APC: FG Will Seek Justice for Victims of Election Violence in Rivers

Cole (2nd right) at the press briefing

* Threatens to sue Wike, others for libel over Abonnema attacks

By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State has said the Federal Government would seek justice for victims of the violence that greeted last weekend’s Presidential and National Assembly elections in parts of the state.

The party also said it plans to sue Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, and others for libel for accusing chieftains of the party of being responsible for the violence at Abonnema, headquarters of Akuku Toru Local Government Area of the state which claimed several lives, including that of a soldier.

This is as the party congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari on his victory for a second term in office at the just-concluded polls.

Addressing a press conference in Port Harcourt Wednesday, Co-ordinator of APC Presidential Campaign Council in Rivers State and Governorship aspirant of APC in the state, Tonye Cole, said the party was saddened by the violence and attendant death that happened in parts of the state, especially in Abonnema, his hometown and that of other chieftains of the party.

While he expressed the party’s condolences to the families of those killed during the election in the state, he said one death was already too many in the state.

Cole said: “Over the past few days, Rivers State has once again been in the headlines globally for all the wrong reasons. In a nationwide election that sought to elect a President for the Federal Republic of Nigeria and members of the National Assembly, our dear state was characterised with armed conflict which unfortunately led to the death of innocent Nigerians that had simply sought to exercise their civic duty of participating in an electoral process.

“At this juncture allow me to express my most profound and sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones last weekend. In particular, we reach out to the family of Miss Ibisaki Amachree who was shot while on duty.

“One death is one too many and no one has the right to kill in the name of power and politics. May the souls of all those who died this weekend Rest in Peace and the families be rest assured that the Federal Government will seek justice for them, no matter how long it takes.”

He said the party is currently seeking advice from its lawyers to know whether to file a libel suit against those who accused some chieftains of the party who are from Akuku-Toru local government area of the area, of being behind the violence that occurred at Abonnema, headquarters of the local government area.

The APC governorship candidate said: “It has been my personal plea and mantra as well as that of the APC that the violence meted out on our members and citizens of the state in 2015 and immediately thereafter has no place in any modern society, especially one that desperately needs to grow economically and develop for the betterment of her people.

“We have called for peace and peaceful elections at every stage, but it is unfortunate that there are people hell-bent to cling on to power at any cost, even to the taking of human lives.

“I have been shocked and saddened by statements and comments attributed to the Rivers State Governor that Prof. Charles Dokubo-Quakers, Prince Tonye Princewill and I are responsible for the carnage and deaths in Abonnema last weekend.

“These malicious and unfounded allegations are being investigated and our lawyers will advise on possible libel suits to take against those who have peddled these wicked falsehoods.”

Cole stated that the result of the just concluded Presidential elections was an indication of a new beginning and trajectory with respect to elections in Rivers State, pointing that days of using political thugs to hijack electoral materials were over.

He said: “The result of the just concluded Presidential elections is an indication of a new beginning and trajectory with respect to elections in Rivers State. Gone are the days when political thugs would hijack electoral materials and allocate hundreds of thousands of imaginary votes to their party.

“The results from the various units, wards and Local Government Areas confirms this and further highlights the depth of rigging and manipulation of the 2015 elections that APC as a party had complained about.

“All that is required of anyone desirous of the truth is to compare the 2015 electoral figures where total votes cast was 1,584,768 with APC getting 69,238 while PDP got 1,487,075; to that of 2019 where total votes cast was 666,585 with APC getting 150,710 (even after 72,000 votes in Emohua was unconstitutionally removed) and PDP getting 473,971 and the story would clearly unfold.”

He added: “APC has withstood a judicial lynching that has long since baffled legal luminaries of how the Justices Nworgu, Yahaya and Omotosho’s judgments came about. That PDP would interfere with another party’s internal process in a court of law and secure a judgment that prevents their major competitor from campaigning in any form or manner, barring any of their candidates from being on the ballot is mind-boggling, especially against clear Supreme Court judgements that prevents one political party from interfering with the affairs of another as in the case of Alhassan v Ishaku, PDP v Sylva, PDP v Angodi etc.

“Our party also had to contend with numerous court battles, a brutal internal conflict with Senator Magnus Abe that disenfranchised members of the party, many of whom have now openly decamped to the PDP, multiple attacks on the party at campaign rallies of the opposition and severe attempts to break the spirit of the party faithful. It was indeed a resounding success to see the turnout of APC voters across the state.

“This was in spite of an INEC body that was swift to obeying the PDP sponsored judgement but resolute in its decision not to obey an order of Stay of Execution. Our concerns were further affirmed by Rivers State’s INEC’s refusal to include the over 72,000 votes in favour of the APC from Emohua LGA after being duly collated and announced by the LGA collation officer whose duty it is to so do in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act. It therefore means that the Rivers State office of INEC cannot be said to be truly independent as it had no hesitation in allowing the result of Khana, Andoni and other Local Government Areas in favour of the PDP.”

On the result posted in the just-concluded presidential and National Assembly elections, Cole said, “In the wake of INEC not affirming the relisting of our candidates, we had promised the people of Rivers State that APC will closely follow every ballot box, every vote cast and every result declared to its final conclusion. We affirmed not to allow the votes of the citizens to be stolen and to ensure the results will be as close to reality as is humanly possible. That was the mandate we gave to our people and that is the mandate we delivered.

“That in the midst of such heavy intimidation and array of forces squarely aimed at destroying the Rivers APC, in an election where we had no candidates, APC faithful still turned out with well over 200,000 votes, while the PDP unencumbered by money, full array of candidates, robust campaigns and incumbency power was strictly restricted to the unpleasant reality of recording just over 450,000 votes, the lowest tally of votes they have ever recorded.

“This is the true victory and a loud statement of intent that the people of Rivers State are sick and tired of governments that promote fear and intimidation, extol violence as a virtue and only come around during election times to make promises they have no intention of keeping while spreading falsehoods aimed at hoodwinking an electorate with the hope they can steal another election before the people wake up to the truth. Unfortunately for them, the people are now awake.”

He expressed the hope that the INEC would relist candidates of the party on the ballot before the March 2, 2019 Governorship and House of Assembly elections.

Cole said: “Finally, as we head towards the next set of elections, we urge our party members, supporters and Rivers people to remain calm and peaceful. We are confident that INEC would now do the right and proper thing by restoring all our candidates, including those for the National Assembly, back on the ballot and the people will have the choice to come out without fear of further violence and vote for the change they truly desire but up until now have been afraid to express.”