The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared as inconclusive the Ilaje/Ese Odo Federal Constituency by-election held at the weekend.
The declaration was announced at Igbokoda, the headquarters of Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State by the Returning Officer for the election, Mr. Babatunde Adeyemi, who is a lecturer at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA).
According to him, the decision became imperative in view of the fact that the difference between the candidate who got the majority votes and the runners up, was far lower than the cancelled votes.
The final results as compiled by INEC showed that Mr. Kolade Akinjo of the Labour Party (LP) polled 23, 926 while Mr. Adewale Kukute of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came second with 22,628 votes, leaving a difference of 1,300 votes.
He pointed out that over 7,000 voters could not participate in the election. â€œThis has violated the electoral law and hence the need for INEC to conduct supplementary elections in the areas where elections could not hold.
â€œI cannot return the LP candidate despite polling the highest number of votes as the electoral law empowers INEC to declare such elections inconclusive,â€ Adeyemi said.
Elections could not hold in the entire Arogbo Ward II in Ese-Odo Local Government due to the disruption in the distribution of election materials allegedly by some ex-militants, who claimed that they were not considered in the federal government Amnesty Programme.
Equally, election did not hold at the New Jerusalem area of Arogbo Ward I also in Ese-Odo due to what stakeholders described as unresolved issues.
There were also recorded cases of hijack of ballot boxes in some areas. The returning officer said the INEC would announce the date for a supplementary election where elections did not hold.
Meanwhile, the PDP yesterday commended INEC for organising a credible election.
The party in a statement signed by its Director of Publicity, Mr. Ayo Fadaka, also congratulated all the security agencies for their professionalism and vigilance during the conduct and collation of the results. Fadaka called on the people of the areas where supplementary election will be conducted to brace up to cast their ballot for PDP. But the LP has expressed shock over INECâ€™s refusal to declare the result.
The partyâ€™s position was contained in a statement signed by its state Chairman, Mr. Dele Akinyele, who objected to the action of INEC.
note that the election took place and returns were made in 21 out of 22 wards that made up the Federal Constituency. The returning officerâ€™s duty is to collate the lawful votes from various units and wards, and declare the candidate that scored majority of lawful votes.
â€œThe election tribunal, which was constituted by the President of the Court of Appeal has the sole responsibility and duty to determine any complaint of irregularity or compliance, or non- compliance with the law.
â€œThe use of the word â€˜inconclusiveâ€™ introduced by the returning officer to abort the will of the people will not be applicable in this case because the only condition for the declaration is that the candidate must score majority of lawful votes; which has been satisfied in this case.
â€œThe introduction of the word â€œinconclusiveâ€ could only be applicable where there are additional requirement of spread before a winner can be declared as it required in the Presidential and governorship electionsâ€, he said.
Akinyele said the reluctance or refusal of the returning officer to declare or announce the obvious winner of the election constitute grave danger to our democracy.
â€œThe LP hereby calls on the returning officer and INEC leadership to declare the candidate of the LP, Mr. Kolade Akinjo, who scored majority of the lawful votes from the collated results,â€ he said.