• Says other staff were injured, abducted, NYSC condemns killing
  • PDP upbraids electoral commission, security agencies, APC
  • Ruling party insists on cancellation of results, Amaechi denies abduction of collation officer

Ernest Chinwo, Segun James, Shola Oyeyipo in Port Harcourt, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Adebiyi Adedapo in Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it would have to conduct fresh polls in all the areas where it suspended the electoral process in Rivers State due to the violence and criminality that characterised the elections in the state at the weekend.

Resulting from the widespread violence and electoral irregularities, INEC also confirmed monday that one of its ad hoc staff, a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, Mr. Samuel Dumebi Okonta, was killed during the exercise.

INEC’s announcement coincided with that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which said the conduct of INEC and security operatives of the federal government in Saturday’s elections in Rivers State fell short of expected standards, given the level of mobilisation and preparedness.

On Sunday, INEC released the results of nine state constituencies and one federal constituency in which rerun elections were held in Rivers State, but suspended the electoral process in all other constituencies in the state where results were not announced, blaming its action on widespread violence that marred the elections.

Last Saturday’s election took place in three senatorial districts, 12 federal constituencies and 22 state constituencies in 23 local government areas in the state.

Speaking on the conduct of the polls, the INEC Director of Publicity, Mr. Nick Dazang, said the commission will fix a date for a fresh conduct of the elections in the areas affected by its suspension order, after due assessment of reports from its officials.

Dazang, who spoke to THISDAY monday afternoon, confirmed that the commission only declared results of nine state assembly constituencies and one federal constituency.

He said the commission would work with the security agencies to ascertain when the atmosphere is right for fresh polls in the areas affected by suspension of electoral process.

“This means they are suspended until when the commission decides to conduct elections in those places. It means that the elections have not taken place in those areas if they were not concluded to the point in which you could announce the winner and then it is suspended to be re-conducted subsequently,” he said.

On the fate of the election results in those areas affected by the suspension of the electoral process, Dazang said: “Only the results of the elections in the nine state constituencies and one federal constituency already declared will stand since the commission cannot reverse them.”

He also stated that INEC was no longer bound by any timeline to conduct elections in the areas affected by the suspension, adding that conducting elections in those areas will now be at the convenience of the commission and other stakeholders, like the security agencies.

“INEC’s returning officers have only declared results in nine state assembly constituencies and one federal constituency. The commission is bound by law not to reverse any result of an election once it has been declared by the returning officer.

“Only the relevant courts can reverse such a decision on the result or set it aside. In other words, those elections that have been returned or declared are given, but those that have not been declared by the returning officers are the ones that will be affected by the suspension.

“The commission has asked all our national commissioners, resident electoral commissioners and other key officers such as the electoral officers and the monitors to submit their reports on the elections which it will study and from there it can now decide what to do.

“Given what has happened before in Kogi and Bayelsa States, reports on the Rivers State rerun election are intended to help INEC develop a template for conducting elections in violent prone areas. Also, it will help us to know what measures should be put in place before such elections.

“The security agencies which INEC is working with will have to give security guarantees before fresh polls can take place, because what we have now is a highly insecure situation and we have even received a report that one of our staff was killed in the state,” he said.

Elaborating, Dazang said one of the staff of INEC was confirmed killed and many others were either injured or abducted by criminal elements.

“We have scores of our staff who were injured and many others who were abducted. So under that kind of situation, you cannot rush back to the place to say that you are conducting elections and putting people’s lives at risk. You cannot blame INEC for what has happened in Rivers State,” he said.

On the allegations by the PDP on the abuses committed by the security agencies, especially the military, Dazang said the commission has not received any report indicting the security agencies of malfeasance during the Rivers rerun elections.

Also, INEC was emphatic that it had not released any more results on the Rivers State rerun elections except the 10 it released on Sunday.

In this regard, the commission asked the public to discountenance reports that it released results of the state and federal constituency elections for Port Harcourt area.

Some radio stations monitored in Port Harcourt yesterday reported that Kenneth Chikere of the PDP polled 18,904 votes to beat Igochukwu Aguma of APC who got 6,035 votes in Port Harcourt Federal Constituency I.

In Port Harcourt Federal Constituency II, Blessing Nsiegbe of PDP was said to have polled 6,968 votes to beat Collins Owonda of the APC who got 3,154 votes.

Other results announced at the various collation centres, according to the stations, said that for Port Harcourt state constituency II, PDP’s Smart Adoki Ibisiki got 15,240 votes to defeat APC’s Irine Inimgba who polled 2,844 votes.

Reacting to the results, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of INEC, Aniedi Ikoiwak, told THISDAY, that the commission was standing by the results it declared only on Sunday in nine state constituencies and one federal constituency.

He stated that in the results released by the commission, the PDP won eight state constituencies namely Ahoada East I and II, Akukutoru I, Emohua, Obio/Akpor I and II, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni I, Omuma and Opobo, while the APC won Opobo/Nkoro.

“The authentic results are the ones contained in the release we issued on the elections. We have suspended all issues relating to the Rivers State rerun elections since yesterday (Sunday). So any additional results purportedly released are not from INEC,” he said.

Ikoiwak also confirmed the death of a NYSC member in Ahoada West during the elections on Saturday.

He however refused to release details, stating that the NYSC would contact the parents of the deceased.

However, the PDP expressed its disappointment in INEC under the leadership of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stating that the electoral commission has not been able to conduct any conclusive election in a few constituencies and states so far and wondered what would be the case when the entire country is involved.

In a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, PDP said the only reason for the seizure of the results was the fact that the PDP candidates were heading towards a clear and overwhelming victory in all the rerun elections, prompting the All Progressives Congress (APC), in connivance with INEC, to seek to use the delay to manipulate the results.

“Also grossly unacceptable was the shoddy work by security operatives leading to the escalation of violence, avoidable deaths and eventual cancellation of election results in eight local government areas in the state.”

The party said the nation and the international community should hold INEC, security operatives and the APC responsible should there be a breakdown of law and order in the state over the non-release of the final results.

“Nigerians and the international community can now see the desperation of the APC, which has now arm-twisted INEC in an unholy bid to alter the results of the elections and subvert the will of the people.

“We want the APC and INEC to mark the salient fact that the PDP, the people of Rivers State and indeed all Nigerians are already aware of the results from respective polling centers, wards and local government areas and will in no way whatsoever accept any final result that does not tally with the actual and already established figures from the polling units.

“We wish to remind the APC and INEC that Rivers State is a known stronghold of the PDP and the results from the elections cannot show otherwise. INEC should therefore understand that Nigerians are aware that in withholding the final results, they are ostensibly preparing grounds for chaos in the state.

“While we invite all to note the avoidable growing tension occasioned by the desperation of the APC to steal the mandate of the people, we caution INEC to extricate itself from the evil web and immediately release all the final results on the ballot as cast by the people and nothing more,” the opposition party said.

However, APC in River State yesterday called for the cancellation of results of the rerun elections.

Addressing a press conference yesterday in Port Harcourt, the state chairman of the party, Dr. Davies Ikanya, alleged that “the position of the APC is that the entire rerun elections were marred by irregularities, violence and unlawful interferences by Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers State, inadequate security, a compromised process especially with indiscriminate, irregular and untrained ad hoc staff in some cases, among other very serious issues”.

He said: “The APC calls on the INEC chairman and its entire management team to cancel the Rivers State rerun elections to enable all the pitfalls earlier enumerated to be corrected before a fresh rerun election is held.”

He also accused Wike of interference in the conduct of the elections, stating that: “Governor Nyesom Wike, in company of heavily armed soldiers and police with armoured personnel carriers, unlawfully visited collation centres in PHALGA, Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre, EMOLGA and other areas where he intimidated electoral personnel and took over the collation of results in those areas and with the connivance of the DPOs, who provided further protection for fake INEC ad hoc staff to collate and declare results.

“This is in complete conflict of the relevant electoral laws. The result of the entire exercise became compromised as a result of the unlawful interference by Governor Nyesom Wike.

“Again, the Secretary to the State Government, Kenneth Kobani brazenly went to a local council with thugs and shot guns and attempted to cause confusion and violence before he was arrested. The governor’s Special Adviser on Projects was caught with armed thugs in military uniform and N40m on election day at Bori.”

But as APC and PDP continued the blame game over the violent rerun elections in the state, the management of NYSC yesterday announced the death of a corps member, Mr. Okonta Dumebi Samuel (RV/15B/5539), who died during the exercise in Rivers State at the weekend.

According to a statement from the NYSC, Okonta, who until his demise, served at GCSS Ukpeliede, was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Ahoada West Local Government Area.

“The murder of this patriotic young man, who was an orphan, is primitive, barbaric and ungodly, and should be strongly condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians,” NYSC said.

NYSC also promised to ensure that Okonta’s killers do not go unpunished.

“The NYSC shall work with the relevant agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous act are fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law.

“We consider Okonta Samuel’s death as a great loss, not only to his immediate family, but also to all of us in the NYSC family and the entire nation.

“May the Almighty God grant him eternal rest, and give his immediate family and the rest of us the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss,” it said.

The NYSC also confirmed that another corps member who was with the deceased at the time of the fatal attack in Ahoada, escaped from the scene with the help of security agents.

“We also wish to state that another corps member – Anana Aniekan Udoetor (RV/15B/5537) – who was initially reported missing, was found hale and hearty,” NYSC stated.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi yesterday denied reports on his abduction of the INEC collation officer for PHALGA Ward 10, Mrs. Ekwi Adebisa.

A statement by his media office said the minister met her for the first time at the Mile 1 police station on Sunday and left her there in the safe custody of the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 6, Mr. Baba Bolanta.

The statement said: “Amaechi did not leave the station with her. This can easily be confirmed from the AIG.

“At the Mile 1 police station, at no point did Mrs. Adebisa say that she was abducted by the minister or any member of the minister’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

“All the stories of her alleged abduction by APC members were lies peddled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.”