Underage voters: Resign now, PDP tells INEC Chair

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu to resign over registration of underage voters, mainly in Katsina and Kano states.

But the electoral body had defended the action, saying its registration officials in those states were compelled to register minors under threats by community leaders in the areas.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, at a media briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, carpeted INEC for failing to take decisive steps to restore the sanctity of its register, particularly in Kano and Katsina states.

Rather, the party said the leadership of the commission has continued to offer puerile explanations of plans to investigate the anomaly, stressing that it took concerted outcry by well-meaning Nigerians for the commission to reluctantly accept responsibility for the illegality.

“As you are aware, the INEC has been indicted for registering and issuing permanent voter cards (PVCs) to millions of underage persons, particularly in Kano and Katsina states.

“You are also aware that it took a press statement from the PDP and concerted outcry by Nigerians before the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led commission reluctantly accepted responsibility for this illegality.

“As we speak, the credibility of our electoral process under the current INEC is hugely in doubt.

The nation was last Wednesday terrified by the commission’s Director of Publicity and Voter Education, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, who announced that INEC registered minors because its agents were threatened by members of the communities in those states.

“By this alarming and unpatriotic statement, INEC under Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has completely discredited and disqualified itself and cannot be trusted to conduct a credible, free and fair general elections in 2019.

“The import of this statement is that INEC under Prof. Yakubu is not firm in its acts and will consequently cave in and accept any form of irregularities once it is put under pressure by members of a voting community.

“It goes to say that this INEC can readily announce false results, cancel elections, alter polling procedures and allow any irregularities during the 2019 general elections once it is threatened by the All Progressives Congress (APC) or any other group for that matter.

If INEC is afraid of a voting community so much so that after registering minors, it still went ahead to process their data and issue them with valid voters card, then there is no way it can withstand the pressure and threat that we all know will be exerted by desperate APC forces, whose electoral strength, particularly in Kano and Katsina states, is now exposed to be based on underage voters”, the party said.

The PDP demanded an immediate review of voters register, across the country, particularly in Kano and Katsina and also the revalidation of voters register to eliminate the names of all the minors.

It insisted that no election must hold in these states until the register is sanitised.

“In order to achieve this, we demand that the revalidation/sanitisation by INEC must be carried out under the supervision of all political parties, credible associations, reputable NGOs as well as the international community”, it added.

The PDP also described INEC’s invitation to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (INEC) to help it monitor political parties’ campaign funds illegal and a Machiavellian way of suppressing opposition’s financial contributions and spendings.

According to the opposition party, the invitation was a plot by the EFCC to detain, defame, intimidate and illegally block bank accounts of opposition members under the pretext of monitoring campaign funds.

It insisted that only INEC has the statutory duty to monitor campaign funds, stressing that the commission cannot delegate this functions to any other government agency.

“Nigerians have completely lost confidence in INEC under Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and we urge him to take the path of honour and do the needful before it becomes too late”.

The PDP also alerted the public to what it described as the culture of intolerance in the ruling APC at the centre and across the various states where the party exercises control.

Citing Tuesday’s demolition of a building belonging to Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi in Kaduna by Governor Nasir El-Rufai, the party said with this trend, properties belonging opposition figures and those perceived to pose threats to the re-election bid of some public office holders in the ruling party are now endangered.

Detailing instances of such high-handedness in high places, the party said the government of the day was working to foist a fascist regime on the country.

The party feared that if members of the ruling party could engage in vicious attacks against their fellow members, then it’s only a matter of time before they unleash havoc against opposition figures.

Continuing, the PDP said, “In Adamawa, the state government has pulled down billboards and signposts belonging to opposition parties while harassing our members and perceived political opponents ahead of President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to the state.

“In January this year, Borno state Governor, Kashim Shettima superintended over the demolition of PDP state secretariat in Maiduguri following the renewed popularity of our party in the state.

“In Kogi, a property belonging to Senator Dino Melaye, who is known for his criticism of the APC derailed government, has been marked for demolition.

“Today, despite our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association and speech, Nigerians now live in fear of this intolerant, overbearing, bigoted and dictatorial APC administration seeking to foist a fascist regime on our country.

“How do we explain or justify the evil plan of the APC-led Federal Government to monitor citizens’ phone calls and social media communication, purportedly to check for hate speeches without any enabling law.

“We advise the APC government to desist from this planned unconstitutionality, which threatens the very essence of democracy, especially plurality of opinions.

“It is on this note that the PDP raises a rallying cry to all well-meaning Nigerians, civil society organizations and the international community to rise up and collectively condemn the anti-people actions and proclivities of this incompetent and imperious government, which has brought so much pain to our dear nation”.

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