• Results of 17 LGAs secure in INEC strong room • Polls to be finalised April 2 – 5
• Again, Wike blames army for violence • APC faction distances self from process
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Against the backdrop of the recent suspension of the 2019 governorship election in Rivers State, halfway through the process, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said on Saturday in Port Harcourt that no fresh elections would be held in the state. Rather, INEC said there will be a process to complete the election, which was suspended on March 10 following violence at some collation centres. INEC National Commissioner supervising Bayelsa, Edo and Rivers states, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, made the clarification while addressing stakeholders as part of the process for the completion of the election.
Agbamuche-Mbu said results of the governorship election in 17 of the 23 local government areas of the state were safe in the strong room of the commission in Abuja.
That was as Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and other stakeholders restated their criticism of the Nigerian Army for allegedly disrupting the collation of results after the March 9 governorship and House of Assembly polls in the state.
But a faction of the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state said yesterday it would have nothing to do with the processes for the conclusion of the governorship poll until litigations on the matter were finally determined.
Addressing the stakeholders, Agbamuche-Mbu said the commission would conclude the collation of the Rivers State governorship election between April 2 and 5, adding that the process will 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’s custody. She also said INEC would religiously follow the timelines outlined by it for the collation of the governorship election results.
Head of Legal Department, INEC Rivers State, Mr. Don Umealor, outlined the supplementary regulations and guidelines for the conduct of elections. Umealor assured that all INEC staff involved in the collation of results would conduct the process with transparency. He said political parties will be given the opportunity to comment on the process, but nobody will be allowed to disrupt the collation process.
Umealor also listed those entitled to be at the collation centres to include collation and returning officers, INEC personnel, one polling agent per party or candidate, approved security officials, accredited observers, accredited journalists, 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, Rivers State, Elder Etim Umoh, said the local government areas were 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.
Umoh stated that the local government areas where collation had not been concluded were Khana, Asari-Toru, Degema, Ahoada West, Abua/Odual, and Gokana. He said elections did not hold in Abua/Odual at all as materials were not dispatched to the area because of violence. In the case of Khana, he stated that materials were dispatched to polling units but none was returned also due to violence. In the other affected local government areas, elections took place and results were announced at some polling units before the suspension of the process.
Umoh stated that supplementary elections would hold where necessary in the six affected polling units in the six local government areas.
Speaking at the stakeholders meeting, the Rivers State governor, who is seeking a second term on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), blamed the Nigerian Army for the violence witnessed during the collation of results. He said the Rivers people had raised an alarm over an alleged plot to unleash violence in the state, but they were accused of always crying wolf.
According to Wike, “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.”
He said the state was always peaceful, except during elections when security agencies acted negatively, stressing that the army should remove their hands from election matters. The governor added that the security personnel for the governorship election collation should be made public to avoid illegal actions during the process.
Other stakeholders also made contributions during the meeting.
Coordinator, Initiative for Credible Election (ICE) and former president of 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 centres for the sake of transparency and accountability.
African Action Congress (AAC) candidate, Mr Biokpomabo Awara, demanded to know who had custody of the collated results. Awara said the results ought to have been kept at the Central Bank of Nigeria. But INEC replied that the results were in the commission’s strong room.
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,” Ihunwo said.
In a later chat with THISDAY by telephone, Wike expressed satisfaction with the performance of INEC during the elections in the state and urged the commission not to derail.
He stated, “We commend INEC for the good job they have done so far and we hope they will continue in the same way.
“We do not want the army around in our elections. They have killed so many of our people and they may kill more if they are still around. We want our people to live in peace and security. The army cannot come and be killing our people.
“For the police, they have shown some maturity and we hope that they will continue and protect the electoral process.”
Meanwhile, a faction of APC in the state has stated that the party would not participate in the elections pending the determination of its matter at the Supreme Court. A statement signed by the factional state chairman of the party, Prince Peter Odike, said following court orders, the APC was not in the ballot in respect of the governorship and state assembly elections in the state.
Odike said while the party awaited the final determination of the eligibility of its candidates with respect to the ballot, it did not enter into any form of alliance with any political party.
He declared, “Following this development, the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State cannot and should not be seen to be legitimately participating in any action either in favour of or against the processes of the said elections.”
Odike also stated, “No individual, group or institution should be allowed to act in a manner that will jeopardise the peaceful co-existence of the people of the state.”
The National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole had earlier in a Channels Television programme denied that his party had entered into an alliance with any party in Rivers State for the purpose of the governorship election, directly contradicting the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi who had three days to the governorship election announced to his supporters that the APC had entered alliance with AAC for the governorship election in Rivers State. Oshiomhole however, debunked the claim. “I have never spoken at any forum that we have aligned with any party. There is only one party (I oversee) and that is APC, if there is going to be alignment, I will know,” he stated.