The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) declared the 2023 presidential election result to be fraudulent.
It was reported that the Forum made this known in an open letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari ahead of Saturday’s governorship and state assembly elections.
The letter was signed by Afenifere leader Ayo Adebanjo, Edwin Clark, convener of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Pogu Bitrus, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide Secretary-General Okey Emuchay, and former Anambra Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife.
According to the Forum, the conduct of the February 25 election fell short of Nigerians’ expectations, resulting in an uneasy calm in the country.
They also claimed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) violated the Electoral Act 2022 and its own guidelines in conducting the election.
The letter reads:
Mr. President should note that there has been an uneasy calm in the land and that the polity is laden with uncertainty orchestrated by the conduct and outcome of the Presidential election.
Your Excellency, across Nigeria, voters of all ages and groups, consider the conduct and outcome of the February 25 presidential election as fraudulent.
Likewise, many foreign and local observers concluded that the conduct of the election failed to meet the expectations of Nigerians and that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to follow the Electoral Act 2022, and even its own guidelines in the conduct of the poll.
This was in spite of the humongous amount of taxpayers’ money spent by INEC and the promises of free, fair and credible elections given to Nigerians and the international community, ahead of the elections, by Mr. President and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Forum called on INEC to ensure that inconsistencies and irregularities observed in the presidential election are addressed before the gubernatorial and state assembly polls.
Mr. President, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be told, in unequivocal terms, to ensure that the inconsistencies and irregularities observed during the Presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25 will not reoccur in the Governorship and State Assembly elections, holding on Saturday, March 18, 2023. Elections belong to the people; it’s their decision and the people’s decision must be respected,” the letter reads.
Though the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System may have mitigated the concern of ghost or multiple votes and the February 25 election resulted in a national assembly somewhat reflective of the extant political viewpoint of the country, the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to strictly follow the Electoral Act 2022 marred the credibility of the election.
The sanctity of the ballot must be upheld by the electoral umpire and results of the elections must truly reflective the will of the citizenry. We are not sure that pretexts of “technical glitches” with regard to uploading of results from the BVAS to the iREV immediately after collation at the polling units shall be tolerable in the Governorship and State Assembly elections. The elections must be free, fair and credible!