By Dayo Adesulu
Resident Electoral Commissioner, Rivers State, Obo Effanga, Esq has said that four names of the collation officers for the governorship election in Rivers State who were alleged to be partisan have been removed from the LGA collation officers list.
In a release, he said: “Our attention have been drawn to a petition about the list of LGA collation officers for the governorship election in Rivers State wherein four of the listed persons were alleged to have partisan inclination.
“We have since updated the list by removing the said persons whom we had no prior knowledge of their alleged partisanship.
“They said officers were selected from the lists sent to us from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), headquarters as lecturers in the University of Port Harcourt, as well as those other lecturers who attended the training we held for academic Staff of the University of Port Harcourt.
“We took every reasonable step to ensure that the proposed collation officers were without any partisanship, even as we requested each person to disclose any such interest which may not be known to us.
“We have since briefed the Chairman of INEC on this, following his request for response by us.”
Speaking further on phone with Vanguard on the issue Effanga explained: “Last Saturday, we held the governorship election in Rivers state just as it happened in 28 other states.
“On the day of the election morning, I got a call from the chairman of the commission, drawing my attention to the petition written by some group I didn’t really know, alleging that those people we had listed to be the local government collation officers for the governorship election had partisan inclination.
“I eventually got a copy of that petition and read through it. The first thing we did was to avoid any doubt and removed those persons from the list and replaced them with others. After that I informed the chairman of the commission about the development.
“The evidence they provided against those accused of partisan politics was a photograph of the person clothed on the computer.
“One of them was said to had contested or was a contestant in one of those parties, maybe during the primary. But those documents that were attached was a computer design not a finished product.
“One of the evidence brought was a photograph showing a man standing by another man, the other man had a cap of a political party and the person standing by him was possibly his brother. In other word he is suspected to be the brother to a politician.
“But we didn’t want to start calling the people to ask them to justify or to confirm whether they were partisan or not. At that stage, the best thing we did was to delist the four of them and replaced them.
“Eventually when the police came, they asked for my response and it was that statement I wrote saying this was what happened.
“In the statement I also explained the process on which people serve as collation officers.
“We got list from the headquarters, we also had training for those people and teachers in the university also joined the training because we needed a large number of people to select from.
“Otherwise you will find a situation where by the time you select, some people will say they are not interested maybe because of where they are posted to due Rivers State population.
“At the training, the point was made to these persons that if they had partisan interest, they would not participate in the collation.
“Of course there is no way you can tell who has partisan interest by just looking at the person and we are talking about up to 600 plus people.
“It is possible that in the process, one or two persons got in there not because we intentionally wanted to do that, which is why when this came, we just immediately removed the persons.”