* APC brands operation as fake, denies involvement
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt and Anayo Okolie
The police in Rivers State have busted a syndicate involved in the printing of face result sheets purportedly to be used in the rescheduled rerun elections in the state.
The result sheets were allegedly being printed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) for elections in the South-east Senatorial District of the state in the December 10 election as announced by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).
But the APC has described the police action as a fake operation staged by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) thugs.
A senior police officer attached to the Swift Operation Squad (SOS) of the state police command, who preferred anonymity, told THISDAY the suspects, who were arrested at a printing press located at Isiokpo Street, D-Line, Port Harcourt were brought to their station at about 1.30pm yesterday. He said after routine log in, they were taken to the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for further investigation and action.
The PDP had said the police had uncovered a plot by the APC to rig the forth-coming Rivers South-east Senatorial District at the Force busted a fake result sheets printing syndicate in Port Harcourt.
They said the Printing press, Help-Mate Consult located at 12 Isiokpo Street D-Line Port Harcourt was printing fake result sheets for seven local government areas in Rivers South-east when the police stormed the facility upon a tip off by a concerned Nigerian.
They alleged that the Director of Help-Mate Consult, Atonye Peters, is a prominent member of the APC from Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area and that he claimed that the printing contract was given to him by an APC leader and former Commissioner for Agriculture under Rotimi Amaechi (name withheld).
According to him, the printing press has allegedly completed two sets for two local government areas before the police got wind of the illegal act. He was arrested alongside three of his staff members, Richard Koko from Okrika, Nanee Godday from Khana and Tammy Garrick.
Items recovered by the police at the printing press include state-of-the-art printing machine and computers. The police also recovered INEC Result Sheets serial number booklets, which the printer used to authenticate the result sheets.
In an interview, Rivers State Chairman Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Felix Obuah said the arrest of the fake printers of rerun elections result sheets has vindicated the body on the plan INEC and APC to rig the forthcoming rerun elections
But in its reaction the APC said the ‘sting operation’ was fake and staged by PDP thugs to indict the APC.
A statement signed by the state Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Chris Finebone, said, “A few days after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that the Rivers re-run elections have been fixed for December 10, the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike and the PDP have used thugs to stage what they call ‘busting of a fake result sheets printing syndicate in Port Harcourt’ said to be operated by a purported APC chieftain.
“The Rivers State chapter of APC, wishes to state that no APC person, chieftain or ordinary member, was involved in any of the purported actions as alleged by Gov. Wike and the PDP assuming without conceding that any such development took place.
“We make bold to state that, at the time of writing this press release, the Rivers State Police Command has not confirmed any such arrest made by its officers and men as alleged. What the governor and PDP are doing this time around is to use their thugs to stage a drama and arrest some innocent persons and detain them in the Port Harcourt Government House without the knowledge of the Nigeria Police.”
He said information available to the APC indicated that the PDP was using some officers of the police to plant incriminating documents on APC members.
“The APC would like to unequivocally state that the party has a zero-tolerance for electoral malpractices and does not directly or indirectly engage in any form of electoral malfeasance. We advise Rivers people and indeed Nigerians not to fall for Gov. Wike’s antics deliberately contrived to tarnish the image of the APC and its members in Rivers State,” he said.
Meanwhile, ahead of the December 10, National and State Assembly rerun, the Rivers state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr. Austin Tam-George has called on the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to work hard and ensure they win the trust of Nigerians by conducting a free, fair and credible election next month.
Tam-George, who stated this at the weekend during a media briefing in Lagos, said INEC’s complicit behavior has eroded public confidence in the electoral process.
“It’s only free and fair polls that would be accepted by the people of Rivers State. It is shocking beyond belief that an electoral body would wait to be compelled to fulfill its constitutional duty by the Senate of the country”, the Commissioner said.
He however, expressed regret that it took persistent pressure from Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and an unprecedented directive by the Senate to INEC before they decided to fix the December date for the elections in the state.
Tam-George advised the opposition APC to abandon its politics of desperation and work with the Rivers State Government towards fair and credible elections.
Also, the state chapter of the APC has described the call on President Muhammadu Buhari by the PDP to sack Amaechi and Onu as frivolous and mischievous, in a statement issued by the State Chairman Chief Davies Ibiamu Ikanya.
Ikanya, in a seven-point statement titled ‘Call on President Buhari by PDP to sack Amaechi, Onu frivolous and mischievous – APC’, said the call by the PDP flies in the face of reason, fairness, common sense and cause of justice, and urged the people to disregard the call.