A report by the BBC has revealed a new dimension in the fraud that allegedly marred the February 25 presidential election in Nigeria.
According to the report which is currently trending on the media space, the returning officer for Oyigbo local government area; one the LGAs in Rivers State who gave his name as Dr Dickson Ariaga and a staff of Federal College of Education in Omoku seems to be a ghost.
The BBC report said a reporter was sent to the school to unravel the identity of the man who announced miraculous figures for the APC in the local government after INEC wasn’t forthcoming with his identity.
“We asked the electoral commission if we could speak to Dr Ariaga, but they would not give us his details or reach out to him for us.
“We spoke to the election official seated next to Dr Ariaga, but she told us she wasn’t authorised to talk to the press.
“So we sent a reporter to the Federal College of Education in Omoku, about two hours drive north of Port Harcourt, where he’d said he worked when introducing himself.
“The Deputy Provost Moses Ekpa told the BBC: ‘From our records, both from our payroll and from our human resources, there is no such a name in our system and we don’t know such a person.’
“Moses Ekpa says the Federal College of Education in Omoku has never heard of Dr Ariaga.
“We tried tracking him down on social media and eventually came across another Facebook account for someone in Port Harcourt, whose profile details had the name Dickson Ariaga.
“When we compared an image from this account to the television pictures of Dr Ariaga using Amazon Rekognition software, we achieved a match of 97.2%, indicating a very high probability they’re the same man.
“Dr Ariaga did not respond to messages sent by us to this account.
“By reaching out to his Facebook friends we did finally manage to speak to a man who said he was a relative, who was at first willing to help us but then didn’t return our calls.
“We put these findings to Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec). Johnson Sinikiem, Inec’s regional spokesman in Port Harcourt, told us that due to a ‘gross shortage of time and personnel’ they had needed to take on some people without verifying their identity documents.
“Referring to Dr Ariaga, he said: ‘If he had presented himself as a lecturer from [the college in Omoku] and it’s otherwise, then he is dishonest.’
“We also approached Inec’s headquarters in Abuja for a response to our findings of discrepancies in the results in Rivers state. We were told that they were unable to comment due to ongoing legal challenges.
“This is just one case in one state in southern Nigeria where the evidence points to the results having been manipulated.
“We’re still looking for Dr Ariaga to respond to the findings in this report.”
The report also revealed how the figures announced for Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress didn’t match what was tallied from INEC’s result Viewing Portal, IReV.
“Dr Ariaga then read out the results for each party in alphabetical order, including for all the smaller parties.
They all matched those on the collation sheet the BBC had obtained. But when he reached Mr Tinubu’s APC, instead of saying 2,731 as written on our photograph of the sheet, he read out “16,630”.
“Then for Mr Obi’s party (LP) the figure changed again – instead of the 22,289 seen on the sheet, he announced “10,784”, more than halving his vote.
“The second local government area where we found major discrepancies was in nearby Obio/Akpor:
“The official result for Mr Tinubu was 80,239 votes, but we counted just 17,293 votes from polling station tallies
“The count for Mr Obi was announced officially as just 3,829 votes, but the BBC counted 74,033 votes for him on the tally sheets.”