• Demands release of detained chieftains
• APC rejects results
By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) winner of the conclusive rerun legislative elections for Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency and Etche State Constituency II.
The win by PDP effectively landed a knock out blow on the former Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi, who lost in his home constituency.
The commission’s Returning Officer for the Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency election, Professor Shola Omotola declared the results at INEC’s office in Port Harcourt. He said APC polled 6,220 votes while PDP polled 15,221 votes.
For the Etche State Constituency II, the Returning Officer, Oluwatosin Odusonya, announced that APC scored 1,618 votes while PDP polled 4,162 votes.
The announcement brought to an end the drama that characterised the announcement of the results at the weekend.
THISDAY gathered that when the returning officers wanted to announce the results at Okehi, after collation on Saturday night, they were stopped by military personnel at the Okehi Collation Centre.
The military personnel were said to have escorted the INEC officers and the materials alongside officials of the PDP and APC to Port Harcourt.
The results were subsequently announced early Sundaymorning at the INEC state headquarters, Port Harcourt.
The state chapter of the APC had earlier called on INEC not to announce the result on the grounds that the commission had said that the elections were inconclusive.
The state publicity secretary of the APC, Mr. Chris Finebone, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt said: “Yesterday’s (Saturday) supplementary rerun elections for Etche State Constituency and Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency were formally declared inconclusive by the Returning Officers, Prof. Olatunbosun Odusanya and Prof. Omotola respectively at Okehi, Saturday.
“They subsequently announced that the conclusion of the process will take place today (Sunday) or on Monday.
“However, we are taken aback by signals indicating that the National Electoral Commissioner in charge, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, has ordered that the incomplete results be declared despite the earlier declaration by the two returning officers on Saturday at Okehi that the elections were inconclusive.”
He said the announcement of the results by any INEC officer other than the returning officers would be in violation of the Electoral Act.
However it was the returning officers that announced the results at the INEC office in Port Harcourt yesterday.
Reacting to the results, the state Chairman of PDP, Felix Obuah, “hailed the uncommon courage of members of the party and the good people of Etche and Omuma who ensured victory for the PDP during Saturday’s re-run legislative elections in the area, even in the face of harassment, intimidation, attacks, maiming and arrests of innocent PDP members by men of the army and police”.
The PDP chairman described what he termed the interference and involvement of the military and men of the Nigeria Police in electoral processes as worrisome and condemnable, warning that it could portend a great danger for Nigeria’s democracy.
He congratulated the candidates of the PDP, Chief Jerome Eke, (Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency) and Hon. Tony Ejiogu, (Etche State Constituency II) for emerging victorious, and the people of Etche/Omuma for voting for the PDP.
Obuah also described the arrest of the party’s state publicity secretary, Hon. Samuel Nwanosike, Hon. Rowland Sekibo and other chieftains of the PDP “who were on legal election duty as provocative, illegal, condemnable and acting out the script of a particular leader of the All Progressives Congress”.
He warned that there were plans by the security agencies to fabricate trumped up charges against Nwonosike, Sekibo and others in order to falsely implicate them.
“We therefore demand for their unconditional release without further delay, and insist that they have committed no crime. Their arrests were political and vindictive,” he said.
The Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, also advised the APC national leadership to forget about rigging in Rivers State, adding that the people would always resist “their evil machinations”.
The governor stated that Rivers State remains a PDP state because its people are satisfied with his stewardship.
Speaking at a thanksgiving service and dedication of awards bestowed on him by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), The Sun Newspapers, Authority Newspapers, and Independent Newspapers yesterday at the Saint Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Wike regretted that APC leaders have continued to fight Rivers State, and even tried to stop The Sun from bestowing on him the “Governor of the Year, 2016” award.
“They should forget about this state. No matter the level of security forces, they will not be able to snatch Rivers State,” he said.
He, however, commended the security agencies that covered Saturday’s elections for being professional, despite the pressure from the APC national leadership.
He also lauded INEC for standing firm for the first time, noting that the commission attempted to redeem its battered image with the Etche/ Omuma Federal Constituency and the Etche State Constituency polls.
The APC in Rivers State, however, rejected the results after they were announced by INEC.
The state chairman of APC, Dr. Davis Ikanya, said in a statement in Port Harcourt yesterday that the returning officers of the party had on Saturday declared the election inconclusive and questioned why the commission went ahead to declare the results?
“We were taken aback when it was reported that the National Electoral Commissioner in charge, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, had ordered that the incomplete results be declared despite the earlier declaration by the two returning officers on Saturday at Okehi that the elections were inconclusive.
“The APC vehemently rejects the results as declared today (Sunday) at the state INEC office in Port Harcourt.
“This action by INEC runs counter and contradictory to the earlier announcements on Saturday by the aforementioned returning officers who are the duly empowered persons to make such declarations.
“What INEC did today was a rape on democracy and the APC will surely resist it through every legal window available to it.
INEC can only do what it did today because Governor Nyesom Wike has, as usual, generously compromised key officials of INEC in Rivers State,” he alleged.
He added: “We recall that this same compromised INEC in Rivers State embarked on the now infamous 2015 election, which was unarguably the worst in the annals of Nigeria.
“During the December 10, 2016 rerun that followed, INEC continued to exhibit unwarranted contradictions and unwholesome mishandling of the process which resulted in further rescheduling of the rerun elections for Etche State Constituency and Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency. Sadly, INEC has once again bungled it.”
But providing clarification on why the result was announced in Port Harcourt and not Okehi, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Aniedi Ikoiwak informed THISDAY that the returning officer finished collation of the result at 9 p.m. on Saturday and recorded same in Form EC 8B.
He said the returning officer was, however, concerned about the margin between the two opponents and the impact of cancelled results in areas where elections did not hold or where ballot boxes were snatched.
“When he was reminded that it was a supplementary election and that a winner needed only a simple majority to be declared, the returning officer insisted on seeing the legal officer to be certain of the position of the law.
“It was 2 a.m. by then, so they decided to come to Port Harcourt since they had security personnel accompanying them to safeguard them and the materials instead of waiting for the legal officer to come to Okehi that night,” Aniedi explained.
He said in Port Harcourt, they agreed to reconvene at 9 a.m. and it was only after the returning officer was satisfied with the position of the law that he announced the result.
“The entire process was transparent. The result announced was the same that was collated at Okehi. There was no influence from anybody or anywhere,” the REC declared.