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INEC, Warri South and wards delineation

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By Ameachi Ogbonna

wards
Imdependent National Electoral Commission

AFTER 15 years of rigmarole and meandering designed primarily to short-change the Itsekiri nation with the creation of wards in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State by the defunct National Electoral Commission, NECON, justice appears to be on the way of the oppressed people.

To be precise, after the creation of Warri South and North LGAs in 1991 from the old Warri LGA, Warri South had 10 wards divided into two constituencies. Constituency one comprises Okere, Esisi, Bowen, and Pessu wards while Constituency two consists of Ode-Itsekiri, Obodo, Ubeji, Ekurede, Avenue and Igbudu wards respectively.

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The wards were used to conduct elections into the House of Assembly in 1991 and 1999. In 1998, however, NECON purportedly carried out a re-delineation exercise, expanding the 10 wards in constituency one by increasing them to 12 wards.

The action created unwarranted opportunities for some groups to the detriment of others. This action sparked off protest and litigation by the then chairman and councillors of Warri South in Suit No. FHC/B/109/97: Mr. Joseph Otumara & 8 others Vs NECON & 4 others.

For the purpose of clarity, INEC increased the number of wards without a reasonable sense of judgement. For instance, Obodo Ward now consists of both the original Obodo and Ubeji wards. Okumagba 1 Ward consists of the original Esisi and Avenue wards. Okumagba 11 is now part of the original Avenue Ward. Ogunu/Ekurede Urhobo Ward now consists of the other half of the original Ekurede Ward. G.R.A Ward now has original Esisi Ward and Edjeba Ward.

These wards were created in breach of an existing court order to spite some people.

In his judgment, Justice I.N. Auta held as follows: “The creation of wards done by INEC in 1998 apart from being against the law which made provision for such exercise to be done not less than 10 years, was done in flagrant disobedience to the order of this court.

“It will cost INEC nothing if it complied with the order of court, just as the defunct NECON did. INEC could have done the exercise in areas where there is no court order against such an exercise. The exercise done in 1998 is contrary to NECON Decree and in disobedience to the order of the court made on April 14, 1997 is wrongful, unlawful, and null and void”.

It is worthy of note that Justice D. D. Abutu had granted this order on April 14, 1997, earlier. INEC appealed the judgement on October 28, 2003 and has been conducting elections on the basis of 12 wards.

Following a motion on notice filed in appeal number CA/B/482m/2018 by Jolone Ikomi Esq. with supporting affidavits on September 20, 2018 seeking an order to strike out the notice and ground of appeal filed by INEC and others since October 28, 2003, before Justice H.M. Ogunwumiju, the court ordered as prayed, saying “it is apparent that the respondents are unwilling and unable to prosecute this appeal.

“Notice of Appeal is struck out for want of prosecution and Motion number is struck out of the cause list.”

It is pertinent to point out at this juncture that in pursuance of the matter, the leadership of the apex Itsekiri youth body, the Itsekiri National Youth Congress, INYC, led by Comrade Weyinmi Agbateyiniro, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC, Asaba, Dr. Cyril Omoregbe, Security Agency, and Jolone Ikomi Esq, entered into a signed Memorandum of Understanding, M.o.U dated February 15, 2019, with reference no: INEC/DT/AD38.24/556 wherein INEC agreed to do the needful.

Since the end of election, nothing has changed. Regrettably, when the matter came up for hearing at the Federal High Court, Benin City, Edo State, before Justice Mukta Garba, INEC failed to show up to tell the court why it continues to defy the order.

This prompted the court to summon the Delta State Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Dr. Cyril Omoregbe to appear before it on February 4, 2020, to explain why INEC should not be charged for contempt for disobeying a ruling of the Court of Appeal that directed it to reverse the current ward delineation in Warri South LGA  from 12 to 10 wards.

Interestingly, INEC deposed to an affidavit claiming that they are complying with the decision. The truth is that INEC is complying with the court order only in the breach.

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