By Egufe Yafugborhi
PORT HARCOURT –The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC is expected to give today a fresh directive on how it expects to resolve the crisis that stalemated the Rivers State governorship election. The process had been suspended last Sunday by the election management body after some casualties that exceeded past levels of violence in the restive political state.
In suspending the process last Sunday, the commission had given itself a 48-hour limit within which to resolve the crisis.
Among the casualties from the election was a policeman attached to Governor Nyesom Wike.
Not even the suspension of the process by INEC was able to lessen the security cordon around the commission’s office in the state.
Indeed, the stretch between Waterlines and GRA Junctions remained shut to traffic yesterday by a team of military and SARS operatives.
Before news of the suspension filtered out, the social media had been inundated with several reports and video footages of various uniformed men, particularly the army and Special Anti-Robbery Squad invading collation centers in some flash across the volatile Rivers voting environment.
In one of the most watched video footages, SARS operatives shot a lecturer, Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, who was allegedly in a crowd of protesters in his groins.
The crowd had allegedly formed a ring to stop the security men from carrying away ballots and other voting materials from Bori, headquarters of Khana Local Government Area, LGA.
The army speaking through Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col Sagir Musa absolved its personnel of wrongdoing, alleging that those who invaded collation centers were impostors.
In Adoni LGA, Mrs. Emilia Nte, an aide to Governor Wike on Gender Matters was attacked at about 10 pm on the eve of voting as she journeyed to her ward ahead of the elections.
Community sources as well as Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi said Mrs. Nte was killed but Police Public Relations Officer, Rivers Command, DOS Nnamdi Omoni said, the victim has not been confirmed killed, but only kidnapped.
Omoni however confirmed that the police detail attached to Mrs. Nte to have been killed in the said attack.
Former Governor Amaechi also confirmed that two persons were killed in his mother’s village in Egbeda, Emohua LGA the night before elections.
Two soldiers are said to be in critical condition after being attacked by alleged thugs at the chaos in Obia Akpor LGA. Captain Adams Salami, one of the severely wounded soldiers said the thugs broke into the Obia Akpor INEC collation center and attacked them.
PDP demands prosecution of SARS Rivers
Meanwhile, the PDP in Rivers has called for “immediate arrest and prosecution of the Commander, FSARS in Rivers, Akin Fakorede over” what the party described as the shooting Dr. Gberegbe.
PDP in a statement by Jerry Needam, media aide to the State PDP Chairman, Felix Obuah, also pointed at other victims citing “Marvin Lezor Kpea-ue, Raymond Ledogo, and several others were also shot at the INEC Collation Center in Bori on the fateful morning of March 10.
“The the F-SARS Commander, in the company of scores of SARS officers and military men also carted away all election materials at the Collation Center, after shooting the men,” the PDP claimed.
Parties divided on crisis
While the PDP was loudest in shouting about partisan meddling and aggression by security operatives supposedly on the prompting of former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, other political parties have been divided in the blame game.
The APC, especially at the national level on its part, called for the release of the results and conclusion of the election.
While, the Coalition of Governorship Candidates and Party Chairmen, CGCPC, accused Rivers PDP of being the instigator of the violence, the Inter-Party Advisory Committee, IPAC, claimed the aggression and irregularities were instigated to thwart the re-election of Wike who they declared had been ahead in the results with INEC.
CGCPC position statement, signed by its chairman and governorship candidate of Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance, APDA in Rivers, Warigbani Zebulun, alleged, “Inordinate and unpatriotic actions by Rivers incumbent Governor and PDP governorship candidate, Nyesom Wike, in the hijack of election result sheets and materials meant for Obio/Akpor LGA during which process, an army officer shot his thugs”
The seemingly pro-Amaechi’s CGCPC also accused Rivers Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Oboh Effanga, for allegedly appointing “appointing a younger brother to the Rivers southeast Senatorial District Candidate of the PDP, as the returning officer for Khana Local Government Area.”
The group also claimed that PDP chieftains were appointed as returning officers for Emohua, Eleme, Andoni, Okrika, Omuma, Ogu/Bolo, Tai and PHALGA, with an instruction to deliver the PDP.
“In fairness, we call on the National Chairman of INEC Prof. Mamood Yakubu to, as a matter of urgency, redeploy the REC in charge of Rivers to enable a new REC to continue the electoral process.
“We wholeheartedly commend the Army for display of professionalism and ensuring adequate security before, during and after the election. We pray they maintain the tempo as only those with sinister plans will not appreciate the commendable efforts of the Army.
IPAC which is sympathetic to Wike, in its response presented by Precious Baridoo, candidate of Accord for the elections urged President Buhari “to call the Nigerian Army to order” even as the group commended Governor Wike for his peaceful disposition.
“We want INEC to commence collation of official results from the various collation centers. From results from collation centers from all the constituencies, 23 house of assembly seats have been declared won by PDP. We call on INEC to declare Wike as duly elected governor based on results collated from various polling units.”
Declare me winner, Amaechi’s AAC candidate tells INEC
Meanwhile, the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, Biokpomabo Awara who had taken an unassailable lead in results that flooded social media has asked INEC to declare him the winner of the election.
Awara who is being backed by Amaechi spoke to newsmen from the campaign office of Tonye Cole, the APC nominee for governor who was, however, disqualified.
Awara had demanded “That the results already declared should be accepted. INEC should declare me the winner of the 09-03-2019 Governorship election in the state. The State REC, Obo Effanga should be immediately redeployed for gross incompetence. He has not been able to conclude any election in Rivers since he took over the office. The PHALGA Constituency 111 State Assembly election is a case in point.”
“Some of the unit results announced at the polling units in the Local Government where collations were not concluded clearly before the suspension of the processes show that I won over 15 Local Government Areas.”
“The suspension of the elections by INEC was done to give respite to the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who was trailing behind, frustrate my victory.
My party went into these elections against an umpire dangerously skewed in favour of the PDP.”
Civil society groups also demand REC’s removal
Civil Society and Human Rights groups yesterday protested in Port Harcourt, with some of them calling for Effanga’s removal.
The groups which protested included International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights, ISSJHR, Advocate for Peace, Electorate Rights Defence and Education Network, and others also called for the immediate completion and announcement of the collated results of Saturday’s governorship election in Rivers State.
The protesters stormed the Aba-Port Harcourt express road with placards bearing: ‘A Partisan REC is a Disaster to Democracy,’ ‘A Partisan Umpire is Recipe for Anarchy,’ ‘Effanga has Failed Rivers State,’ ‘INEC, Please Conclude the Election for the Sake of Peace.’
Jackson Omenazu, Chancellor ISSJHR who addressed the protesters mostly pro-Amaechi supporters said, “We are calling on the Chairman of INEC, to order the Residence Electoral Commissioner to announce the result of the election as collated. After he has released the result, he should be deployed and tried for partisan politics.
“He is a dangerous signal to this institution, INEC. Such a person is not supposed to be found the corridors of INEC. He has disparaged this institution. It is a flagrant abuse of the electoral process that someone will leave his house to the polling unit and cast his vote and the vote will not count.
“INEC should please and urgently release the result of the election. We are seeing that INEC is partisan. We don’t need anarchy in the state.”