By Rafiu Ajakaye
Nigeria's ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) on Tuesday accused the chairman of the country's Independent National Election Commission (INEC) of bias in favor of the opposition – an allegation he has denied.
"We have lost confidence in what you are doing," Godsdey Orubebe, the ruling party's collation agent at the national collation center, told INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega as he prepared to resume the announcement of presidential election results from different states of Nigeria.
"You are tribalistic. You are selective," Orubebe told Jega. "We don't believe in you anymore. You are compromised. And we won't take it from you."
He went on to accuse the INEC of ignoring earlier complaints lodged by the ruling party about alleged voting irregularities.
"We have complained [to the INEC] about Kano, Jigawa, Katsina and Sokoto [states] – about underage voting there," said Orubebe. "But we got no response."
"If we sent a protest and you can't take it up, then we have lost confidence in you," Orubebe insisted.
The INEC has launched an investigation into claims of poll fraud in Rivers State, lodged by the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
INEC's local (state level) arm has declared incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan the winner in Rivers State, with roughly 1.4 million votes.
Legally, only a court of law can overturn results after they are announced by officers in the field, implying that the INEC's fact-finding mission is merely an academic exercise at best.
The election commission chief, for his part, has dismissed the accusations.
"I reject the so-called petition because it was brought to me while I was at the hall presenting [poll] results," Jega asserted.
"It is improper for any party agent to do so. For that reason, I did not take it, because other party agents and the media could be watching," he said.
"I insisted that the petition be passed through the secretary of the commission. Up till this minute, I have not seen any result," Jega added.
He rejected accusations that he had provided the APC with poll results in advance.
"I will not give results to anybody. The results [published] on the INEC website are the [same] results declared here," Jega said.
He added: "Nobody should declare any results not announced here. I have not seen any results and couldn't have given any results to anyone."
After the heated exchange, the election commission chief resumed the announcement of results from various states.
APC candidate Muhammadu Buhari is leading the presidential race against Jonathan in the 19 states – excluding Rivers State – where results have been officially announced by the INEC.
The winner of the presidential race must win more than 50 percent of all valid votes, plus a mandatory 25 percent in two-thirds of the country's 36 states.
If no candidate is able to win outright, the two frontrunners will compete for a simple majority in a runoff vote.
Aggrieved parties have 30 days from the election to legally challenge final poll results.