By Chuks Okocha and James Sowole in Akure
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Friday said that the Chief Returning Officer for the Ondo State governorship election is not from the state as speculated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP had accused INEC of appointing the Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Prof. Eyitope Ogungbenro Ogunbodede, who it claimed to be a crony of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, as the Chief Returning Officer of the election.
The party also said that Prof. Ogunbodede hails from the Ondo State governor’s hometown of Owo.
INEC said that the Chief Returning Officer, whom it refused to name, is also not from the OAU as claimed by the PDP, adding that the Chief Returning Officer is billed to resume duties Friday, October 9.
Speaking exclusively with THISDAY, the National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, stated that the speculation and kite flying relating to the appointment of the Returning Officer for the election shows a limited understanding of the processes and procedures of the commission.
Okoye said that INEC has the exclusive and sole statutory right and discretion to appoint collation and returning officers for all categories of election and will not share this right with any individual or group.
According to him, “The commission does not take dictation from political parties, groups or individuals in the appointment of its ad hoc staff as well as collation and returning officers.
“The commission is the regulatory agency and regulates the activities of political parties and will not allow political parties to regulate it or dictate to it how to organize, undertake and supervise elections.
“I can confirm to you that all the speculations relating to the returning officer are completely off the mark and the people of Ondo State and indeed Nigerians will see on election day that the speculations are without any basis whatsoever.
“I can confirm that the returning officer for the Ondo governorship election is not from Ondo State and not from the university being mentioned. The collation officer will report for duty on Friday, October 9, 2020 and prepare for the collation of the results of the election that will take place on October 10, 2020.
“Moreover, the commission will use the z-pad to upload polling units results into the INEC Result Viewing Portal and this will be available to Nigerians in real time.
“Furthermore, by the time the collation of results moves from the polling units to the ward and local government collation centres, all serious political parties are already in possession of the results and the collation of results at the state collation centre will be done publicly and beamed live to Nigerians.
“The commission is firmly focused on delivering a credible and peaceful election and will appreciate if it is not distracted with speculations that have the tendency of creating doubt in the minds of the people relating to the neutrality and commitment of commission in delivering on its mandate.”