Nyesom Wike and Biokpomabo Awara, the Governor of Rivers State, and the state’s governorship candidate of African Action Congress (AAC), on Saturday clashed at the commission’s stakeholders’ meeting in Port Harcourt.
An indigene of Kula-Kalabari in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers, Awara, accused Wike and INEC of doctoring results of the ‘bloody’ governorship and House of Assembly elections of March 9 in the state.
Wike, however, accused Awara, other members of AAC and their backers in the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) of promoting violence and scaring investors from Rivers.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who was represented by the National Commissioner of the commission in charge of Rivers, Bayelsa and Edo States, Barr. May Agbamuche-Mbu, a lawyer, who also chaired the stakeholders’ meeting, urged Rivers residents to allow peace to reign in the state before, during and after the activities outlined for the conclusion of the controversial elections.
Also in attendance at Saturday’s meeting, which took place at Omni Event Centre, Eastern By-pass, Ogbunabali, Port Harcourt, ahead of April 2 resumption of collation of results of March 9 governorship and House of Assembly elections, was the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Maj.-Gen. Jamil Sarham, who was represented by the Garrison Commander of 6 Division Garrison, Brig.-Gen. Adeola Kalejaiye.
Others included Rivers Commissioner of Police, Usman Belel, who is also the Chairman of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security, ICCES, (in Rivers state); and INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), in Rivers, Mr. Obo Effanga, who was represented by the Administrative Secretary in the state, Elder Etim Umoh.
Rivers Chairman of the PDP, Chief Felix Obuah; Ledum Mitee of Initiative for Credible Elections (ICE), who is a former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP); representatives of the Navy, Air Force, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Customs, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), as well as top politicians and other eminent personalities were also in attendance.
Awara said: “Surprised that the leaders of political parties involved in the elections were not asked questions by members of INEC’s five-man fact-finding committee. I doubt the reliability of the doctored result sheets and other electoral materials with INEC in the last three weeks. We have record of some of the results being mutilated, particularly that of Akuku-Toru LGA.
“REC of INEC in Rivers State has refused to give reasons for charging the four compromised electoral officers of the commission, who lack integrity for being card-carrying members of PDP.
“If the violence made the March 9 elections not to be credible, according to INEC, where did the commission get results for the seventeen LGAs, of Rivers 23 LGAs in the INEC’s possession? At what point did the elections become violence-free, for the commission to now have results for 17 LGAs? Why has INEC refused to release the results of the 17 LGAs it claimed to have and the remaining six LGAs it wants to do supplementary election?”
Rivers governor, however, accused the AAC’s governorship candidate, members of his party and his backers in APC of being economical with the truth.
Wike said: “I do not agree that Rivers is a violent state. Rivers State has never and it will not be a violent State. Why are they raising too much alarm? What causes violence? Why is there violence each time there is election? The only way to have peaceful elections is when the security agencies refuse to interfere or manipulate any process.
“How did people die? When INEC would go and collate results and people would resist and when people resist, they will shoot them. Rivers is not a violent state. It is most unfortunate that people would leave their state, come to another state, instead of them to make sure what obtains in their state obtains here, they do not want it, they want to cause problems for us.
“With all due respect, the Garrison Commander (Brig.-Gen. Adeola Kalejaiye) is here. Throughout my political career, of not less than thirty years, I have never experienced the type of roles the army played. We must tell people the simply truth.
“INEC set up a committee in 2016, during and after the reruns, where it was stated in your report that certain police officer manhandled your electoral official. He even went as far as naming the police officer. What has happened, as INEC? You could have said you did not want that kind of officer again. The same officer was also implicated in your report in these elections. Who are the people causing the violence?
“Rivers State in not violent when they are drilling crude oil. Why must the violence be during the period of elections? Who are those responsible, in order to tell them? INEC can insist on not requiring the services of the violent security personnel; that is the only way we can have peaceful, free and fair elections in Rivers State. Let the army personnel remove their hands from elections. It is unfortunate that we had some people demonstrating and thanking the Nigerian Army for a job well done. That is Nigeria for us.
“Who are the security personnel that will be in charge of the collation (between April 2 and 5)? Let us avoid sermon. You do not preach to me what you will not practise. The onus is on the security agencies to help INEC to do the right things, in order to achieve the results the commission wants to achieve. Rivers State is a peaceful state. Nobody should be driving away investors from us. Let personnel of Nigerian Army remove their hands from electoral process.”
INEC chairman, at the “most-important stakeholders’ meeting,” stated that the elections were suspended on March 10, due to the high-level of violence that occurred during the March 9, 2019 polls in Rivers.
Yakubu said: “I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the good people of Rivers State, our traditional rulers, market women, youths, leaders and members of political parties in the state, including the candidates in the elections and all other stakeholders to allow peace to reign in the state before, during and after the activities outlined for the conclusion of the elections by the commission.
“We do not have any other state, apart from Rivers State, to call our own. Let us join hands together to make Rivers State even greater. On the part of the commission, I wish to assure you of our commitment to free, fair and credible elections. We intend to keep these promises. May God, in His kindness, grant Rivers State perpetual peace.
“The results of the March 9 elections in Rivers State are with us (INEC) in our strong room and they have not been tampered with.
“A five-man fact-finding committee was therefore set up to ascertain the nature and verify the report of obstructive and lawless activities that generally attended the elections at the state collation centre, other collation centres and polling areas, occasioning the suspension. I was a member of the fact-finding committee. So, I know what I am talking about.
“The main objective of this meeting is to brief you on the schedule of activities and timeline, set by the commission for the conclusion of the governorship and state House of Assembly elections, and to solicit for your maximum cooperation towards the success of this exercise. It is also to generate discussions among the stakeholders, with a view to achieving transparent, peaceful and violence-free conclusion of the elections, within the timeline set by the commission.”
Rivers police commissioner also stated that the past few weeks in Rivers state, before, during and after the general elections had been very difficult and trying moment for everyone, stressing that all stakeholders had maintained decorum, outstanding maturity and dedication to peaceful resolution of conflicts in Rivers.
Belel said: “As it is usual in every contest, winners and losers must emerge, but the maturity with which the contest’s results is accepted, determines how peaceful the society can be. I wish to appeal to all stakeholders to give peace a chance (in Rivers State) and be magnanimous, either in victory or in defeat, as there will still be Rivers State beyond these elections.
“It is my humble appeal that contestants and parties’ faithful should prevail on their supporters to do away with thuggery and violence. The Rivers State Police Command is determined to provide security for all residents and stakeholders in Rivers State for them to exercise their fundamental rights.
“As the lead agency and the Chairman of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security, ICCES, (in Rivers State), I want to use this opportunity to thank all stakeholders for the synergy and oneness of purpose that has kept this state together this long. I hereby encourage all of you to do the needful, in furtherance of our interagency cooperation.”
Rivers REC of INEC, in his welcome remarks, reiterated that On March 9, the governorship and House of Assembly elections were held in Rivers, but due to unexpected developments, especially security, the collation could not be concluded, maintaining that till now, INEC did not know the winners of the elections.
Effanga said: “In order to ensure credible process, INEC has sent seasoned electoral officers, led by the National Commissioner in charge of Rivers, Bayelsa and Edo States, Barr. May Agbamuche-Mbu, who is the chairman of this occasion. Political parties that participated in the March 9 elections should submit the names of their agent. We are not conducting fresh elections. The status quo as at March 9 remains.
“We have the results for these seventeen LGAs: Ahoada East, Akuku-Toru, Andoni, Bonny, Eleme, Emohua, Etche, Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Ogu/Bolo, Okrika, Omuma, Opobo/Nkoro, Oyigbo, Port Harcourt and Tai. Their (17 LGAs) collation was at the local government level. Collation was not completed in the remaining six LGAs: Abua/Odual, Ahoada West, Asari-Toru, Degema, Gokana and Khana.
“In Abua/Odual LGA, the materials and men did not even go out to the field. They were frustrated from going out and elections did not take place there. In Gokana LGA, materials and men went out to the field, but none came back, because there was outright violence and everything was destroyed. So, we do not have any result from there. In Ahoada West LGA, out of about 100 polling units, we have results in only 24 and that is not good enough. Asari-Toru LGA was not concluded, but we have the polling units’ results available, but they were not collated. Degema LGA has 17 registration areas, which we call wards in INEC’s context, and collation took place in ten, remaining seven. The seven wards, their results are in INEC’s strong room. In Khana LGA, there was no collation at the local government level, but we have results from the polling units and the collation from some wards available.
“INEC, in its mandate to conduct free, fair and credible elections in Rivers State, decided to come with a timetable (timeline) to let the people know how to ensure the collation and to know the winners.”
INEC’s REC in Rivers also stated that the stakeholders’ forum was not strange, but to carry everybody along and to know what INEC was doing.
Effanga noted that before the suspension order came from Abuja on March 10, collation had commenced, with INEC now resuming the collation.
REC of INEC in Rivers disclosed that the collation, scheduled for between April 2 and 5, would hold at the INEC’s office on Aba Road, Port Harcourt