Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) substantially contributed to the crises that rocked the December 10, 2016, elections in the state, THISDAY has learnt.
In a report by the Administrative Panel of Inquiry into the December 10, 2018 Rerun Elections in Rivers State obtained by THISDAY last night, substantially revealed how the commission mishandled the elections.
The panel which was chaired by a National Commissioner in the commission, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, said from the information it received, there was inadequate direct contact between supervisory National Commissioners for the elections and electoral officers.
The five-man panel, among other finding, added that had this been otherwise, some of the claims of lack of support made by the electoral officers against the state Resident Electoral Commissioner and his staff would have picked up by the National Commissioners and solved on time.
It further said there was reluctance on the part of superior officer to discipline staff for specific failures on the deployment chain.
The panel said there was no evidence that Electoral Officers (EOs) and Heads of Department in the state office signed off on State of Preparedness (SoP) documents, including the Readiness Assurance Report issued by the Planning and Monitoring Directorate.
It said instead, they readily passed blame around rather than take responsibility.
According to the document, from the information received, it appeared that there was inadequate direct contact between the supervisory National Commissioner for the elections and Electoral Officers, noting that had this been otherwise; some of the claims of lack of support made by the Electoral Officers (Eos) against the REC and his staff might have been picked up by the National Commissioners and resolved on time.
The document noted that there seemed to be reluctance on the part of the superior officers to discipline staff for specific failures in the deployment chain and this explained why there was hardly any queries that was issued even for obvious dereliction of duty, such as non use of voting points.
The committee observed that funds arrived only seven to 10 days before Election Day; observing that there were problems in accessing the funds because of issues with the bank.
The committee also noted that there were no serious problems relating to the production of ballot papers and result sheets for the elections however, in Khana Registration Area (RA) 2, ballot papers were not issued. The same was the situation in Bonny RA where result sheets were not available.
The committee also remarked that the ballot papers and other result sheets, which were supposed to arrive at the state office on December 7, instead arrived on December 8, ostensibly for security reasons.
“There was no evidence that electoral officers and head of department in the state office signed off on state of preparedness document including the readiness assurance report issued by the planning and monitoring directorate,” the document disclosed, remarking that consequently electoral officers readily passed blame around rather than take responsibility.
Recall that the joint investigation panel set up by the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris to probed the legislative election in the state had established cases of misconduct against some electoral officers who, according to him, allowed themselves to be compromised in their line of duties.
The panel alleged that the state government bribed officials of INEC with N360million to rig the poll.
It said it recovered N111.3million from 23 INEC officials, who confessed to have received the money from the Rivers State Government officials to manipulate the rerun polls in the state.