April 18, 2023

Abia North voters willfully shunned NASS election, INEC tells tribunal


. Claims affected units, IPOB sympathizers

By Steve Oko

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has told the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, that voters in parts of Abia North where election did not hold on February 25, “willfully” stayed away from the polls.

INEC also claimed that those who abstained from voting were sympathizers of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.

INEC made the claims in its written response to the petition filed by Senator Mao Ohuabunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, against the election of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu of the All Progressive Congress, APC.

Poll did not hold in at least over 90 polling units mainly in Ohafia Local Government Area,  and parts of Arochukwu LGA as voters who reportedly thronged out en mass waited in vain till evening without any INEC official or adhoc staff showing up.

INEC had later scheduled a re-run in the affected polling units on February 27 but later put it on hold following an alleged other from above.

Collation of results for Abia North senatorial poll was also suspended pending the conduct of a re-run in the areas election did not hold but suddenly it announced results of the poll.

Counsel to INEC, Sylvester Elema, SAN, who filed the response, claimed that  voters in Isiama, Okamu, Agboji, and parts of Amaeke in Ohafia LGA and several wards in Arochukwu LGA refused to vote in the presidential and national assembly elections because of their “willful resistance” to voting.

“Wherever voting did not eventually hold, it was because of the willful resistance to voting and or refusal to vote by the voters in the area on 25th February,  2023.

INEC further averred that “the unwillingness to vote showed itself in the areas where there are strong agitation for cessation ( by IPOB) as most people in the area showed sympathy for the agitation particularly Agboji, Okamu, Isiama and Amaeke in Ohafia Local Government and Ohaeke, Arochukwu Ward IÌI and Ututu in Arochukwu Local Government “.

Senator Ohuabunwa and the PDP are challenging the “unlawful return” of  Senator Kalu in the 25th February senatorial poll.

Protests have trailed the declaration of Kanu as winner of the contest as his opponents including Ohuabunwa; Chief Opoto Oyo of the Labour Party; as well as Ambassador Osita Offor (De Ultimate Commander), of the Democratic African Alliance, ADC, have all cried foul.

They insisted that there ought to be a re-run as as Kalu’s 30,000 margin of lead, is far less than the over 55,000 total number of registered voters in the affected areas.