Rivers Waits with Bated Breath

There is palpable tension in Rivers State ahead of tomorrow’s resumption of collation of results from the governorship and state house of assembly elections, suspended by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Last Saturday, INEC at a meeting with stakeholders announced that there would be no fresh elections in Rivers State but only the completion of the process suspended on March 10 in the wake of violence at some collation centres.

The decision to see the March 9 elections to a logical conclusion has been criticised severely by all participants in the elections, except the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In the last few days, Port Harcourt, the state capital has witnessed protests on its streets carried out by different groups including civil society and a collection of women. At every instance, they have called for the removal of the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mr. Obo Effanga, who they accuse of acting in favour of the ruling PDP.

Undeterred by these complaints, the commission said results of the governorship election in 17 local government areas of the state are intact, safe and secure in a strong room at its headquarters in Abuja.

Addressing interested parties in Port Harcourt as part of the process for the completion of the electoral process in Rivers State, INEC National Commissioner supervising Bayelsa, Edo and Rivers State, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, also said the commission would conclude the collation of the Rivers State governorship election between April 2 and 5 and that the process would be transparent.

She said, “All the results are in our strong room. They have not been tampered with, we are going to conduct the collation transparently. INEC is here to complete this process and we shall complete the process successfully.”

She also said INEC would religiously follow the timeline by the commission for the collation of the governorship election results.

According to the timeline released by INEC, the commission had an engagement with security agencies on March 19, and carry out revalidation of polling agents and observers for collation of results between March 25 and 31, met with stakeholders on the 30th and would issue guidelines for resumption of collation of results today, April 1.

The commission also said it would resume collation and announcement of results between April 2 and 5, hold supplementary elections where necessary on April 13 and announce results of all supplementary elections between April 13 and 15, while it would issue all outstanding certificates of return, latest on April 19.

Administrative Secretary of INEC Rivers State, Elder Etim Umoh, listed the local government areas that results have been already collated as Ahoada East, Bonny, Akuku-Toru, Obio/Akpor, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Omuma, Port Harcourt, Ikwerre, Emohua, Tai, Opobo-Nkoro, Andoni, Eleme, Etche, Ogu–Bolo, Oyigbo, and Okrika.

He stated that the local government areas that collation were still outstanding are, Khana, Asari-Toru, Degema, Ahoada West, Abua/Odual and Gokana.

Giving further details, Umoh stated that elections did not hold at all in Abua/Odual as materials were not dispatched to the area because of violence. In the case of Khana, he stated that materials were dispatched to polling units but none was returned also due to violence. In the other affected local government areas, elections took place and results were announced at some polling units before the suspension of the process.

He therefore stated that supplementary elections would hold where necessary in the six affected polling units in the six local government areas.

With the announcement that governorship election results were available for 17 local government areas and that collation would commence for parts of the remaining six, the direction of the pendulum is becoming predictable.

The integrity of INEC had been a subject of contention. A faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) loyal to Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, and its adopted governorship candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Biopkomabo Awara, have been screaming that the commission had been compromised by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Governor Nyesom Wike. Also, candidate of the Accord Party, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs has also called on the commission to cancel the poll and hold fresh elections.

Midway into the stakeholders meeting, Awara and his supporters staged a walk-out, accusing INEC of betrayal of public trust.

In a statement made available to THISDAY, a group, the Coalition of Governorship Candidates and Party Chairmen for a Peaceful and United Rivers State, wondered why INEC was going on with the election process when the matter was before the court.

Explaining why they staged a walk-out with Awara, the statement signed by its Chairman and governorship candidate of APDA, Warigbani Zebulun, and the Secretary and Chairman of NDCP, Chibuzor Anele, said INEC failed to give satisfactory answers to probing questions about the elections.

Their statement read in part, “In the event of the last question, the PDP supporters and the National Commissioner supervising Bayelsa, Edo and Rivers States, Mrs. Agbamuche-Mbu, reacted violently and in the attempt to halt further questions created so much uproar and disruption. Hence, members of the Coalition of Governorship Candidates and Party Chairmen walked out and addressed the press who rushed out in their numbers within the Omni Event Centre premises.

“In the main, the Governorship Candidate of AAC wondered why certificates of return had already been provided for Nyesom Wike, 22 House of Assembly candidates of the PDP and one for the SDP when collation had since been suspended. He therefore called for cancellation of the entire process. Similarly, the Governorship Candidate of the APDA questioned the legality of the stakeholders meeting and other subsequent electoral processes since the Rivers election is before the court in Abuja. He therefore called for a halt of the entire process until the matter is determined.”

A chieftain of the APC, Prince Tonye Princewill, also said his party has lost confidence on the ability of INEC to deliver a credible result.

Reacting to a question as to whether he would accept it if the collation, in the end, favours his party’s candidate, Princewill said: “Of course I will. But that doesn’t mean others will accept it and it doesn’t mean that the collation will be upheld if it is put under further scrutiny like it most certainly will. What use is a win that doesn’t last?”

But a faction of the APC in the state has stated that the party was not participating in any way in the elections in the state pending the determination of its matter before the Supreme Court.

A statement signed by the factional state Chairman of the party, Prince Peter Odike, said, “As the legally recognised State Chairman of the APC, Rivers State chapter, it is therefore incumbent upon me to declare the position of the party in the matter.”

He said following judicial orders, the APC was not on the ballot in respect of the governorship and state assembly elections in the state.

He said while the party was awaiting final determination of the eligibility of its candidates on the ballot, the party did not enter into any form of alliance with any other political party in respect of elections in the state.

He declared, “Following this development, the APC in Rivers State cannot and should not be seen to be legitimately participating in any action either in favour of or against the processes of the said elections.

“The Rivers State chapter of the APC hereby calls on political actors in the state to allow the INEC to carry out its constitutional responsibilities without undue interference, intimidation or arm-twisting. That the party equally calls on INEC to ensure that it takes all necessary steps to complete the processes of the said elections in a manner that will guarantee peace and tranquility in Rivers State.”

Meanwhile, the PDP and Wike have expressed confidence in the performance of the commission, so far and wants it to speedily complete the process.

Wike told THISDAY last Saturday, “We commend INEC for the good job they have done so far and we hope they will continue in the same way.

“We do not want the army around in our elections. They have killed so many of our people and they may kill more if they are still around. We want our people to live in peace and security. The army cannot come and be killing our people just because they want to disrupt elections to favour one individual.

“For the police, they have showed some maturity and we hope that they will continue and protect the electoral process.”

Thus, the integrity of INEC is central to the success or otherwise of the process.

Another factor thrown up by the governorship poll in Rivers State is the emergence of a “political neophyte” Biokpomabo Awara and his little known political party, the AAC, into the political space of the state. Win or lose, Awara has succeeded, with the assistance of the APC, to set the political scene on fire.

On the part of the PDP, the party has stated that it would win any free and fair elections in the state. Wike has said as much when he blamed the army for being used to truncate the will of the people. Wike has advocated that the army should be left out of the process, even in the areas where there would be supplementary elections.

As INEC embarks fully on the completion of the process, the average Rivers resident wants a logical conclusion of the polls to end the pervading feeling of anxiety so that they can return to their normal lives.

While they look up to INEC for relief, the disposition of the gladiators may well be the deciding factor.

QUICK FACTS:

*The process of the governorship and state house of assembly elections began in Rivers State on March 9 was suspended by INEC on March 10 in the wake of violence at some collation centres

*INEC has announced that it will conclude collation of the Rivers State governorship and house of assembly election results between April 2 and 5

*The commission began an engagement with stakeholders, starting with security agencies on March 19, carried out revalidation of polling agents and observers for collation of results between March 25 and 31, met with stakeholders on the 30thand would issue guidelines for resumption of collation of results today, April 1

*INEC says it will hold supplementary elections where necessary on April 13 and announce results of all supplementary elections between April 13 and 15, while it will issue all outstanding certificates of return, latest April 19

*There are 23 local government areas in Rivers State

*INEC says results of the governorship and state house of assembly elections in 17 local government areas are intact, safe and secure in a strong room at its headquarters in Abuja

*The local government areas that results have been already collated as Ahoada East, Bonny, Akuku-Toru, Obio/Akpor, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Omuma, Port Harcourt, Ikwerre, Emohua, Tai, Opobo-Nkoro, Andoni, Eleme, Etche, Ogu–Bolo, Oyigbo and Okrika

*The local government areas that collation are still outstanding include, Khana, Asari-Toru, Degema, Ahoada West, Abua/Odual and Gokana

*Elections did not hold at all in Abua/Odual as materials were not dispatched to the area because of violence. In the case of Khana, materials were dispatched to polling units but none was returned also due to violence. In the other affected local government areas, elections took place and results were announced at some polling units before the suspension of the process

*Supplementary elections would hold where necessary in the six affected polling units in the six local government areas

*INEC insists that no fresh elections would hold in Rivers State, but only the completion of the process suspended on March 10 in the wake of violence at some collation centres

*A faction of the APC loyal to Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, and its adopted governorship candidate of the AAC, Biopkomabo Awara, have been screaming that INEC had been compromised by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Governor Nyesom Wike

*Another faction of the APC in the state (loyal to Senator Magnus Abe) has stated that the party was not participating in any way in the elections in the state pending the determination of its matter before the Supreme Court

As reported from thisdaylive

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