NEC Boss Under Fire

 

The National Returning Officer of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Mr. Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh has again come under serious fire from the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), minority opposition, the National Grand Coalition (NGC), National Election Watch (NEW) and other political stakeholders with regards the results of the Saturday 9th March, 2019 Local Council bye-election conducted in Ward 196, Tonko Limba Chiefdom in the Kambia District which the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) candidate was declared winner.

It could be recalled that when the National Returning Officer announced results of the 31st March, 2018 presidential runoff election on 4th April, 2018, he came under serious fire from the erstwhile ruling APC and NGC for allegedly robbing the former of their victory and the latter their votes in many parts of the country.

Greatly displeased with the outcome of that bye-election, both APC and NGC that lost to the SLPP candidate have reacted angrily and called for the immediate resignation of N’fa Alie as Sierra Leone’s Chief Electoral Commissioner and National Returning Officer. So impassioned are these two losers in the Ward 196 election that they, together with eight other registered opposition political parties, sought and had audience with the NEC boss last Friday 15th March at his office wherein they presented him with a letter demanding his immediate resignation.

The aggrieved parties also called on N’fa Alie to give a report of the conduct of the bye-election which they described as fraudulent and marred by irregularities. It is reported the NEC boss listened attentively to the grievances of the petitioners and promised to respond to them in two days’ time.

It could also be recalled that immediately after the National Returning Officer declared the SLPP candidate as winner on Sunday 10th March, 2019, the day after the polls, the APC National Secretary General, Amb. Alhaji Dr. Osman Foday Yansaneh declared that the results were unacceptable, citing alleged instances of ballot stuffing and rigging.

The APC National Publicity Secretary, Cornelius Deveaux alleged that NEC in active cooperation with SLPP connived, and aided and abetted by the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) robbed APC of victory in their stronghold. He described SLPP’s win as ‘fraudulent.’ NEW also issued a statement condemning the process.

Equally offended by the outcome of the Ward 196 Local Council bye-election was NGC which in a press release stated its position on the conduct and outcome of the bye-election re-run as follows:

  1. There is sufficient evidence that ballot papers had leaked out and were in free circulation in the public before the start of the election; and as reported by NEW, two persons were caught with pre-marked ballot papers in Kagboroh and Mile 14 polling centres.

 

  1. During his visit to Mile 14 polling center, as the only authorized NGC high profile politician allowed to do so, the Chairman of NGC was taken on a conducted tour by the polling center manager. It was discovered that in Polling Station 2, at least one booklet of ballot papers being issued to voters was not a 2019 but a 2018 printed version.

 

  1. In spite of the fact that the 2018 ballots were officially issued, voters who had the misfortune of being given those ballot papers were disenfranchised since their votes were nullified during the counting/tallying process.

 

  1. There is evidence of over voting in a number of stations including Masunthu and Kagbonkoh; in all, over 100 surplus votes were counted in polling stations.

 

  1. The re-count done at the tallying center as demanded by the NGC and APC confirmed that indeed there was over voting spread across the polling centres.

With regards the positions of APC and NGC on the election, NEC in a press release following the announcement of the election results maintained that it conducted the Ward 196 Local Council bye-election in accordance with the relevant legal framework.

NEC however admitted that contentious issues arose during the polling, counting and tallying of the votes but that the request by APC and NGC for recount of some polling stations was granted at the Tally Center in the District Office but this did not alter the final count and will of the people in Ward 196.

NEC agrees that the 29th September, 2018 ballot papers were discovered at centers 08056 and 08057 but were not reconciled or counted as valid votes. Five persons suspected of election malpractices – four polling staff and one voter – were arrested and handed over to the police for investigation.

Meanwhile, NEC stated that it was preparing a comprehensive report of the election that would be made public and available to stakeholders. In the interim, it states that everyone involved in the bye-election has a right to seek redress in a competent court of jurisdiction if aggrieved with the process.