Okon Bassey in Uyo
Uncertainty, confusion, violence, frustration, and non-supply of election materials marred the conduct of the local government election held on Saturday by Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC).
THISDAY gathered that while few areas received materials for the election, thousands of electorates were denied the opportunity of voting candidates of their choice because of lack of election materials.
On Friday night, it was the timely intervention of security operatives that saved the headquarters of AKISIEC on Udo-Udoma avenue, Uyo from being burnt down as dozens of political thugs invaded the premises to monitor the release of the sensitive materials.
Heavy shootout was also recorded in some local government offices of the AKISIEC in an attempt by hoodlums to hijack the electoral materials just as fake policemen reportedly had field day in covering the hijack of materials.
Reacting to conduct of the election, the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) who is also a Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Obong Nsima Ekere said the election was a farce.
Ekere, who waited for voting materials to arrive his voting unit for the election as at 2.30pm told newsmen that he was not surprised local government elections were not held in the state as planned.
He said what happened in his ward was replicated in all wards across the state, stressing that the state government, PDP and AKISIEC had already concluded plan not to conduct the local government election in Akwa Ibom State.
“The entire process is a farce as there is no material for election even in my ward. Democracy is having people to have their way, especially in local government which is the grassroots. Looking at my village there is no materials on ground and the people have been waiting since 8am today (yesterday)” he declared.
He questioned why AKISIEC went to some local government to release incomplete or half of the materials for the election, positing that what happened was so glaring that states’ electoral commissions could not conduct free and fair council polls.
The APC chieftain said he would support the constitutional amendment to allow INEC to conduct both the national and local government elections across the states of the federation also expressing reservation over plans for state Police.
“I have always said the National Assembly should hand over the conduct of LG elections to INEC because the state governors are not capable of conducting free and fair elections.
“You can imagine that in a state where the Governor is PDP, PDP will win all the elections and likewise APC and even APGA. I am sure you all have seen that as at 2.30 pm no material has been issued to my unit and I doubt if they will do so.
“Already the PDP government which is controlling the election has written the result. You should also hear that some PDP members were arrested by the DSS while thumb printing ballot papers on Friday, a day before the elections.
“So I and the membership of the APC in the state reject the process of this election. It is not acceptable to us. Elections especially at the local level should be done in a transparent manner to deepen democracy.
“The entire process showed that the PDP led Akwa Ibom state government was not ready for the elections. Akwa Ibom people have rejected the PDP and it is this fear that has made them not to allow elections to take place in the state.
“This is also why I am opposed to state police because the Governors will abuse it by using it against their political opponents. So things like this are better handled by the Federal Government” he maintained.
Noting that there was no other state that opposition is as strong as Akwa Ibom State, he said the handling of the local government elections in the state showed that the people have rejected PDP; hence the planned disenfranchisement of the electorates.
“Majority of Akwa Ibom people have rejected PDP and they are aware. That is why they don’t to put election on ground for people to vote. They have already computed the results and even in my ward that AKISIEC did bring materials, the results will be announced”, he said.
Senior Special Assistant to President on National Assembly, Senator Ita Enang said the local government election was the worst ever conducted election in the state.
He said “PDP and AKISIEC I knew APC was majority in the state that was why they didn’t want to bring election materials for the people to vote because for them not to lost the elections.”
Also speaking to newsmen, an Observer group in the election, the Coalition of Civil Society said their observation revealed that there was no local government elections in Akwa Ibom state.
The Head of the Group, Mr. Alli Abacha, said their visit to all the polling units across the state revealed that there were no voting materials at the polling units.
However, the Publicity Secretary of PDP in the state, Mr. Ini Ememobong, said the election was free and fair. Ememobong said APC did not prepare for the local government election as they did not even went on campaign to canvass for vote.
He said late arrival of election materials to some polling units was in exceptional cases not applicable to APC stronghold alone.
In Mbo LGA, particularly in Ebughu Ward 1 and 2, hoodlums were said to have hijacked electoral materials. Some youths were said to have blown off some ballots with gunfire.
At Udung Uko, thugs hijacked all the ballot boxes while youths were said to be attacking passers-by and setting ablaze many vehicles in the process.
As at 12 am sensitive election materials were yet to arrive Urue Offiong/Oruko, Ikot Abasi and many other local government areas, particularly those that are APC strongholds.
In Esit Ekit, thugs loyal to a political stalwart also hijacked election materials, while youths of another faction regrouped and launch an attack to recover the materials.
Voting has started in Ibiono Ibom, Eastern Obolo. But in Ini LGA, fake police are said to be going about hijacking electoral materials.
The PPRO, DSP Bala Elkana said there was no fatality since the election started, saying the police were on ground to ensure the peaceful conduct of the elections.