UPDATE ON RIVERS RE-RUN ELECTION
Whereas INEC has shown enough improvement in the last two elections in Edo and Ondo states, Rivers state re-run election is proving more daunting and challenging with reports from our observers indicating willingness by citizens to exercise their franchise but being frustrated by activities of hoodlums and party thugs, clearly acting out instructions of their promoters.
We had earlier issued a statement before the re-run urging party leaders, the citizens, security agencies and all stakeholders to help INEC conduct free, fair, credible and peaceful election in River state.
However, it is disheartening to note at this juncture that reports from election observers and monitors indicate unpleasant activities by party thugs in some polling units and centres across the zones and constituencies where elections are taking place.
In Etche LGA, hoodlums prevented INEC staff from deploying personnel and materials to the following areas; Afra ward with 20 Pus and 3441 registered voters; Mba ward 18 with 14 Pus and 4503 registered voters; Udofor ward 8 with 8Pus and 2373 registered voters; Ogwi/Obiro ward 6 (had result sheets snatched); Obite Ward 10 with 6 Pus and 1866 registered voters; Ulakwo ward 13 with 21 Pus and 5420 registered voters; Obibi/ Akwukabi ward 9 with 12 Pus and 2444 registered voters. These numbers are significant enough to affect the outcome of the election negatively.
Equally, sack bags were used as ballot boxes in PU32/11/13/012, Ulakwo Ward, Etche LGA as a result of the snatching of the ballot boxes by thugs and hoodlums leading citizens to insist on voting with the sacks no matter the intimidation.
It is also reported that party supporters clashed in Opobo. We observed that voting materials moved late to many polling units at about 9 am when the voting process ought to have started. Most of these delays are attributable to disruptive activities of hoodlums and party urchins who were clearly on a mission to prevent the EMB from carrying out its functions.
INEC cancelled elections in ward 9, unit 3, Ogu/Boro LGA after hoodlums made away with result sheets.
It will be recalled that the governor of Rivers state, H/E Nyesom Nwike was on Channels TV morning programme (Sunrise) where he accused APC and the federal government of conspiracies to attack him and create panic in Rivers state. He further accused the Police hierarchy of withdrawing his chief security officer without due process. These, the authorities have denied.
Most disturbing are utterances from high ranking APC officials, Governors and agents during the APC Mega rally at Port-Harcourt on Thursday, 8 November, 2016. Statements like “ If they shoot at you, take cover and shoot them back,” by Governor Danguje of Kano state. “If they push you, push them back. If they slap you, slap them back”. The APC National Chairman reinforced his stand by saying the federal government was in Rivers state in full force.
These statements are irresponsible and capable of creating chaos and escalating criminality in Rivers state.
The politicians across parties have conducted themselves most despicably and have become agents of darkness and crass manipulation. The politicians are acting contrary to known norms of civilization and have aided and abated the disruption of the election process with clear intent to discredit the outcome of the election if not in their favour. Sadly, INEC has been vindicated in its earlier stance not to conduct elections in the state due to threats of violence by politicians. It is now apparent that all the hue and cry by political actors in the state was to set the grand stage for this mayhem. Interestingly though, were violence was not unleashed INEC deployed materials readily and elections conducted freely and without any ugly incidents .
EXPECTED ACTIONS BY INEC, SECURITY AGENCIES, PARTIES AND STAKEHOLDERS
As observers, we insist that the electoral process be transparent and devoid of violence and deliberate disenfranchisement
of citizens by action of thugs or their sponsors or through connivance of any sort by partisan parties.
We insist and call citizens and stakeholders to see this election as a legitimate citizen’s duty and absolutely, not a war.
Citizens should be vigilant and maintain decorum and peace during and after the election.
We implore INEC to continue to provide leadership and exhibit total professionalism in the handling of the election and voting process in Rivers state.
All the political parties must eschew rancour and inflammatory statements capable of causing breach of the security and possible loss of lives and property as well as discourage their agents from obstructing INEC duties or officers from carrying out their legitimate mandate.
The Federal government and Security agencies must not only be nonpartisan but alive to their duties of providing security and protection of lives and property.
Let us pray and hope that part of the much needed reforms of the electoral process will include the institution of a reprimand process that deters undue and reprehensible heating up of the polity either through actions or rhetoric.
This is an election and not war.
Director Communications/ Team Leader ISDMG Observer Gro