-two thousand, seven hundred and seventy-six (1,662,776) pages of documents.
”Many of them are awaiting collection at the INEC Headquarters by some of the same applicants complaining of delay in issuance of the CTCs.
“Section 29(4) of the electoral act provides that any person may apply to the Commission for a copy of nomination forms, affidavits, and any other document submitted by a candidate at an election, the Commission shall upon payment of a prescribed fee, issue such person with a Certified Copy of documents within 14 days. Persons applying for CTC of documents should endeavour to act timely and within the ambit of the law.
“Right now, the Commission is funtus officio in the two cases. Aggrieved candidates are at liberty to go to federal high courts and seek redress as provided in section 285 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria,1999(as amended) and sections 29(5) and 84(14)of the electoral act, 2022”.
But reacting, the pro-democracy group, in a statement jointly signed by FNGG Executive Director, Dr Maxwell Ndubuka, and NCSDRA Director General, Adeniyi Marcus, issued to newsmen on Friday, also buttressed that, with the latest clear pronouncement on the issues relating to candidate nomination by the INEC, the leadership of the governing APC need not be told to reverse its wrongful decision, and include the name of the rightful winner, reminding the party that this undemocratic practices, such as substituting Onuigbo with a governorship co contender, Emeka Atuma, who failed to secure the gubernatorial ticket, even though Nigeria’s constitution vested such power on the political party.
The rights groups reiterated that it is unacceptable, fraudulent and an assault on the nation’s democracy, to list a party member who did not pick APC senatorial expression of interest and nomination forms and a party member who did not also participate at the concluded primary election held in Abia central Senatorial district, as a party candidate for the forthcoming National Assembly elections in 2023, urging the national leadership to save the APC from looming failure and catastrophe that is about to befall the Progressive Party in the coming elections in Abia Central Senatorial zone, and indeed, Abia State as a whole.
The CSO continued, “we, as members of the coalition of civil society organizations in Nigeria, would want to pose this question, when did Emeka Atuma declare or intimate party leaders members in Abia State about interest to contest the Abia Central Senatorial seat ticket of the APC? When and where was the venue he purportedly participated in and also emerged as a candidate of the APC for the 2023 Abia central Senatorial seat election? Which officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission were deployed to monitor the charade he claimed, produced him as the APC senatorial candidate for Abia central? Which INEC monitoring report from the state office affirmed Emeka Atuma, the winner of the APC senatorial primary election for Abia central district that took place between 29th to 30th May 2022 in Umuahia?
The Rights Advocacy groups continued, “Which expression of Interest and nomination forms of the APC did Emeka Atuma present before the senatorial screening committee set up the party national executive committee? And what clearance certificate was he issued at the end of the exercise by the APC screening committee members?
The organizations called on the All Progressive Congress, to halt the injustice meted Onuigbo and other aspirants that necessitated the avalanche of lawsuits pending in different courts of competent jurisdiction, challenging the validity of the wrongful substitution of names of candidates that successfully emerged winners of the concluded primaries.
It urged the party leadership to stick with the electoral guidelines and constitution of the land and include Onuigbo’s name in the list of candidates that it submitted to INEC to save democracy from collapsing.
The group warned the APC leadership that it may lose its acceptability and popularity among the populace in Abia should they allow the rape of democracy to stand.
Recall that Sam Onuigbo who currently is the member representing Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency at the House of Representatives was declared the winner following a run-off election which took place in Umuahia on Sunday, 30th May 2022.
The exercise was earlier on Saturday 29th May, declared inconclusive before a run-off election was conducted.
Out of 318 accredited voters, he polled a total of 157 to defeat his close rival, Henry Ikoh, who polled 152, and also, nine votes were voided.
Abia 2023: CSO’s asks APC, INEC to include Onuigbo, others in ballot