Adamawa Governorship: Whereabouts of REC who declared illegal result, unknown – INEC
Since the illegal act of prematurely declaring the result of the election, Mr Ari has not responded to the phone calls by the commission and failed to obey the directive to present himself at the commission’s headquarters, said Mr Okoye.
Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC, has said it is unaware of the whereabouts of its Resident Electoral Commission (REC) in Adamawa State, Hudu Ari. Mr Ari was the official who illegally declared Aishatu Dahiru of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the winner of the Adamawa State governorship election last Sunday.
Both INEC and President Buhari have authorised Mr Ari’s suspension from office and his investigation and possible prosecution by the police.
The commission said Mr Ari has not responded to calls made to his phone and flouted the directive to present himself to the headquarters on Monday.
The INEC spokesperson, Festus Okoye, disclosed this during a Friday interview with Channels Television.
“Up till this moment, he has not reported and we don’t know his whereabouts,” Mr Okoye said.
Two hours before the resumption of the collation of results as adjourned by the Returning Officer for the governorship election in Adamawa State, Mr Ari went into the collation centre to declare Mrs Dahiru, popularly called Binani, the winner of the elections.
At the time, the collation of results was yet to be concluded to determine the winner. Also, Mr Ari is not the official empowered by law to declare results as he is not the Returning Officer for the election.
This immediately led to a controversy that saw the commission’s headquarters in Abuja quickly releasing a statement, describing Mr Ari’s actions as a usurpation of the power of the returning officers. It said the declaration by Mr Ari was null, void and of no effect.
INEC ordered the suspension of the collation of results and summoned both the REC and Returning Officer to the commission’s headquarters.
The commission would later bar Mr Ari from its offices and ask the Administrative Secretary in the state to take over the affairs of the commission. It also wrote the Inspector General of Police to probe and prosecute Mr Ari for his actions.
President Muhammadu Buhari has also approved Mr Ari’s suspension.
‘Ari’s whereabouts unknown’
However, since the Sunday declaration, Mr Ari’s whereabouts have been unknown to INEC. He has not responded to phone calls by the commission and failed to obey the directive to present himself at the commission’s headquarters, Mr Okoye said on the television programme.
“We don’t know where he is because, after this particular incident, the commission wrote him and also called him on the phone. He never returned any of the calls, he never answered any of the calls,” he said. “We asked him to report to the commission on Sunday we didn’t see him, we asked him to report on Monday we didn’t see him. So up till this moment, he has not reported and we don’t know his whereabouts.”
Mr Okoye said the commission has written the police to probe and prosecute Mr Ari, making it the responsibility of the police to declare Mr Ari wanted if need be.
“If they feel that his presence is absolutely needed during the investigation and he is nowhere to be found, it is their prerogative and discretion to declare him wanted,” he said.
“We wrote to the inspector-general of police and secretary to the government of the federation. We have received a response from the inspector-general of police and they have already commenced investigation.
“Our understanding is that the moment the inspector-general of police concludes the investigation relating to REC and every other individual who is involved and a prima facie case is established against the REC, the file will be made available to the commission and the commission will initiate the prosecution of the REC.”
Meanwhile, the Returning Officer, Muhammad Mele, a professor, later continued the collation of results and announced the incumbent governor, Ahmadu Fintiri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the election.
He said Mr Fintiri polled a total of 430,861 votes to defeat his closest challenger and candidate of the APC, Binani, who scored 398,788 votes.
Mr Finitiri and his deputy governor-elect have also been presented with certificates of return.
However, a day after her illegal declaration, Binani approached a Federal High Court in the Federal Capital Territory, seeking an order to restrict INEC from nullifying Mr Ari’s declaration.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, however, asked Binani’s counsel to address him on the point of law that empower the court to hear the application. He then adjourned the suit until 26 April.