Rivers Elections: Wike, Biokpomabo Appear Before INEC Fact-finding Committee

Nyesom Wike

· AAC candidate wants commission to declare him winner, redeploy REC

· IPAC, CUPP: Disregard calls for transfer of Rivers REC

Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

Rivers State Governor and governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nyesom Wike, and the governorship candidate of the African Action Alliance (AAC), Awara Biokpomabo, Monday appeared before the fact-finding committee of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) behind closed doors.

This is as Biokpomabo called on INEC to declare him winner of last Saturday’s governorship elections and also redeploy the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Obo Effanga.

But the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and Coalition of Political Parties (CUPP) in the state have called on INEC to disregard the calls for the transfer of the REC but should restart the collation exercise and declare Wike winner.

INEC, had on Sunday while announcing the suspension of the electoral process in Rivers State, said it would set up a fact-finding committee to “assess the situation and report back within 48 hours.”

THISDAY gathered that Wike and Biokpomabo appeared separately before the INEC fact-finding committee Monday behind closed doors.

Neither candidate has spoken on the nature or outcome of the meeting.

However addressing journalists in the state shortly after appearing before the INEC committee, Biokpomabo, who is being backed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) faction led by Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, claimed he was leading the incumbent and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Governor Nyesom Wike, in 15 out of the 23 local government areas before INEC suspended the process in the state.

He said, “The INEC pleaded insecurity, violence, seizure of electoral materials by hoodlums etc. as the reasons for suspending the remaining stages of the election. I reject the reason given by INEC. This is because in the local government areas that were affected, voting had concluded, results declared at the polling units and collation had begun before the abrupt suspension of the process. The commission does not have the power under our Electoral Act to suspend elections that has already been concluded.

He accused the INEC of working with the PDP and frustrating his chances of being declared winner.

His words: “The suspension of the elections by INEC was done to give respite to candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who was trailing behind, frustrate my victory.

“My party went into these elections against an umpire dangerously skewed in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Resident Electoral Commission, all the Electoral Officers, Assistant Electoral Officers, Heads of Department in the Rivers Offices of the Commission were all working for the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party. No wonder when they saw that I was leading and would eventually win the election, they raised a false alarm to the headquarters of the commission and misinformed them that there was widespread violence and seizure of electoral materials.”

But addressing a joint press conference Monday evening, IPAC and CUPP called on the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, to disregard calls by a “few renegade APC-sponsored governorship candidates for the transfer of the Rivers State Resident Electoral Commissioner and the State Administrative Secretary of INEC”.

The groups, that represent 86 political parties and 54 governorship candidates, said there was no justification for the calls for the transfer of the electoral umpires.

Chairman of IPAC in Rivers State, Sir Precious Baridoo, presented their position in Port Harcourt.

They said: “These calls sponsored by the Minister of Transportation and the APC are aimed at creating the ugly atmosphere for the concoction of results and the rigging of the Rivers State Governorship election, which has been won by the Rivers State PDP Governorship Candidate, His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.

“We also strongly condemn the criminal use of the Nigerian Army by the APC to abduct electoral officers and snatch already collated results for the purpose of rigging the Governorship election in favour of the APC supported Candidate.

“It is most unfortunate that the APC led soldiers of the Nigerian Army to invade the State Collation Centre at INEC Headquarters in Port Harcourt as captured on videos aired on Channels Television and AIT. The whole world saw how they planned to bring in cooked results to alter the will of Rivers people.”

They berated the military for disrupting the governorship election collation process in Rivers State.

He said: “We also condemn the military for disrupting the Collation Process for the Governorship election in Rivers State. We call on President Buhari to take immediate steps to punish all the military personnel involved in this coup against democracy. Our position is strengthened by the fact that the Chief of Army Staff has denied ordering the criminal activities of the Nigerian Army at the Rivers State Governorship Collation Centre at INEC headquarters

“The mischievous call by these sponsored governorship candidates is diversionary and aimed at disrupting the Collation process and the lawful declaration of Governor Wike as duly re-elected.

“We commend the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike for his peaceful and calm disposition, despite the provocative actions of the APC and the military in the face of the fact that Rivers people overwhelmingly voted for him.”

They urged INEC to immediately re-start the collation process and ensure the declaration of Wike as winner of the elections.

“We urge INEC to immediately re-start the process of collating the Governorship Election results based on official results declared at all polling units where elections were successfully conducted. This collation should be based on official INEC staff and ad hoc personnel detailed to conduct the elections.”