By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURT—No fewer than 50 staff of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were hospitalised for various injuries sustained during last weekend’s supplementary election conducted in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, REC, Elder Aniedi Ikoiwak, disclosed this to Vanguard, yesterday, saying that some of them had been treated and discharged.
He said that suspected political thugs also snatched handbags containing mobile phones and other valuables belonging to female staff of the commission, adding that the thugs attacked INEC staff with knives and other dangerous weapons.
“They beat up our staff, snatched handbags of female INEC staff containing phones and other valuables. The nation should also seek ways of tackling electoral violence. It is not enough to say that election should be concluded in areas where there was violence.
“No fewer than 50 of our staff sustained injuries during the election. Thugs stole valuables belonging to our female staff. We said we were not going to use corps members, so we deployed our staff to areas where the elections took place. They were attacked with knives and their phones were stolen.
“A level 15 officer was among those injured. Some have been treated and discharged. One of our staff regained consciousness only on Sunday,” he said.
He dismissed allegations by the All Progressives Congress, APC, that the commission reversed itself when it went ahead to announce results for the elections.
According to him, it was a supplementary election that needed simple majority of votes cast to determine the winner.
He said that the officer in charge of the election at Okehi told him that the politicians said they needed to get approval from the legal department before declaring the result.
“That was why he came to our head office in Port Harcourt, where he got the approval he needed in writing. He followed all this process to be sure that he acted in compliance with the law.
“It was a supplementary election so simple majority was used to announce the winner.
When asked why the governor came to INEC office in the early hours of Sunday, the REC, Ikoiwak, said he was also surprised to hear that the governor was at the headquarters of INEC at 2a.m., adding that no staff of INEC was in the office when he came.