No Fresh Elections in Rivers, Only Completion of Process, INEC Clarifies

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Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

The independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has clarified that no fresh elections would be held in Rivers State but the completion of the process which was suspended on March 10 in the wake of violence at collation centres.

This is as Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and other stakeholders berated the army for allegedly disrupting the collation of results of the March 9 governorship and state assembly polls in the state.

Addressing stakeholders in Port Harcourt Saturday as part of the process for the completion of the electoral process in Rivers State, INEC National Commissioner supervising Bayelsa, Edo and Rivers State, Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, said the commission would conclude the collation of the Rivers State Governorship election between April 2 and 5 and that the process would be transparent.

She said: “All the results are with us in our strong room. They have not been tampered with. We are going to conduct the collation transparently. INEC is here to complete this process and we shall complete the process successfully.”

The INEC National Commissioner said though the commission did not know the winners of the elections, all the results were intact in INEC custody.

She also said INEC would religiously follow the timelines outlined by the commission for the governorship election collation of results.

The INEC Rivers State Head of Department, Legal, Mr Don Umealor, outlined the supplementary regulations and guidelines for the conduct of elections.

He said all INEC Staff involved in the collation of results shall conduct the process with transparency. He said political parties will be given the opportunity to comment on the process, but nobody would be allowed to disrupt the collation process.

He stated that those entitled to be at the Collation Centre include: Collation and Returning Officers, INEC Personnel, one polling agent per party or candidate, approved security officials, properly accredited observers, properly accredited media persons and any other person or organisation approved by INEC.

The commission announced the 17 Local Government Areas where it had collated results for the Rivers State Governorship Election.

Administrative Secretary of INEC in Rivers State, Elder Etim Umoh, listed the local government areas as Ahoada East, Bonny, Akuku-Toru, Obio/Akpor, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Omuma, Port Harcourt, Ikwerre, Emohua, Tai, Opobo-Nkoro, Andoni ,Eleme, Etche, Ogu–Bolo, Oyigbo, and Okrika.

He stated that the local government areas where collation had not been concluded were: Khana, Asari-Toru, Degema, Ahoada West, Abua/Odual and Gokana.

Speaking at the Stakeholders Meeting, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, blamed the Nigerian Army for the violence witnessed during the collation of results. He said Rivers people raised alarm over the plot to unleash violence in the state, but they were accused of always crying.

“The only way you can have peaceful election is when the security agencies refuse to manipulate the elections. The Army snatched results and when the people resisted them, the Army killed them. The violence was at the point of collation.

“Throughout my political career, I have never seen the kind of role the Army played. What has happened to the Police Officer indicted for manhandling of INEC Staff during the rerun in 2016? The same officer played negative roles in this last elections,” Wike said.

While declaring that Rivers State has always been peaceful, except during elections when security agencies act negatively, Wike stated that the army should not be involved in election matters.

He stated that the security personnel for the Governorship Election Collation should be made public to avoid illegal actions during the process.

The Coordinator, Initiative for Credible Election (ICE) and former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ledum Mitee, also urged INEC to publish the names of all security personnel that would man the collation centre for transparency and accountability.

Rivers State Candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Mr Biokpomabo Awara, demanded to know who had the custody of the collated results. He said the results ought to have been kept at the Central Bank of Nigeria. INEC replied him that the results were in the commission’s strongroom. Awara later staged a walkout.

Immediate past chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, Rivers State, Pastor Samuel Ihunwo, said all results must emanate from the polling units.

“We plead that soldiers should remain at the barracks. All those causing mayhem cannot produce results of 10 polling units where they won”, he said.