In this Investigation, Haruna Mohammed Salisu exposes how some domestic observers compromised their jobs, going after local politicians to make money instead of monitoring during the 2019 general election in Bauchi state.
The Bauchi State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has paid domestic civil society organizations (domestic observers) that monitored the just concluded 2019 general election between N100,000 and N250,000 each during presidential and national assembly as well as governorship and state assembly elections, investigation by WikkiTimes has revealed.
The party also secured 45 rooms for the observers at Chaba Guest Inn Bauchi for four nights each during the governorship and state assembly election conducted on March 9.
Still pictures, audio and video clips exclusively captured by WikkiTimes exposed a high-ranking official of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state screening/verifying the observers a day to the governorship election, a prerequisite for the payment.
WikkiTimes also captured agents of the party paying the screened domestic observers money, after the conduct of the election.
Alhaji Bako Hussaini, Secretary of the APC in the state, personally screened the observers at the party’s secretariat along Maiduguri by-pass a day to the elections, where they presented their INEC accreditation certificates, which he validated with a master list of all the accredited observers in his possession.
Hussaini paid the observers from N100,000 to N250,000 per organization after the presidential election, while the payment after governorship and state assembly election was done by agents of the party led by one Mallam Ya’u.
On the day of the payment after governorship election, Mallam Ya’u and his colleague used a green Honda Civic car with Registration Number AH 495 KTG Bauchi, where they handed over N100,000 to one of the observers on Saturday, March 16 at 3:01pm at Container (Wunti Market, opposite Bauchi Multipurpose Indoor Sports Hall).
How It Unfolded
Acting on a tip off, WikkiTimes correspondent obtained INEC observers vest and went undercover as the Bauchi State coordinator of one of the accredited organisations.
At about 6:32pm on Friday March 8, this reporter joined observers from other organisations at the APC state secretariat for the screening exercise.
The domestic observers were asked to photocopy the INEC’s accreditation letter offered to all CSOs for elections monitoring, “which was a criterion to ensure that the observers have sold out and were willing to cooperate with the APC, as was done during the presidential election", says our whistle blower whose organisation received N250,000 during the presidential election.
Joining those struggling to get screened, this reporter’s turn eventually came. He met “the man in-charge of the deal”, as he was addressed by the observers, some of whom were already screened and were therefore performing the roles of “guides and conduits” to others just arriving at the venue of the screening.
“What is the name of your organisation”, Bako queried this reporter, to which he answered pointing at Number 29 on the list in Bako's hands.
The same Bako paid between N100,000 and N250,000, depending on an organisation’s staff strength, to ensure that the reports filed in by the observers were written in favour of the APC.
“The worth of your organisation depends on your number; we are five in our organisation and we got N100,000; those that got N250,000 were up to 45 in number,” said Ijeoma Uka, the Bauchi State Coordinator of Youth Initiative for Better Nigeria.
Ijeoma Uka’s organization was one of those that collected the money from Alhaji Bako Hussaini after the presidential election.
Observers from Diaspora Advocacy for a New Dawn Initiative in Nigeria led by one Gloria Uchenna collected N250,000 from the APC after the presidential election.
One of Gloria’s colleagues, Chinedu Uchenna, confirmed in an interaction with this reporter that the eight of them got N12,000 each out of the APC’s N250, 000 — though to their utter dissatisfaction.
In a secretly recorded conversation with WikkiTimes, Rita Ikiriko, who was the state team leader of Global Policy Advocacy and Leadership Initiative, also confirmed receiving N150,000 from the APC after the presidential election.
Ugbaje Douglas Elton of the African Initiative for Sustainable and Positive Development also unwittingly confirmed cnfirmed to have collected N250,000 from the Bauchi APC on behalf of his team after the election.
Observers from Youth Education on Human Rights and Civic responsibilities led by Grace Aliyu also collected N250,000.
Usman Ishaka, the state coordinator, Integrity Friends for Peace and Truth Initiative betrayed the trust their name bears and collected N250,000 as confirmed to WikkiTimes by Daniel Anummi, who represented his coordinator in collecting the cash.
Many other organisations collected the APC’s largesse, but the ones above represented those for which Wikkitimes obtained documentary evidence or where its reporters were physically involved in the deal using undercover techniques.
Not only did these organisations collect APC’s money, their staff sent to the field also paid little attention to the observer mission, and instead went after politicians to make as much money as possible.
A Trip To Shira
In order to understand how the compromised domestic observers operated on the field, this reporter, whose adopted organization was verified by the APC state secretary, joined observers from three other organisations to Shira Local Government on the day of governorship and state assembly elections.
The journey to Shira was full of fun, laughter and perfection of more “deals” on how to get party officials lured to paying more money to the team of observers, including the reporter. The reporter teased the other members that he had an idea of how the team members could get more money, “since this is our last chance”.
Ijeoma Uka, who was sitting in the front seat, turned back to say “now you are talking” before flashing a beautiful smile at our correspondent and shaking his hands.
This reporter suggested that the observers should gather all their evidence and also meet with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party and also visit more LGAs. “I think that will help us get more money from party chairmen in other LGAs since they have plenty of money to waste,” the reporter said. The idea was cheered and accepted by the team members.
Shira, A Disappointment
While in Shira LGA, the main objectives of Ijeoma Uka of Youth Initiative for Better Nigeria and Blessing Uchenna of Diaspora Advocacy for a New Dawn Initiative in Nigeria did not include observing the conduct of the elections.
The team arrived Yana, the headquarters of Shira at exactly 12pm, and headed to Polling Unit 0039 not to observe the polls but to inquire the location of the INEC office where Ijeoma confirmed previously having a deal with some local politicians during the presidential election.
But this reporter insisted that the team should have some minutes to observe the elections at the polling unit before proceeding to INEC office. We signed the observers form and left for the INEC office where Ijeoma and her friend perfected their deals during the presidential and national assembly elections
Upon reaching the INEC office located adjacent Shira LGA secretariat at Yana, Blessing and Ijeoma immediately changed their mood, because the INEC office was already depopulated since election materials were already distributed and voting was already going on in the LGA.
To them, our deal was over; the LGA APC party Chairman whom Ijeoma and co wanted to meet was no longer at the INEC office.
Amidst sighs of disappointment, Ijeoma asked our driver to zoom into the INEC premises to see if we could make any sense of what was going on. We were ushered in by a tall, skinny man who smiled upon seeing Ijeoma, signifying the duo might have previously met.
Ijeoma wasted no time in asking to know the whereabouts of the Shira APC Chairman. “He votes at PU 007, Shira,” the man told us.
Off we left for Shira, town less than 10km away from Yana. When the team arrived in Shira, upon inquiry on the exact location of the APC Chairman's PU 007, the team was directed to his house.
The team ate, drank and had some fun at the house of the Chairman, who, to the disappointment of Ijeoma, only gave the team N3,000 this time around. “This man is stingy in this election, how will he give us just N3,000 naira”, she complained as she counted the N200 pieces in disgust.
During the presidential and national assembly election, the same APC chairman in Shira, according to Ijeoma, gave them N100,000.
While in Shira, the team only observed the election at the APC Chairman’s polling unit, a few metres from his residence, before leaving for Disina, the home town of the Hussaini.
When the team arrived Disina, a district in Shira LGA, it was already 2:14pm. Elections in most of the polling units, especially the ones that were blighted by voter apathy, were already concluded and counting was ongoing.
The untiring Ijeoma who was still confident that “good money”, as she used to say, “would come out of this journey”, requested to know Hussaini's house. The team was led by a volunteer who accompanied the observers to the house.
Upon reaching the place, our correspondent counted six observers from different organisations who also thronged the compound.
As was the case in Shira, the team dined and wined at the house of Hussaini, who afterwards gave N10,000 to the observers, making their total earning from politicians for the day N13,000.
At the end of the trip, three of the observers, including this reporter, got N2,700 each; the driver of the car received N2,000 while Ijeoma Uka, being the team leader, left with N2,900.
Ijeoma Uka personally shared the money among the team members at Chaba Guest Inn upon our return to Bauchi.
The Deal At Isa Yuguda’s House
After a hectic journey from Shira to Chaba Guest Inn were the observers were lodged by the APC, in Bauchi town, the team was told to rush to Isa Yuguda’s house. Yuguda was Bauchi Governor from 2007 to 2015.
The observers were told to see the ex-governor, who was also supporting the re-election bid of the incumbent.
When the team arrived at Yuguda’s house at VIP, the reporter could physically count125 domestic observers who were already seated in groups in the compound waiting for the man.
After patiently waiting for about 17 minutes (4:26 to 4:43pm), a heavily-built man asked the observers to enter the parlour to meet with their host.
After exchanging pleasantries, Yuguda started lamenting about the state of affairs in the country; he rciticised President Muhammadu Buhari, saying: “You would be surprised to know that even Buhari would not fight corruption in this country.
“Prior to becoming the President, people held him in high esteem as the only person that could fight corruption, but today if you shout corruption close to the President’s ears he will look the other way because some kinds of corruption are too big to be fought."
He spent several minutes talking and exchanging banters with the domestic observers, who, from all indications, were not interested in what he was saying.
Yuguda asked the observers to return the following morning, as he was not feeling fine. “Please come back tomorrow by 11am, let me see what I can do for you; but manage what I can be able to afford,” he said to the dissatisfaction of many of the observers who thought the gratification would be instant.
All hope not lost; some of the observers advised that a list should be formed to ensure that no new entries were accepted the following day.
The following morning, March 20, 2019 the observers, including this reporter, came back at exactly 11am, but Isa Yuguda was nowhere to be found. The team was told that he was still sleeping; the observers were asked to wait. The team waited till 2pm and was asked to leave and return by 5pm.
The reporter left and requested the other team members to call him when the Governor wakes up. By 5pm when the observers were asked to come back, Rita Ikiriko from Global Policy Advocacy and Leadership Initiative placed a call to our reporter to complain that the observers were at the gate but were denied entry into Yududa’s house.
In the end, nothing came from Yuguda.
Not All The Observers Were Bad
However, not all domestic observers sent to observe the elections budged when asked to collect money by the ruling party.
For instance, Mbami Sabka Iliya, the Bauchi State Coordinator for Cleen Foundation, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre and Human Rights Agenda Network, confiscated the tags of the observers he sent to monitor the elections. “When I was told that they were at Isa Yuguda’s House, I rushed there and luckily I caught them red-handed," he said. "I had to seize their tags immediately.”
Another observer from Women Advocacy and Research Documentation Centre, who asked not to be mentioned, told this medium that she was "in the Church when I started receiving calls that I should submit my form for screening at the APC Secretariat”.
"I told them that I have no business going to the party office as an observer," she said, adding that although her colleagues collected the money, she tried to shame the devil by staying away.