It was an unprecedented moment on Sunday when Senator Aisha Dahiru, popularly known as Binani, was declared the winner of the Adamawa State gubernatorial election.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Barrister Hudu Yunusa, shocked the nation with what many had described as a coup when he usurped the power of the Returning Officer to declare Binani, winner of the State guber election.
Recall that a supplementary election was conducted in 69 polling units in Adamawa on Saturday in places it was not held during the March 18 gubernatorial election.
Prior to her declaration, Binani was trailing behind Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of the Peoples Democratic Party, who had maintained a margin of 31,249 votes. Fintiri scored 421, 524 votes ahead of Binani, who polled 390, 275 votes before Saturday’s supplementary poll.
With 10 local government areas collated, the exercise was adjourned till 11 am on Sunday.
But as early as 9 am, the REC appeared, with a cover provided by the commissioner of police and announced Binani the winner of the election without any figures.
The Electoral Act mandates the Returning Officer, not REC, to announce such results.
While reacting to the development, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, denounced the purported declaration of Binani as the winner.
The Electoral Commission said the action of the REC amounted to usurpation of the power of the Returning Officer, insisting it is null, void and of no effect.
“The action of the REC is a usurpation of the power of the Returning Officer. It is null, void and of no effect.
“Consequently, the collation of results of the supplementary election is hereby suspended,” a statement by INEC read.
INEC also suspended collating of results of the supplementary election and summoned the REC to Abuja.
The Commission also wrote the REC ordering him to steer clear from its office in Yola, Adamawa State.
In a letter dated April 17, 2023, by its Secretary, Rose Oriaran-Anthony, the INEC directed its Administrative Secretary in Adamawa to take charge of its affairs.
In the aftermath of the illegal declaration, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, in a press release signed by his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, on Sunday, demanded that the controversial REC and other parties involved in the voided declaration should be arrested and prosecuted in order to serve as a deterrent to anti-democratic forces.
Also, the Centre for Democracy and Development described the action of the REC as an insult to the Electoral Act and to the Commission.
The Executive Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, in a statement on Sunday, noted that the REC had illegally taken over the duties of the Returning Officer, adding that the action was capable of “provoking the breakdown of law and order in the state”, in light of the already tense political atmosphere.
While speaking on the infamous conduct of the Adamawa REC, a former Director, Voter Education and Publicity at INEC, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, stated that Yunusa ought to face a sort of ‘inquisition.’
Osaze-Uzzi spoke on Monday while fielding questions on Arise Television’s Morning Show program. He noted that INEC could not discipline a REC, stating that only the President acting on the resolution by the two-thirds majority of the Senate can remove the REC, warning he might face jail time for his action.
He said, “Ordinarily, for doing what he did, the REC ought to face some kind of inquisition.
“However, INEC can inquire into what happened, and I am sure they will do that. But in terms of discipline or removal, the President can do that.
“Also, it is to be noted that any person who announces or publishes an election result knowing the same to be false commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for 36 months under section 120(4) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
“And under section 6(2) of the Act, the REC is answerable to the Commission.”
Meanwhile, INEC said it would write the Inspector-General of Police, Baba Ahmed, to investigate and prosecute Hudu Yunusa Ari, the REC for Adamawa. The decision followed the outcome of Tuesday’s technical meeting attended by the INEC’s national commissioners in Abuja.
The Commission also said it decided at the meeting to write the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, to brief President Muhammadu Buhari about the “unwholesome behaviour” of the REC.
At its meeting today, April 18 2023, the Commission discussed matters arising from the Adamawa Governorship election and decided to: “Write to the Inspector-General of Police for the immediate investigation and possible prosecution of the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Adamawa State, Barr. Hudu Yunusa Ari.
“Request the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to draw the attention of the appointing authority to the unwholesome behaviour of the REC for further action. The collation process shall resume at a time to be determined by the Returning Officer.”
As the Adamawa debacle ensued, Binani added fresh drama to it when she approached a Federal High Court in Abuja to stop the electoral Commission from voiding the declaration that named her the state’s governor-elect.
She asked the court for an order prohibiting INEC from taking any steps further towards the declaration of the winner of the election until the court determines her application for judicial review.
On his part, Fintiri had expressed confidence he would be re-elected despite the controversy surrounding the gubernatorial election.
“I am not afraid of anything, whether the result will be tampered with or whatever will happen to the result,” he said.
Eventually, the outcome of the polls ended in Fintiri’s favour, with the Returning Officer declaring him as the winner of the election.
Speaking to DAILY POST in an interview, the President of the Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), Olu Omotayo, said what happened in Adamawa was new.
Omotayo, a legal expert, said INEC had the power to revert what the REC did, though he would not want to preempt the court on the ex-parte motion filed before it on the matter.
He said, “INEC has the power to revert what this man has done; though I am not preempting what the court will say in what is filed before it in the Federal High Court Abuja.
“He was not appointed as a returning officer, and he made that declaration. But with what is on the ground now, do they actually have the power now to overturn what this man has done? That is the question before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
“Now that the woman has gone to the court, does the court have the power? This is because there is a contention that collation is still going on. Can INEC revert that declaration on the grounds that the REC lacked authority?”
It is left to be seen the actions the security agencies would take against the now suspended REC.