Military arrest Wike’s aide, governor chides commission over poor preparation
Ernest Chinwo, Segun James and Shola Oyeyipo in Port Harcourt
Due to violence and the prevention of electoral officials from distributing election materials, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday suspended elections in six local government areas in the Rivers State re-run elections.
This came as at least six persons were killed in election violence in three local government areas.
The state governor, Nyesom Wike, also chided INEC for shoddy arrangements that led to late kick-off of voting in most centres, just as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged the arrest of Secretary to State Government, Kenneth Kobani, and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Projects, Cyril Dum Wite by soldiers at Kpor and Bori in Gokana and Khana Local Government Areas respectively.
The areas where INEC suspended elections are Eleme, Khana, Gokana, Andoni, Bonny and Tai. Apart from Bonny, the remaining areas are in Rivers South East Senatorial District where Senators Magnus Abe of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Olaka Nwogu of PDP are locked in fierce contest for the senatorial seat.
Speaking to journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday in the course of the elections, Rivers State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Aniedi Ikoiwak, said the commission was forced to suspend elections in the affected areas because interested parties prevented its officials from distributing election materials and also because of violence in the areas.
His words: “Actually, we had deployed, as we told Nigerians, from Thursday and I did mention it clearly that if by act of commission or omission, we are not allowed to occupy the Registration Area Centres (RACs), we cannot actually guarantee that we can deliver 100 per cent.
“Today, we have had the experience where most of our materials were not even allowed to move in; some were returned on the way. Even when we tried to deploy to the RACs in some of the places this morning, certain people with excuses also tried to prevent us from doing so.
“There were accusations of not believing in the materials we brought and so on and so forth. There were issues of violence; there were issues of insecurity of lives. After all, we let the people know, but at the end of the day, we were still prevented from moving out. From 12 noon to 1pm, we did not see that it was necessary for us to continue to press to go to the field.
“Even some of our people who were able to get to the field, they were turned back with sporadic shootings. So, it was better for the life of the personnel to be preserved than trying to conduct the election, even when the environment is not conducive.”
He said: “So we need to let everybody be aware that election is suspended in Andoni, Khana, Gokana, Bonny, Tai and Eleme LGAs. The commission is watching developments in other local government areas and we will brief the press accordingly.”
On the issue of fake election result sheets, Ikoiwak said, “I don’t think there was anything like fake result sheets; I think I have said that times without number. You can imagine what you think but what we know in the commission was that only a result sheet was produced and you cannot say a thing that does not have a duplicate is fake because fake must be compared with the original. So what we had was the original; the fake may be in the imagination of those making such an allegation.”
Casualties of the elections included four persons killed in Eleme; a PDP agent in Tai, Tambari Ntoto; and a staff of Nigeria Immigration Service in Abonnema, Akukutoru Local Government Area of the state.
One person, Lucky Igweh, was shot by soldiers at Rumuokwuta in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the the state, where Wike hails from.
He was rushed to the hospital by policemen deployed to the area.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ahmad Muhammad (DSP), however said only one person was killed at Eleme during the elections.
Meanwhile, Wike declared that INEC was not prepared for the re-run elections in the state, noting that the challenges that greeted the elections would have been avoided if the commission had prepared for the polls.
He expressed regret that some areas in the state did not have result sheets, which could lead to violence as the people suspect foul play.
Speaking after he voted at Ward 9 Unit 7 in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, Wike said information available to him indicated that INEC failed to take necessary measures to ensure credible polls.
He said: “It is obvious that INEC was not prepared for the re-run elections. They refused to tell members of the public the challenges they hard “.
The accreditation process for the governor was cumbersome as two card readers were used severally before the governor was eventually accredited to vote. However, his wife, Justice Suzzette, was accredited smoothly.
The governor told journalists that in several polling units, information of scanned results were received.
He, however, gave pass mark to the security agencies for maintaining law and order in the state.
Meanwhile, soldiers in Port Harcourt arrested nine persons with election materials.
However two of the suspects told journalists that they did not do anything untoward.
PDP, the ruling party in the state, alleged that soldiers in Ogoniland arrested the Secretary to the State Government, Kenneth Kobani, and also the Special Adviser to Wike on Special Projects, Cyril Dum Wite. The party also alleged that many of its members were beaten up.
A statement issued by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Rivers PDP Chairman, Felix Obuah, Jerry Needam, alleged that soldiers at the INEC centres in Gokana and Khana local government areas beat the Commissioner for Environment, Professor Roseline Konya, to a state of coma.
“The Secretary to the State Government, Hon Kenneth Kobani, Special Adviser on Special projects to the State Governor, Hon Cyril Dum Wite and over 2000 PDP members across the state have been beaten, arrested and detained by the Nigerian Army drafted to conduct the election by Mr Rotimi Amaechi, Magnus Abe and the APC.”
Describing the action of the military against Rivers people and members of the PDP as genocide, the party said, “The Nigerian Army disobeyed two separate court orders, restraining them from participating in Rivers re-run election and in Rivers South East Senatorial District of the State.
“All electoral materials for Tai Local Government Area of Rivers State have been hijacked by Barry Mpigi assisted by the soldiers.
“Attempts by voters to resist the hijack of the election materials led to the killing of two pregnant women and scores of people, by armed men in military uniform.
“Election in the 15 units of Ward 3, Oyigbo Local Government Area of the State were also disrupted and materials taken away by soldiers of the Nigerian Army, who shot sporadically while carting away all electoral materials.”
The party called on INEC to cancel the re-run election in Tai, Oyigbo, Gokana, Khana and all other local government areas of the state, where soldiers had allegedly connived with the APC to hijack electoral materials, kill, maim, destroy properties, arrest and detain PDP members.
Also following the delay in the collation process of the results of the election, PDP is alleging deliberate ploy by INEC officials to connive with members of the APC to rig the election.
The apprehension is due to the fact that as at 11: 06pm, collation materials were yet to be given to the polling officers to present results of the election, a development that agents of the PDP described as “orchestrated” plan to manipulate the outcome of the election.
Reacting to the development yesterday night at the Port Harcourt Registration Area Centre (RAC), the Rivers State Commissioner for Urban Planning and Physical Development, Mr. Chinyere Igwe, who is also the agent of the PDP senatorial candidate for Port Harcourt LGA, alleged that the delay was part of a game plan.
“INEC started well by saying that accreditation should go on with voting. That was a very good decision. So, by 3 o’clock voting had been concluded, so all things being equal we are not supposed to be here by this time. That is what made me say that there was an orchestrated plan to rig this election. From 8am till now (11: 06), INEC has not released collation material to 20 collation officers.
“Fortunately, the REC came in and saved the situation that is why we have some respite now; he ordered that they should release the materials that are ready and come back to the state office that he would give them more materials. The result should have been announced by now,” Igwe said.
Repeated calls to the APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chris Finebone, for clarification on the issue and several other allegations against the party yielded no result as he did not pick his calls. However, the Special Adviser, Media to the Rivers State APC chairman, Dr. Davis Ibiamu, Chief Chukwuemeka Eze, who spoke with THISDAY, said the allegations of the PDP were baseless.
“Our reaction to PDP’s accusation of master minding the arrests of the SSG, Kenneth Kobani, SA on Special Projects and beating up of Roseline Konya and of being quiet about the collation of results because we want to manipulate its final outcome; why should we mastermind the arrest of Kobani?
“What is his political relevance? Does his position as SSG place him above the law? Are we the one that asked him to be lawless that warranted his arrest? We are orderly and decent group that wants the best for Rivers State.
“Rt. Hon. Amaechi who is a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was directed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police to vote and leave for his residence and he complied, then who is Kobani to be moving around intimidating voters in polling units that he does not belong to? Is it because he belongs to PDP that makes him to be above the law? He contravened the law and must face the music…”
Reacting to PDP allegation that APC connived with INEC to delay the announcement of result in order to rig the election, he said “we need not exchange words with PDP all the time on issues that are very clear to the public. We all know that PDP in Rivers State is a lawless society that believes in the manipulation of electoral results and that is why the court could nullify almost all their 2015 electoral victories. We have seen all the fake results they have continued to dish out to the public through the social media but to us we can only wait for the results announced by INEC before we can make any comment. We are not lawless like PDP to manipulate any result.”
Generally, there was a large turnout of voters for the highly anticipated Rivers State rerun elections to fill state House of Assembly, House Representatives and Senate seats held under heavy security but the process was marred by violence, alleged use of fake result sheets and late arrival of election materials to polling units.
Despite the fact that elections were expected to have been concluded by 2pm in various polling units across the state election materials and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) staff were not sighted as at 1pm in some cases.
When THISDAY visited the Mile 3 area of Port Harcourt at exactly 12noon, INEC officials and election materials were just arriving. As at 2pm there were no elections in Andoni ward 2 and 9 because election materials were yet to arrive.
In ward 6 of Obio/Akpor LGA, which is Governor Nyesom Wike’s LGA some ballot papers were reportedly missing and this has been linked to the delay in commencing voting in the area as there was need to sort it out.
It took the heavy military presence in Gokana and Khana in Ogoni area to quell the anger of the electorate as they alleged that fake election materials were brought to the area. The electoral process in in the area was also disrupted – though the election materials arrived there early, but voters alleged that they were fake.
Though there were initial concerns that over 2000 police officers were not promptly deployed to the various polling units to protect INEC officials, the Rivers State Police PRO, DSP, Ahmad Muhammed said that everything was going as planned.
According to him, “16, 000 regular policemen in addition to mobile officers have been deployed for the election,” he added that “the officers on ground were just on standby,” to complement where necessary.