By Chidi Nkwopara, OWERRI
Scores of ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commissione, INEC, who did not know their fate Saturday, protested in front of the Owerri office of the establishment.
The protesters, which included Collation and Returning Officers, told Vanguard at the scene that although they received proper training for the exercise, but were yet to be deployed by INEC.
Speaking to newsmen at the scene of the protest, the group’s spokesperson, Mr. Michael Echetama, said they were surprised that INEC have failed to determine their fate
and roles in the ongoing polls.
“Although we are from varying Federal Government owned institutions, feelers getting to us, has it that INEC is planning to settle for only the staff of Federal University of Technology, Owerri, FUTO, for the current exercise”, Echetama said.
When contacted on her mobile line for comments, the INEC Public Relations Officer of INEC in Imo state, Mrs. Emmanuella Opara, said the protest was unnecessary.
“The protest is not necessary. Honestly, they have not need to cluster in front of our office. The shortlisted ad hoc staff have since, been notified appropriately through text messages”, Opara explained.
On the allegation that the Commission only settled for FUTO staff, Mrs. Opara said it was not true.
“It is not true that the Commission settled for only FUTO staff. The ad hoc staff the Commission recruited, cut across all institutions”, Opara explained.
Meanwhile, a startling discovery was recorded at Naze polling booth 2, Owerri North local government area.
Vanguard was told that no fewer than 290 sheets of the Senatorial Ballot Paper was missing and the INEC staff could not account for it, as the materials arrived more than two hours late.
A top civil servant, who did not want her name in print, expressed shock over the alleged loss of 290 ballot papers.
“What do you call this? Who removed it? Will it eventually count when returned? This is not good for our democracy”, the lady lamented.
At Osu Owerri Ward, where the former Governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, was supposed to vote, materials were yet to arrive as at 1pm when Vanguard left the voting centre.
Reports coming from Ogboko, the country home of Governor Rochas Okorocha, had it that a Premium Is reporter was attacked at one of the polling centres, and at the
Divisional Police Officer’s,as at the time of going to press.
The situation at Mbaitoli local government area was not particularly rosy in most polling centres visited, as less than two and a half hours to the end of voting, the exercise did not commence.
Professor C. B. C. Ohanuzuo, who spoke to Vanguard at the polling unit 7 in Amauzari Ward, Isiala Mbano local government area, lamented that as at 12 noon, there was no sign of INEC there or in any of the polling units in the Ward.
“I honestly, don’t know what INEC has up the sleeves. I will not go away from this polling centre. I’ll sit it out here, no matter the pain and frustration”, Professor Ohanuzuo said.
Voters at the Modonna Model Secondary School, Works Layout, Owerri, the voters sensed foul play.
Speaking to Vanguard on phone,a senior citizen, Chief Donald Ekenta said that although INEC adhoc staff arrived booth 003 at 1.05 pm, he announced to the bewildered voters that he came with incomplete ballot boxes and ballot papers.
“The adhoc staff claimed that they were waylaid between Government Secondary School, Owerri, and our voting centre. There is serious tension here, especially as a Toyota Sienna vehicle, with police branding, drove into this arena and the young man away”, Ekenta recounted.
Continuing, Chief Ekenta said that nobody was sure if the armed people were real police personnel or fakes.
“For now, no voting has taken place at this polling centre. It is only hoped that nobody will turn in any result, purporting it to have come from here”, Chief Ekenta pleaded.