Rivers Polls: Wike, AAC’s Awara clash at stakeholders meeting

March 30, 2019
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•Allow peace to reign, INEC chairman pleads

The two men claiming victory in the March 9 inconclusive governorship election in Rivers State met face to face yesterday in Port Harcourt, launching straight into diatribe on who between them should be sworn in on May 29.

Governor Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who is seeking a second term, and Biokpomabo Awara  of the African Action Congress (AAC), met at a stakeholders meeting convened by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the  planned made-up election to determine the next governor of the state.

Awara accused Wike and INEC of doctoring results of the bloody governorship and House of Assembly elections of March 9 in the state while the governor countered by saying the AAC candidate and his backers in the All Progressives Congress (APC) were  promoting violence and scaring investors from the state.

The AAC candidate said he was “surprised that the leaders of political parties involved in the elections were not asked questions by members of INEC’s five-man fact-finding committee.”

He added: “I doubt the reliability of the doctored result sheets and other electoral materials with INEC in the last three weeks. We have record of some of the results being mutilated, particularly that of Akuku-Toru LGA.

“REC of INEC in Rivers State has refused to give reasons for changing the four compromised electoral officers of the commission, who lack integrity for being card-carrying members of PDP.

“If the violence made the March 9 elections not to be credible, according to INEC, where did the commission get results for the 17 LGAs  of Rivers 23 LGAs in the INEC’s possession?

“At what point did the elections become violence-free, for the commission to now have results for 17 LGAs? Why has INEC refused to release the results of the 17 LGAs it claims to have and the remaining six LGAs it wants to do supplementary election?”

Wike faulted Awara for suggesting that the state was violent.

“I do not agree that Rivers is a violent state. Rivers State has never and it will not be a violent State,” he fired back.

Continuing, he said: “the problem we have in this country, when people start to raise the alarm, over things that may likely happen, most of the things we always say, they are always crying. “Why are they raising too much alarm? What causes violence? Why is there violence each time there is election? The only way to have peaceful elections is when the security agencies refuse to interfere or manipulate any process.

“How did people die? When INEC would go and collate results and people would resist and when people resist, they will shoot them.

“Rivers is not a violent state. It is most unfortunate that people would leave their state, come to another state, instead of them to make sure what obtains in their state obtains here, they do not want it, they want to cause problems for us.

“With all due respect, the Garrison Commander (Brig.-Gen. Adeola Kalejaiye) is here. Throughout my political career of not less than 30 years, I have never experienced the type of roles the army played. We must tell people the simple truth.

“INEC set up a committee in 2016, during and after the reruns, where it was stated in your report that certain police officer manhandled your electoral official. He even went as far as naming the police officer. What has happened, as INEC? You could have said you did not want that kind of officer again. The same officer was also implicated in your report in these elections. Who are the people causing the violence?

“Rivers State in not violent when they are drilling crude oil. Why must the violence be during the period of elections? Who are those responsible, in order to tell them? INEC can insist on not requiring the services of the violent security personnel; that is the only way we can have peaceful, free and fair elections in Rivers State. Let the army personnel remove their hands from elections. It is unfortunate that we had some people demonstrating and thanking the Nigerian Army for a job well done. That is Nigeria for us.

“Who are the security personnel that will be in charge of the collation (between April 2 and 5)? Let us avoid sermon. You do not preach to me what you will not practise. The onus is on the security agencies to help INEC to do the right things, in order to achieve the results the commission wants to achieve. Rivers State is a peaceful state. Nobody should be driving away investors from us. Let the personnel of Nigerian Army remove their hands from electoral process.”

The National Commissioner of INEC in charge of Rivers, Bayelsa and Edo States, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, who chaired the stakeholders’ meeting in the absence of INEC chairman Professor Mahmoud Yakubu urged Rivers residents to allow peace to reign before, during and after the activities outlined for the conclusion of the controversial elections.

She said that the elections were suspended on March 10, due to the high-level of violence that occurred during the March 9, 2019 polls in Rivers.

Her words:”We do not have any other state, apart from Rivers State, to call our own. Let us join hands together to make Rivers State even greater. On the part of the commission, I wish to assure you of our commitment to free, fair and credible elections. We intend to keep these promises. May God, in His kindness, grant Rivers State perpetual peace.

“The results of the March 9 elections in Rivers State are with us (INEC) in our strong room and they have not been tampered with.

“A five-man fact-finding committee was therefore set up to ascertain the nature and verify the report of obstructive and lawless activities that generally attended the elections at the state collation centre, other collation centres and polling areas, occasioning the suspension. I was a member of the fact-finding committee. So, I know what I am talking about.

“The main objective of this meeting is to brief you on the schedule of activities and timeline, set by the commission for the conclusion of the governorship and state House of Assembly elections, and to solicit for your maximum cooperation towards the success of this exercise. It is also to generate discussions among the stakeholders, with a view to achieving transparent, peaceful and violence-free conclusion of the elections, within the timeline set by the commission.”

Also in attendance at yesterday’s meeting ahead of the Tuesday  resumption of collation of results of  the March 9 governorship and House of Assembly elections, was the Garrison Commander of 6 Division Garrison, Brig.-Gen. Adeola Kalejaiye who stood in for the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division of the Army, Port Harcourt, Maj.-Gen. Jamil Sarham.

Others were the State   Commissioner of Police, Usman Belel, INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), in Rivers, Mr. Obo Effanga, who was represented by the Administrative Secretary in the state, Elder Etim Umoh, the state  Chairman of   PDP, Chief Felix Obuah; Ledum Mitee of Initiative for Credible Elections (ICE), representatives of the Navy, Air Force, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Customs, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), as well as top politicians and other eminent personalities were also in attendance.

Effanga said: “In order to ensure credible process, INEC has sent seasoned electoral officers, led by the National Commissioner in charge of Rivers, Bayelsa and Edo States, Barr. May Agbamuche-Mbu, who is the chairman of this occasion. Political parties that participated in the March 9 elections should submit the names of their agents. We are not conducting fresh elections. The status quo as at March 9 remains.

“We have the results for these seventeen LGAs: Ahoada East, Akuku-Toru, Andoni, Bonny, Eleme, Emohua, Etche, Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Ogu/Bolo, Okrika, Omuma, Opobo/Nkoro, Oyigbo, Port Harcourt and Tai. Their (17 LGAs) collation was at the local government level. Collation was not completed in the remaining six LGAs: Abua/Odual, Ahoada West, Asari-Toru, Degema, Gokana and Khana.

“In Abua/Odual LGA, the materials and men did not even go out to the field. They were frustrated from going out and elections did not take place there. In Gokana LGA, materials and men went out to the field, but none came back, because there was outright violence and everything was destroyed. So, we do not have any result from there.

“In Ahoada West LGA, out of about 100 polling units, we have results in only 24 and that is not good enough. Asari-Toru LGA was not concluded, but we have the polling units’ results available, but they were not collated. Degema LGA has 17 registration areas, which we call wards in INEC’s context, and collation took place in ten, remaining seven. The seven wards, their results are in INEC’s strong room. In Khana LGA, there was no collation at the local government level, but we have results from the polling units and the collation from some wards available.

“INEC, in its mandate to conduct free, fair and credible elections in Rivers State, decided to come with a timetable (timeline) to let the people know how to ensure the collation and to know the winners.”

Effanga noted that before the suspension order came from Abuja on March 10, collation had commenced, with INEC now resuming the collation.

REC of INEC in Rivers disclosed that the collation, scheduled for between April 2 and 5, take place at the INEC’s office on Aba Road, Port Harcourt.

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