Rivers Rerun: INEC Constitutes Panel to Probe Alleged Electoral Fraud


Wike sets up judicial commission of inquiry
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt and Ogheneuvede Ohwovoriole In Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has constituted a high-powered four-man committee to investigate the role of its official in the conduct of the re-run elections which took place on Saturday, December 10, 2016 in Rivers State.

The members of the committee as stated by a statement by the commission’s media unit, included Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, Chairman; AVM Ahmed T. Mu’azu, (National Commissioner) member; Professor Jacob Jatau, (Resident Electoral Commissioner, FCT), Member; Omoloja Tajudeen, Deputy Director (Discipline).

The committee’s terms of reference are to: review the preparations and deployment of personnel and material on the eve of the elections; identify the factors leading to the apparent failure of processes in some local government areas) and determine the involvement and possible culpability of INEC officials in the conduct and outcome of the elections.

The committee was also mandated to recommend appropriate sanctions against officials involved in any infractions and commendation for exceptional performance, and advise the commission on any matter considered relevant to the assignment.

The committee is expected to submit its report on January 30, 2017.
In respect of INEC staff facing investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over the conduct of the 2015 general election, the commission decided that appropriate disciplinary action be meted out on them based on the INEC Staff Conditions of Service.

Meanwhile, the commission has approved the promotion of 1,307 of its staff across the country. The approval came yesterday following a meeting of the commission held at the INEC headquarters, Abuja.

A breakdown of those promoted showed that 14 were officers promoted from Grade Level (GL) 16 to the rank of Grade Level (GL) 17 (substantive Directors) while 1,293 were officers from Grade Levels (GL) 7 to 16.
A statement issued by the electoral commission’s media unit said all the staff promoted passed their promotion examinations and successfully met the rigorous criteria set by the commission.

Also, four directors of INEC at the headquarters, Abuja, who recently retired after meritoriously serving the commission, were yesterday recognised and appreciated with gift items by the directors in the commission’s headquarters.

Meanwhile, Governor Nyesom Wike has constituted a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the killings and other violent acts/matters that occurred during the December 10 rerun and supplementary elections in the state.
This came as the governor also warned against politicisation of security because of the danger it portends for the country.

The constitution of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry was contained in a special government announcement signed by the Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Hon Kenneth Kobani yesterday.

According to the announcement, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry has Justice Chinwendu Nwogu as Chairman. Members include Mrs Grace Akpughunum-Okwulehie, Prof O.V.C. Okene, Sir Anthony Uzoma Ozurumba, Rev Canon Hossanna Nnaewi, Alphonso Sibi Esq (Chief State Counsel, Secretary) and C. B. Ekeh (Principal State Counsel, Legal Counsel)

The announcement read: “In exercise of the powers conferred upon him by Section 2 (1 ) of the Commissions of Inquiry Law of Rivers State (CAP 30) of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999 and all other powers enabling him in that behalf, the Governor of Rivers State; Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, hereby constitutes and appoints a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the killings and other violent acts/matters that occurred during the December 10, 2016 rerun/supplementary elections to elect members of the National Assembly and House of Assembly in Rivers State.”

He said the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, with full powers and authority, would be inaugurated today and would be expected to hold public hearings and submit its report to the governor within one month from the date of its first sitting.

He listed the terms of reference of the commission to include to
investigate the remote and immediate causes of the violence during the December 10 , 2016 rerun/supplementary elections in Rivers State; identify the perpetrators of the various acts of violence and killings in the aforesaid election; identify the victims of the violence including those killed and also identify if property was damaged and the value of any such property.

The commission would also determine if the violence was localised to specific areas within the state or was state-wide, and also make appropriate recommendations concerning their findings or any other recommendations as the commission may consider appropriate in the circumstance.

In another development, Wike has again warned against the politicisation of security, noting that this would portend danger for the country.
He also stated that the suspect who allegedly beheaded the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) of the state during the Rivers rerun elections was arrested on election day alongside his colleagues and their sponsor, a former commissioner in the state, but an order from above led to their release.

Speaking while granting audience to the management of Sun Publishing Ltd who visited to notify him on his nomination as Sun Governor of the Year yesterday, the governor said that it was after the illegal release that the suspects committed the heinous crime.

He said: “I just read in the newspaper about the arrest of somebody who beheaded a DSP. In the course of that, the person owned up that he was sponsored by a former Commissioner of Power, who is of course, a member of the other political party.

“I remember on that election day, this boy and four others were arrested and an order came that they should be released immediately. Now, look at the mayhem caused after they released them. They were arrested with the former Commissioner of Power. They were released that same day.”

He said it was because the suspects beheaded a DSP that the authorities who released them are now interested.

He added that a notorious politician in the state was arrested on election day with AK 47 rifles and he also dressed in military uniform, but was released because he is a prominent member of the ruling political party.

“When we have descended to this level, you know the implication tomorrow. They are covering things by chasing irrelevant things”, the governor said.
On security in the state, Wike explained that the state has witnessed improvement because of the success of the state amnesty programme.

He noted that the state government implemented the Amnesty Programme because it inherited high level insecurity where cultism and kidnapping were the order of the day.
He, however, expressed regret that the Police High Command refused to support the Amnesty Programme, while a request to the Inspector-General of Police to detail his Special Squad to help fight kidnapping was not approved.

Earlier, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of Sun Publishing Ltd, Mr Eric Osagie, commended Wike for the improvement of security in the state which has led to several national and international conferences in the state.
He also lauded the governor for the successful implementation of the Amnesty Programme, which has led to a more secure the state.