By Anayo Okoli
Umuahia – Residents of Avo Umuirem in Ntigha community, Isiala Ngwa North Council of Abia State, were in shock, yesterday, when they made a strange and startling discovery of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, ballot box stuffed with ballot papers, lying in a bush behind the village’s primary school.
The discovery was made barely 19 days after the April 26 gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections.
The ballot box was suspected to have been used for the governorship election.
The box, with polling unit number AB/06/07/014 and marked with serial number E9 8206 329, was believed to have been thrown into the bush during the election.
Surprised by the strange findings, the community alerted journalists who rushed to scene where they actually saw the ballot box with ballot papers stuffed inside it. The usually transparent box however appeared to have been dulled a little as it has been exposed to the rain and sun for almost three weeks.
There were, however, conflicting reports on how the box was discovered, but it was generally agreed that it was discovered by the pupils who resumed classes yesterday after the Easter break.
However, Ochiagha Reagan Ufomba, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, who hails from a nearby village, said that he was informed of the strange discovery on Sunday night.
Ufomba expressed shock that INEC ballot box could be abandoned inside a bush when the results of the election which it was used for have been declared and a winner announced.
He said: “The discovery is part of the evidence to show that the election in Abia State is neither free, fair not credible.”
He alleged that it was the second time a ballot box would be discovered in the bush since after the conclusion of the 2011 general election. The first, he said, was discovered at Ubakala in Umuahia South Local Government Area.
The Divisional Police Officer for Isiala Ngwa was called to come and secure the ballot box, but he did not turn up by the time newsmen left the scene. A patrol team was seen moving to the area.
When contacted, INEC Public Relations Officer, Timidi Wariowei, denied knowledge of any missing ballot box, saying that INEC did not record any loss of ballot box.