INEC Postpones Rerun Elections in Rivers over Insecurity

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Police, DSS, Amaechi, Wike hold peace meeting PDP, APC bicker
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has again postponed the re-run election into some Assembly seats in Rivers State due to reported cases of violence in the affected areas.

The commission in a statement signed by the Secretary to the Commission, Mrs. Augusta C. Ogakwu, said it had been compelled to further postpone the conduct of the suspended national and state legislative elections in the state earlier tentatively scheduled for July 30, 2016, due to recorded cases of violence, intimidation and a general atmosphere of fear in some areas where the elections were to be conducted.

It regretted that one of the earlier stipulated conditions for return to the state for the conclusion of the elections had not been met, despite widespread consultations with all major stakeholders in Rivers State.
It stated: “While the commission reiterated its readiness to conclude the outstanding elections, it also indicated its readiness to review and reconsider the suggested date as the security situation unfolded in the state.”

The commission further explained that it took the decision to postpone the elections based on unanimous reports on periodic electoral risk assessment by security agencies, relevant extra ministries departments and agencies (MDAs) and civil society organisations (CSOs), carried out in the three and a half weeks since the decision was reached to schedule the elections on, July 30, 2016, at the National Stakeholders’ meeting which was held on June 30, 2016 in Abuja.

INEC said: “In the commission’s view, the rhetorics of some of the political actors, the incidence of violence in a number of the local government areas where these elections are scheduled and the atmosphere of fear and intimidation created by these rhetorics and violence, all indicate a clear and present danger in proceeding with the election as earlier scheduled. This situation is now further worsened by direct attacks on the commission, of which the most recent and glaring was the burning down of the INEC office in Khana Local Government Area on  July 22, 2016.”

“The commission assured all voters and stakeholders of its readiness to conclude elections in Rivers State within the shortest time possible once the security situation was deemed conducive for the conduct of peaceful elections. It stressed that: “anything less than this would not be in the interest of the people of the state and the nation at large.”

Meanwhile, the acting Inspector for General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Musa Daura, the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, and the Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike, met late yesterday over the rerun elections in the state.

In a statement made available to the media by the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Donald Awunah, said: “In order to guarantee a violent-free and credible rerun elections into the Senate, House of Representatives and state House of Assembly in Rivers State, a crucial meeting to chart the path to peace in Rivers State before, during and after the re-run elections in the state was held between the IG, Idris and Director-General of DSS, Daura.”

The statement added that the two major players in the politic of Rivers State, Wike and Amaechi were in attendance.

The meeting according to the statement deliberated on the need to have peaceful, free and fair election devoid of violence which was the hallmark of the previous elections in the state.
Wike and  Amaechi resolved to be irrevocably committed to lasting peace and vowed to play the game by the rules during the elections.
They also agreed to prevail on their teeming supporters to adhere to their commitment to peace and security in the state.

The statement read: “Addition, the two major stakeholders agreed to convene another meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State aimed at further solidifying the commitment to peace reached in the meeting, which is a prelude to the roadmap that will usher a permanent and lasting peace in Rivers State.”

Meanwhile, following the postponement of the rerun elections on Monday, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, yesterday accused each other of being responsible for the shift in date.

The APC accused the PDP of being responsible for the postponement because of its alleged predilection to violence.

But the PDP said the alleged burning of the INEC office in Bori, headquarters of Khana Local Government Area by the APC was responsible for the postponement.
Both political parties had earlier accused each other of being responsible for the arson on the INEC office in Bori.

The state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, told journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday that INEC fell for the gimmick of the APC by the shift in date of the election.
He maintained that the APC was not ready for the election and used the burning of the INEC office to set the stage for the postponement.

“The APC in Rivers State never campaigned or showed any sign of readiness for the election,” he said.
Nwanosike explained that the PDP could not have burnt down INEC office in an election it was sure of victory, adding that Rivers State remains a PDP state.

He said: “We are not surprised that INEC will bow to this APC’s gimmick. I disagree with the comment by the APC that the statement of the governor led to the burning of the office. By this comment, Nigerians should know that APC burnt the INEC office.”

Nwanosike, however, urged INEC to give Rivers people another date for the rerun, maintaining that the PDP was not comfortable with the absence of Rivers representatives in the National Assembly.
“INEC should give us a date for this election so that Rivers State can have representatives at the National Assembly,” he said.

But the state Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Chris Finebone, insisted that the PDP was responsible for the burning of the INEC office.

Finebone noted that though the APC, received the news of the postponement with mixed feelings, PDP’s actions coupled with statement credited to the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, left INEC with no option than to call off the election.

He said: “Our instinctive response is that of huge disappointment considering that it will further deny the people parliamentary representations at both the national and state levels while the pressure on our candidates to sustain their campaigns continues apace.

“Just before the March 19 rerun elections, Governor Nyesom Wike employed the use of hate speech as his battle cry, calling his followers to stop Senator Magnus Abe. Days later, the senator’s campaign office was bombed and burnt down.

“Last Thursday, Wike was at his game once again. Speaking at his party’s Rivers East PDP campaign rally at Okehi, the governor let out his usual battle cry and less than 24 hours, those believed to be his foot soldiers bombed and burnt down the INEC office in Bori.