*As APC calls for prosecution of indicted INEC staff
By Jimitota Onoyume, Ben Agande, Gbenga Oke, Davies Iheamnachor & Grace Udofia
A day after the police presented N111 million cash allegedly recovered from 23 Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, officials as bribe allegedly offered them by the Rivers State Government to compromise the National Assembly re-run polls in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has faulted the report, saying it lacks credibility.
It will be recalled that the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Idris Ibrahim panel, headed by Damian Okoro, which probed the Rivers re-run election, had on Tuesday, displayed over N100 million as evidence of the cash Police allegedly recovered from 23 INEC officials as evidence of bribe from the Rivers State Government for the December 10 supplementary legislative election.
But the PDP, in its reaction, said the cash could have been taken from any place and displayed by the Police to achieve a predetermined purpose and should therefore, be dismissed with a wave of the hand, calling on the police to come up with more evidence to prove its claim that its men recovered N100 million from 23 electoral officers, who took part in Rivers re-run poll.
National Chairman of the caretaker committee of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, who made the call, said the country needs urgent institutional reforms for security agencies to serve Nigerians instead of those in government.
He also advised the panel to produce picture evidence that shows a chieftain of the party giving the bribe to the 23 officials of INEC, during the re-run election.
Prosecute indicted persons —APC
Meanwhile, Rivers State All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday, called for the prosecution of those indicted by the panel constituted by the IG on Rivers re-run elections, hailing it for uncovering the N360 million allegedly released by the state government as bribe to some officials of INEC, to influence the result of the last rerun elections in favour of the PDP.
APC also said that the outcome of the investigation carried out by the Police into the alleged bribery of INEC staff, during the Rivers re-run election in the state has vindicated its position that the elections were rigged.
APC also said the audio bribery clips published by an online medium in which the voice of the state governor was directing the deployment of bribe money to INEC officials is real and authentic, despite the denials by the governor.
The state APC, in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mr Chris Finebone, said: ‘’We feel a sense of vindication over repeated alarm we raised before, during and after the general and re-run elections of 2015 and 2016 that Wike bribes electoral officials before and during every election in Rivers State.”
Money not enough evidence —PDP
However, speaking in Port Harcourt, yesterday, Publicity Secretary of Rivers PDP, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, described the money evidence as primary school drama.
Nwanosike said the money was not enough evidence to be presented to the world in such a case, stressing that the panel ought to come up with pictures of where and when the money was given to the INEC officials.
He asked the panel to name the individual in River State Government involved in the bribing of the said INEC officials and make public the names of the recipients.
Nwanosike said: “We want to know the individual in the Rivers State Government that gave the bribe to the electoral officers. We want the evidence of where the money was given. We also need the pictures of those involved as proof and the bank where the money was paid.
“Okoro should tell Nigerians categorically how much he recovered from each of the persons involved. If actually they recovered anything, the money must be marked. It is a shame that Okoro and his panel could not do a thorough job, at least to please their paymasters.”
Nwanosike, said that the report is a form of distraction to the state governor, noting that Wike can never be placed under pressure.
“Governor Wike is not under pressure because of the allegation. Nobody can distract Wike from fulfilling his campaign promises to the people of the state. If they have facts, they should go to court. Nigerians are tired of their antics.
“PDP has no hand in the said bribe. We do not have anything to do with the panel under Okoro. Their report will not be binding on us. We are not interested in their panel. The panel is only cooking up stories to intimidate Rivers people.”
On his part, national caretaker committee of the party, Senator Makarfi, who also spoke on the development, when the Strategy Review and Inter-party Committee of the party headed by Professor Jerry Gana submitted its report in Abuja, yesterday, called on the party to especially pray for the quick recovery of President Muhammadu Buhari, noting that though the party is ready to take over in 2019, it is not ready to do so through the death of an incumbent president.
“What is happening in Rivers State reminds me of the work of magicians. How can the Police display money and claim that it was from bribe given by the PDP? We could have also brought money. What if the police and the security agencies were also compromised? Was their money not recoverable?
“We specialise in bastardising institutions yet we want them to do well. It will not work. We started by bastardising the judiciary now it is the electoral body. It will not work. It is either we do the right thing or the right thing will be done to us.
“We must stand for institutional reforms. What we have now is that institutions are serving those in office. We can never get it right if they do not serve the people of Nigeria. If we do not do away with this practice, these nonsensical things will continue. We must free these institutions from serving those in office,” he said.
Speaking after submitting the report, Professor Gana said that the committee made recommendations that when implemented will reposition the party strategically to take over power in 2019.