By Jimitota Onoyume
THE Police report into the controversial December 10, 2016 re-run legislative elections in Rivers State has continued to draw reactions with both major parties in the state unyielding in their different assertions of bias.
The police had, penultimate Tuesday, released a report in which it indicted 23 staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for allegedly collecting N136 million bribe from Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to support the governor’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The chairman of the panel, DCP Damian Okoro, who briefed newsmen on the development in Abuja said that the police recovered N111.3 million out of the N136 million alleged bribe from them.
According to DCP Okoro, three senior officers of the commission were given N20 million each while the others allegedly received N15 million or less.
The allegation by the Police, however, did not come to the state government as a surprise because it had raised the alarm when some ad-hoc staff of the electoral body were arrested and taken to Abuja, saying it was part of an alleged game plan to link the governor with electoral fraud.
“A month ago, we alerted the world to the dark, Orwellian plot by the Nigeria Police to implicate Governor Wike in a phoney bribe scandal. Now, the Police appears to be acting with shocking predictability, by making wild and completely groundless allegations against Wike,” the government said.
The two sides in the face off spoke on the issue in separate exclusive interviews with Vanguard.
Wike should show maturity — Finebone, APC spokesman
Mr. Chris Finebone is the publicity secretary of All Progressive Congress, APC, in Rivers State.
He speaks on how his party perceives the recent bribery allegation levelled against the Rivers State government by the panel constituted by the Inspector General of Police to investigate issues around the last rerun elections in the state. Excerpts:
WHAT is your response to the police report?
The position of our party is that the Police has come out with its report even if we don’t know the full content. If we are to speak on the one so far released it will be too bad that the government of Rivers State will be indicted in a report that investigated the rerun elections as having bribed electoral personnel. For us we won’t say we are surprised; we have said it over and over again that having been in the same party with the governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, we know he has his own style in politics.
And his former boss, Rotimi Amaechi has his own style. Chief Wike knows the things Amaechi will do and won’t do. For Wike to even decide to challenge Amaechi is because he knows that the principles Amaechi holds on to may not apply in today’s politics.
Weak point for the minister
I am saying in effect that there are some principles Amaechi uphold that even at the point of AK47 he will never compromise. Wike has come to see that as a weak point for the minister. So we know. You know what the intent is to bribe electoral officers. We are not surprised that the Police is discovering this. We had consistently said this that Nyesom Wike has identified judiciary, the electoral umpire, and security agencies to hold on to power. It emboldens him in our peculiar Nigeria circumstances that you can weaken some of these institutions. We in the APC believe that what the Police came out with is correct.
PDP and the government have said the report was part of an alleged game plan by the APC, INEC and Police to rubbish the governor.
Ask the question, what led to the Police doing this? There had been electoral malpractice, killings. The police intervened because of the height of killings in the state. Talking about leaders of APC working with the Police is neither here nor there. There is no truth in the allegation. We don’t believe the response of the government. When the full report is made public I am sure all questions will be answered.
Why did your party fail to appear before the panel set up by the state government to look at similar issues around the elections?
It was because the state government can’t be a judge in a matter it is an accused. That rubbishes the panel. Two, all the feelers we had was that it was a targeted charade. Three, you can’t set up this panel when there is already one running by the Police. We know they are different institutions. But we believe that the IG’s panel should have been allowed to run. So based on this we decided to stay away.
We want the governor to realize he is the governor of all. He should conduct himself in this manner. He should display a candour that portrays him as a democrat. I am sure everybody was impressed seeing Seriake Dickson shake the hands of Timi in Bayelsa during the visit of the acting President. We expected the governor to show statesmanship during the last visit of the President even if it was for the camera it would have been a big plus for him.
During the flag off ceremony of Ogoni clean up, we heard Amaechi acknowledge the governor when it got to where he should.
Police allegation childish — PDP
In this interview, the Publicity secretary PDP, in the state, Mr Samuel Nwanosike also gives his party’s response to the allegations of bribery levelled against the state government by the Police panel. Excerpts:
WHAT is your reaction to the report of the police panel?
Is it the INEC zonal chairmen, state chairman, INEC directors or who are the persons the money was recovered from, because if you say INEC officials it is not specific. Anybody can work into any bank withdraw his money and keep it somewhere only to come with it and say they were recovered as bribe.
This is a very sensitive matter. Nigerians should see professionalism at play. We want to see factual evidence. We want to see marked money, videos, which banks the money came from. Who gave the money? We want to see visual evidences like videos. You don’t just come out to say we recovered this money given as bribe.
We have said it clearly that the panel was biased , had biased intentions and even reports that will come from the panel will be biased.
The panel should have been tactical enough to do a neat job rather than bring dirty naira notes from somewhere and make all forms of claims.
We are asking simple questions, who were the money recovered from. Who are the electoral officers, how were they recruited. The entire claim by the Police panel is childish. The allegation is empty.
Why did your party not make appearance at the Police panel?
How can a man be a judge in his own matter? You are aware before the Police constituted its panel, the governor wrote several letters to the Inspector General of Police on issues around his men. None of the letters were responded to by the IG. Names of police officers were mentioned in the letters by the governor, their plans and how they were conniving with an opposition party ahead of the elections to rig the elections. Nothing was done, no response to the letters. We told the world where they (Police officers) were posted to and those they were conniving within the opposition party.
Carting of electoral materials
Even when the IG visited the governor before the election, the governor told him that he wrote several letters to him as Chief Security Officer of the state yet no response. Behold on the day of the election these Policemen carried out those acts. They were involved in killing of innocent persons, carting of electoral materials, beating up of INEC officials. Now you tell us a man committed a crime and turned around to set up a panel to investigate it?
We told the Police that we were not going to be part of the panel because it would be biased. We have seen the results.
Why would the panel choose to investigate some issues and ignore others. Akin Fakorade , head of SARS in the state was caught on Channels camera beating up the Electoral Officer in Emohua Local Government Area at the collation centre. This is a weighty evidence which the Police did not look at.
Akin Fakorode arrested the collation agent of the PDP, who is a commissioner when he was doing his lawful duty. He was taken to a place and beaten up mercilessly. Rather than investigate the issues, the panel turned around sweeping all the issues under the carpet.
The printing of sensitive materials at Isiokpo street, arrests were made, the people caught in the acts confessed that they were sent by opposition party leaders. The then state Police commissioner withdrew the matter and the matter was transferred to zone 6.
Today nothing has been heard about the issue. What happened to the case? So printing of electoral material is no longer a worse crime you can talk about in an electoral process?
What about the killing of a Police officer, DSP Alkhali and his orderly in one LGA. Arrests were made, those arrested confessed that they were sent to do the job by an APC chieftain. Why did the Police not investigate the killing and that of innocent people in Ogoni area when Police was snatching materials?
Why did the Police not investigate its invasion of Ikwerre local government area where I was the collation officer during the election? The police and soldiers came to scuttle the results after elections had been concluded. Are they not issues for the police to investigate?
So you can see that we have been vindicated by the report of the panel when we said it would be biased.
There have been similar allegations also that the judicial panel set up by the state government to look at issues around the elections was targeted at the opposition?
As far as we are concerned the judicial panel of enquiry was done in accordance with the laws of the land. The panel by the Police should ordinarily be to try its own officers, not to try others. All the parties in the election have been invited. I have gone there to make my statement.
I will not talk much about it because it is ongoing. I want to say that those who drafted our constitution made provisions for things like this.
A final word?
The Nigerian public should please ignore the childish allegation from the Police panel. The panel is an agent of the APC.
The panel has not linked the governor with bribe. They should be bold enough to say which official of the state government gave out the bribe.