The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Senatorial candidate for Borno Central Senatorial District, Mohammed Kumalia, has accused the Ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of tampering with ballot papers which are part of the evidence he planned to tender in court to reclaim his mandate.
Kumalia while speaking with journalists on Saturday in Abuja, said the two INEC ad-hoc staff were caught red-handed thumbprinting ballot papers and stuffing them into Ballot boxes for Mafa Local Government inside the premises of the INEC office in Maiduguri.
“Based on the outcome of the elections, I have filed a Petition before the Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Maiduguri. We obtained a court order to inspect materials used for the elections, which includes the Ballot boxes and used and unused ballot papers as well as get Certified True Copies of the result and collation sheets among others.
“While our team of lawyers were undertaking the inspection of materials on 22nd March 2023, our inspectors discovered some INEC Ad Hoc Staff sorting out and rearranging and counting ballot papers and stuffing them in different Ballot Boxes in respect of Mafa, Kala Balge and Dikwa Local Governments.
“Our inspectors immediately raised alarm and accordingly reported the incident to the Borno State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC). They drew the attention of the REC that the actions of the Ad-Hoc staff amounted to tampering with evidence.
“The REC assured our team that the Ad Hoc Staff were only rearranging the documents dumped on them by the respective Local Government Electoral Officers who brought the materials from the local governments. Although we were not satisfied with the explanation, we gave them the benefit of the doubt and continued with the inspection.
“To our surprise, by the next day, Thursday 23rd March 2023, our inspectors this time around caught red-handed two Ad-Hoc staff thumbprinting ballot papers and stuffing them into Ballot boxes for Mafa Local Government right inside the premises of the INEC office in Maiduguri.
“Our Inspectors immediately arrested the two staff involved in the thumb printing and stuffing of Ballot boxes and took them to the Bulumkutu Police Station together with the bundles of Ballot Papers that were thumb printed and the indelible ink they used.
“We were surprised that no official of the Maiduguri INEC office took interest to accompany our team to the police station to ensure the arrest of the Ad-Hoc staff and undertake an investigation of any possible crimes”, he said.
He said the police officials took the statements of the complainant and the two Ad Hoc staff and arrested them.
Kumalia further stated that they also invited the Electoral Officer for Mafa Local government who brought the materials to the Maiduguri INEC office in Mafa Local Government to give a statement.
He said his team was informed by the police at Bulumkutu Police Station to come back the next day so that the case will be transferred to the Maiduguri Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for further investigation and prosecution.
“We wish to draw the attention of the general public that the main reason the court gave the order for inspection is to determine whether the results as recorded on the result sheets and announced at the polling units are the same as the actual ballots that voters have cast.
“This will be achieved through the counting of the ballot papers in each Ballot Box and accounting for the valid, invalid, and rejected votes as well as the unused ballot papers. Therefore, any attempt by any official, permanent or Ad-Hoc to thumbprint or move ballot papers from one ballot box to another after the elections have been concluded amounts to tampering with evidence”, he stated.
Furthermore, he said when his team arrived at the police station the next day as requested for the case to be transferred to the CID, the DPO informed them that the suspects have been released to the officials of the Maiduguri INEC office and the bundle of Ballot papers and the indelible ink (Exhibits) have been returned to the INEC office in Maiduguri.
He said the police told them that the case is not within their jurisdiction and that they should go to the police station at Mafa Local Government to complain while forgetting that they had a day earlier informed his team that the case will be transferred to the Maiduguri CID department.
“One issue that begs for an answer is who are the INEC officials that the suspects were released to and also collected the bundles of Ballot papers from the Police station and returned to the INEC office?
“Those INEC officials that collected the ballot papers from the police station and returned them to the INEC office are as complicit as the Ad-Hoc staff that were caught thumbprinting the ballot papers.
“A similar situation occurred on Thursday 16th March 2023 when the ANPP Governorship candidate caught some Ad-Hoc staff thumbprinting and stuffing ballot papers in respect of Limanti Ward of Maiduguri Metropolitan, right inside the Maiduguri Metropolitan INEC office. The incident was also captured on video and has been circulating in social media in the last week”, he added.
Kumalia said they had petitioned the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of, the Department of State Security Service (DSS) to direct an investigation into this matter to apprehend the culprits and prosecute them by the law.
When contacted, the Head of the Department, of Voter Education and Publicity, Abba Liberty, said the issue was beyond him.
“I am not in a position to respond. I think you should contact the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC). I have restrictions on what I can respond to, please. That is the nature of my work and that is my stand”, he stated.
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