By Chinedu Adonu
Enugu State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Emeka Ononammadu has said that the commission cannot facilitate the conduct of Isi-Uzo State Constituency by-election in Enugu state without the presence of Police personnel.
Ononamadu stated this on Wednesday while speaking at a consultative meeting with media practitioners and Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) on Isi-Uzo state constituency election.
It could be recalled that Isi Uzo state constituency election slated to hold on 31st October 2020 was postponed due to the ENDSARS violence which erupted in the country.
Recall that Isi-Uzo State Constituency in Enugu State was declared vacant by the Independent National Electoral Commission following the death of the member representing the area, late Hon. Chijioke Ugwueze. The late lawmaker’s wife, Amaka Ugwueze has emerged as the PDP candidate; APC has elected Engr. Macdonald Ejiofor Okworfor as its candidate.
According to the INEC boss “we are here to meet with stakeholders to deliberate on suitable date for Isi -Uzo bye election which was postponed due to ENDSARS violence. This problem was not only in Enugu but the election was also postponed in all the 11 states across the country where election supposed to hold last month
“In INEC, we see election as a national issue so we cannot fix any date on our own alone because of the present situation in the country as a result of ENDSARS protest.
“It’s unfortunate that people are still in fear and the police personnel are yet to come back to duty due to the last month incident and we cannot conduct this election without the presence of Nigeria police personnel.
“Also most VIP in this region move around now without police personnel apart from the Governors as they were all withdrawn because they need more police personnel to guide our prisons to prevent jail break as the ENDSARS hoodlums planned to attack prison and free inmates.
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“Even though that we are ready to conduct the Isi Uzo state constituency election but we cannot endeger lives of the people so we must consult with all stakeholders including political parties, traditional, religious leaders among others to arrive at a suitable date,” he said
Ononamadu who lamented over the low turnout of voters in the last general election in the state said “we don’t also want to experience another low turnout in Isi-Uzo state constituency bye-election because we don’t want to arrive at polling unit and see only 20 voters out of 1,000 voters coming out to exercise their franchise so we want to run inclusive, free and fair election that will be acceptable to all.
“Even the political parties told us that they need to go back to their constituency and reactivate their campaign so this also requires some times. Even though INEC is ready to conduct the election but our readiness is subject to other stakeholders, he said.
Meanwhile stakeholders at the meeting expressed mixed reaction over the conduct of the election. While some opined that the conduct of the election is visible with the situation in the country others suggested that the people should be given more time to overcome their fears and trauma.
Mrs Onyeka Okey Udegbunam, Executive Director of Hope Givers Initiative opined that the election might not be visible this year as police personnel who were targeted during the ENDSARS protest are yet to come back to duty
She said “I want to suggest that the election should be shifted to next year because those that lost their loved ones are still in trauma so we should give them time to recover from their lost while morale of our police personnel are still low and we need to consider the safety of the people and INEC staff that will be involve during the election,” she said
Also, Sam Obiefuna, Executive Director of Disability Policy and Empowerment Consult cautioned against insinuating fear in the electorates saying “we should not take this issues of these hoodlums so far because if we put fear in ourselves, even January will not be visible to conduct the election.
“We want to believe that INEC has finished all the preparation for the conduct of the election before the ENDSARS protest so they should liase with IGP to decide the suitable date for the election but I want to suggest that if they could not conduct the election in November, it should be postponed till January because December cannot be visible because its festive month and we might not get people’s attention ,” he said.