Aggrieved Nigerian citizens, especially the youths under the aegis of the Free Nigeria Movement (FNM) and the National Youth League for the Defence of Democracy (NYLDD), took positions in Abuja, the federal capital city on Thursday, protesting the conduct of the just concluded general elections.
They equally kicked against the inauguration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu being sworn in as president on May 29 and demanded the sack of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu.
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The ‘Free Nigeria Movement’ defied the afternoon rains in Abuja and staged a protest march to the Court of Appeal to register their displeasure over what they described as monumental fraud in the just-concluded 2023 elections.
According to Vanguard, the protesters led by Dr Moses Paul particularly accused the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu of mismanaging the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
Brandishing several placards, with various inscriptions, the protesters, in their hundreds, called on Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to cancel the 2023 polls, relieve Yakubu of his duties and replace him with a credible and competent person who would conduct fresh elections.
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They also want the President to set in motion plans for the formation of an interim national government in case the judiciary is unable to conclude the presidential election petitions before May 29.
Among the inscriptions on the placards brandished by the protesters who converged at the Abuja Unity fountain were: “Buhari, cancel sham elections”, “Nigeria not for sale”, “Yakubu Mahmood no integrity”, “Why can’t we just have free and fair elections?” amongst others.
The street demonstration, which began in earnest at 12:15 pm disrupted vehicular movement on Kukwaba road and caused heavy traffic gridlock on Shehu Shagari way in Abuja’s Central Business District for several hours.
At the Court of Appeal, though the protesters were greeted by a human barricade arranged by the police, they insisted that the people’s votes must count, saying the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.
Elsewhere, the protesters kicked against the May 29 inauguration of the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and instead demanding the invocation of an Interim National Government ING.
They specifically asked Presidential Buhari to put the ING in place before he leaves office on May 29, and also demanded the immediate sack and arrest of Yakubu by the State Security Services SSS.
They also asked several embassies in Nigeria to immediately revoke the visas of 15 INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners RECs.
The RECs they want to be sanctioned are those of Lagos, Rivers, Borno, Zamfara, Niger, Jigawa, Kano and Imo. Others are Ebonyi, Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Cross River, Katsina and Edo States.
At the Unity Fountain where the protest started, Dr Moses Paul, said the interim government is expected to appoint a new INEC chairman and conduct a fresh election that will produce a befitting President for Nigeria.
He said; “We are citizens of Nigeria, lovers of Nigeria, standing on the path of our constitution and citizens’ rights. We are here particularly to address the greatest crime that has happened in the history of the world and in Nigeria. People were burnt in Kano, people were shot in Rivers, and we have seen the greatest inhumanity happen in Lagos state in the course of this election.
“Two demands we are making; we are asking the President of this country to immediately arrest and prosecute the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who has committed the greatest fraud in the history of humanity. We need him arrested and prosecuted.
“Our number two demand is that we are asking that an interim government be put in place. We are saying that, because we do not want President Muhammadu Buhari to continue. His tenure is ending, so as a father he should put in place an interim government so that the interim government will now appoint another INEC chairman who will conduct a free and credible election and produce a befitting President for our country.”
When asked to provide other options if the two demands were not met, one of the co-conveners, Anngu Orngu, said they are harmless Nigerians “but we will use every other civil and lawful means to make sure that our demands are met”.
“We are here as frustrated Nigerians and the fundamental rights of Nigerians have been trampled upon by Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC and we are here calling for his immediate resignation. We have also requested that DSS should arrest him, and he should be prosecuted by the EFCC.
“We are calling on DSS to arrest Mahmood immediately, the EFCC should investigate him and we are also calling on the Nigerian Judiciary because those concerned are already in court, particularly the presidential election of February 25, we are calling on the judges in Nigeria that we want justice to prevail.
“We have been to the US Embassy, we have been to the British Council in Nigeria, and we have also submitted a letter to the French Embassy, calling on them to advise the Nigerian government that the Nigerian people are not happy. We the young people of this country are not happy over what is happening in our country. We may be peaceful now but when you push even a goat to the wall, the goat may bite,” he added.
In one of the letters made available to journalists and addressed to the United States Embassy, the protesters called for sanctions against the INEC Chairman.
The letter reads in part; “The conduct of the elections is in substantial none compliance with the extant legal framework.
“These criminal actions of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu have led to the dampening of the revived spirit of youths who in anticipation of a country that works for all, turned out in their large numbers to vote, some for the first time in their lives, for their preferred candidates only to be greeted with violence and subversion of their collective will.
“Based on the foregoing, we pray your good offices to amongst other appropriate sanctions, withdraw the visas of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, all the Resident Electoral Commissioners of states where these infractions were prevalent, particularly the RECs of Lagos, Rivers, Borno, Zamfara, Niger, Jigawa, Kano, Imo, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, parts of Cross River, parts of Katsina and Edo States.”