*To release some results soon
By Omeiza Ajayi
The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC vowed yesterday not to go back to Rivers State for the conclusion of the State and National Assembly election re-run held on March 19 saying it was not in a hurry to again risk the lives of its personnel, stakeholders and other partners.
The commission, in a statement signed by its Director, Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzi, however said it will release some of the results already collated.
In a statement issued after it met with its personnel deployed for the March 19 haphazard polls, the electoral umpire also said it will not conduct elections in any other state where the dominant political culture is a climate of fear, intimidation and violence.
According to INEC, “”On election day, some of the Registration Area Centres RACs were invaded and barricaded by hordes of people who prevented our officials from leaving for the polling units, thus disrupting the prompt commencement of the exercise in many places.
“Fortunately, the commission was able to undertake the exercise in several places after explanation by the INEC staff and further validation/authentication of these result sheets by the endorsement of the Resident Electoral Commissioner REC and Electoral Officers EOs of some of these Local Government Areas. The Commission wishes to emphatically state that there were no fake result sheets or any fake materials used in the conduct of the elections.
Position as at time of suspension
“As at the time of suspension of further action by the Commission, the exercise was at different stages, as follows:
*The elections had been concluded in some constituencies with the declaration of results and return of winners by the respective Returning Officers.
*Results declared and/or returns made under duress or by unauthorized persons.
*Collation had been concluded but no declaration or return made.
*Voting had been concluded and collation ongoing but yet to be concluded.
*Voting had been concluded but collation yet to commence.
*No voting at all or voting commenced but was disrupted before conclusion.
Modalities and way forward
“Faced with the above scenario, the Commission restates its earlier decision to uphold the declarations and returns made in the Federal and State Constituencies where the exercise had been concluded.
“Similarly, the commission will conclude and make returns in constituencies where it is satisfied that voting and collation were done in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and our Guidelines. Further details as to the constituencies and nature of the exercise will be announced by the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the next few days.
“INEC will at a date to be decided, conduct fresh elections starting with accreditation and voting in all Local Government Areas, Constituencies, Registration Areas and Polling Units where the exercise was disrupted before voting was concluded on Saturday, 19th March, 2016. Even so, this will only be after due consultation with stakeholders and subject to the advice of the Security Agencies and guarantees by the Political Parties, Candidates and their supporters.
“While the Commission is committed to conducting free, fair and credible elections, it hereby reiterates its resolve not to return to Rivers state (or anywhere else where there was a breakdown of law and order in the course of conducting elections) until there is a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of credible elections. As a responsible organization, it will not expose its stakeholders especially voters, its officials, observers, media personnel to any danger and even where dates have been fixed and published, it will not hesitate to again suspend the exercise where there is a clear danger or credible threat of a breakdown of law and order”.
Out of the 37 senatorial, federal and state constituencies where elections were ordered to take place, INEC was only able to collate and declare results in one Federal and nine State constituencies where the disruption and malpractices were not so widespread.
“Consequently, results of the polls would be released in places where collation had been concluded but no declaration or return made and in areas where voting had been concluded but collation yet to commence”, the commission said.
Also, results of areas where voting had been concluded and collation ongoing but yet to be concluded, would be released.
The commission however blamed some overzealous voters in Rivers state for its inability to conduct elections in some parts of the state.
It said it would however conduct the remaining elections at a later date to be decided based on recommendation from security agencies as well as an undertaking by political parties and their candidates to ensure a seamless exercise.