• Accuses commission of succumbing to APC pressure, creating chaos
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The insistence by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it will accept the results from Tai local Government Area in the March 19 rerun election even after it had announced the cancellation of elections in that area has sparked angry reactions from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Rivers State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of INEC, Aniedi Ikoiwak, yesterday in a radio programme monitored in Port Harcourt, said the commission would accept results of the last rerun elections in Tai Local Government Area.
Tai was one of the eight local government areas where Aniedi had on March 19 said elections had been suspended due to violence and electoral malpractices.
The other areas where the commission announced the suspension of elections were Khana, Bonny, Gokana, Andoni, Eleme, Etche and Asaritoru.
In the radio programme yesterday, Ikoiwak said the commission had to accept the result of Tai Local Government Area because the law did not allow it to cancel any election that had been done at the polling unit.
“We said it clearly that the law does not allow for the commission to cancel any election that has been done at the polling unit, and we’re respecting that law, because it is backed up by the electoral act and the constitution. So as an individual or commission, you cannot go back on the law of the land,” he said.
When reminded that the commission had earlier announced the suspension of election in the area, Ikoiwak said, “Like I said before, the issue of suspension, like it affected other areas, was done in the course of elections, and it was the duty of the EOs at their own level to communicate that to those who were already in the field.
“So for that of Tai that the EO did not get the information, and did not communicate it to those who were in the field, how do you think that the people on the field will know? Are they angels? They may not be angels to know what was the position of the commission at the time.
“All our actions have shown that we are not biased. So we think that not only INEC, but all other institutions, that Nigerians should begin to have confidence in their own institutions, unless they are trying to tell us to begin to go to the moon to bring people to come and do this. If we are working with Nigerians, and there had been attempt to be honest and straight, then we should begin to have confidence in that institution.”
Reacting to the new INEC position, the state Chairman of the PDP, Felix Obuah, accused the commission of bowing to pressure from the All progressives Congress (APC) and also violating a subsisting court order on the release of results of the areas where INEC had suspended elections.
In a statement issued on his behalf by his media aide, Jerry Needam, Obuah said he received the renewed statement by the INEC, through Ikoiwak, “reiterating the commission’s position to declare results of the cancelled March 19, 2016 legislative elections in Tai LGA, in disobedience of a subsisting court order, with grave disappointment and suspicion of grand conspiracy between it and the APC.”
He said the action “has further exposed the commission’s compromised stance and confirmed an undisputable pact between some of its officials in the state and in Abuja, and candidates of the APC, who are afraid of contesting a free, fair and peaceful election in the state.”
He said: “It is suspicious hearing that the same INEC that cancelled elections in eight local government areas, including Tai LGA, and which Ikiowak today, Monday, September 20, admitted that “the issue of suspension, like it affected other areas, was done in the course of elections,” and as earlier explained, on grounds of electoral fraud and violence, has now, after six months, made a U-turn, and apparently, succumbing to APC’s pressure and influence to declare results of elections that never took place.”
He urged INEC to stop blowing hot and cold, adding that “rather than taking actions to redeem its already battered image as result of series of inconclusive or postponed elections under the current administration, the commission, through the like of Zakari Mohammed and Aniedi Ikoiwak, is still conducting itself in the most undignified manner to prove it remains unrepentant and have its hands soiled by the desperation of the APC and its candidates, Mr. Magnus Abe and Barry Mpigi.”
He added: “It is important we remind Ikiowak, who said the decision of the commission to cancel the said elections did not get to the EOs, and so they could not communicate same to those who were in the field, that the EOs he is referring to, after receiving the suspension order, announced the decision to stakeholders and potential voters at their various duty posts, and it was pursuant to this order that the electoral process in the LGA was discontinued.
“Again, how can Ikiowak solicit confidence of the people in an institution that has derailed and planning to rob the people of their mandates? It is only an institution that is upright and strongly upholds the tenets of democracy, including the conduct of a participatory election and declaration of results that truly represent the popular view of the masses that can enjoy such confidence as demanded by the Rivers REC, Ikiowak.
“One thing that is clear to us is the fact that Ikiowak and his INEC are only testing the waters, but should be aware of the implications of declaring fake results and conniving with desperate politicians to destroy the nation’s democracy and cause anarchy in the land.”
While calling on INEC to retrace its steps, Obuah stated: “We will not allow this rape of democracy and abuse of people’s right to succeed.”
Also addressing journalists in Port Harcourt on the statement, the Publicity Secretary of PDP, Hon. Nwanosike Samuel, warned that INEC was inexorably creating a situation for chaos in the state by trying to accept the Tai result.
He wondered why a commission that was in court when an interlocutory order stopping it from announcing results of areas where the commission had suspended elections would deliberately violate an order of the court.
He recalled that the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had on June 29 in Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/523/2016 issued an interlocutory order ‘restraining the defendant from announcing any results or figures howsoever generated or compiled purporting to be the result of the re-run election for any or all of Khana, Bonny, Gokana, Andoni, Eleme and Tai local government areas of Rivers State or any part of rerun elections scheduled for 19th March, 2016 which election was subsequently postponed by the 1st and 2nd defendants (INEC and the state REC0, pending the determination of the motion on notice’.
“Ikoiwak is about to throw Rivers State into crisis if he is not called to order. He should go to court and vacate the interlocutory order issued by Justice Muhammad Liman of the Federal High Court before talking about Tai results,” he cautioned.
He stated that the INEC REC himself had accepted that he cancelled election in Tai.
“How can you then a lot 35,000 votes to a candidate when no election took place,” he queried.