Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has finally taken decisions on the inconclusive and suspended Bauchi and Rivers governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections, ordering the continuation of collation of results in the former and final decision on the latter next week Wednesday.
In a statement signed by National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, the commission condemned the actions of the military personnel and armed gangs that invaded the collation centre.
On Bauchi, the statement specifically noted that: “INEC considered a report submitted by the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Bauchi State on the disruption of the collation process at the Tafawa Balewa Collation Centre which led to the cancellation of results for the entire local government. The commission found that there were issues that needed further investigation and set up a committee for that purpose.”
Explaining the findings of the committee, the statement read: “The governorship and state Assembly elections were held on the March 9, 2019, in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area and the votes scored by candidates were announced at the polling units and collated at the 11 registration areas of the local government.
“Halfway into the local government collation, armed gangs attacked the collation centre and destroyed the Local Government Result Sheet (EC8C) and some collated results from the registration areas. The results of seven out of 11 registration areas for governorship and six out of 11 for state Assembly elections were affected.
“INEC guidelines provide that where violent disruption affects collation in this manner, results should be regenerated from duplicate copies on a replacement result sheet. The collation officer, under pressure from party agents who could not wait for the arrival of a replacement result sheet, decided to collate the result on an available RA result sheet instead of the replacement LGA result sheet.
“When the result was presented at the state Governorship Collation Centre, the returning officer rejected the regenerated result because it was on a wrong result sheet. The investigation committee established that the result in polling units and registration areas were available and in safe custody.
“The investigation committee also established that the number of cancelled votes for the four polling units in Ningi Local Government Area which was recorded as 25,330 in form EC40G (1) was incorrect. The actual figure is 2,533. Consequently, the commission has taken the following decisions:
“Approved the resumption and conclusion of the collation of results of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area in relation to the governorship election as the duplicate and original registration area results are available.
“Approved the resumption, conclusion and announcement of the result of the Tafawa Balewa State constituency. The appointment of a new collation/returning officer for Tafawa Balewa Local Government to continue and conclude the collation process in place of the original collation officer who withdrew from the exercise citing threats to her life and those of her family members.
“The collation process for Tafawa Balewa Local Government will resume on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. The commission directed that the error in the total number of cancelled votes in four polling units in Ningi Local Government Area should be corrected from 25,330 to 2,533. The commission appeals to all stakeholders for continuous support and understanding.”
Reacting to the suspension order placed on Rivers governorship poll, the commission condemned the actions of the military personnel and armed gangs that disrupted the collation, ruling that it would issue detailed guideline of activities for the completion of the election next week Wednesday.
According to the statement, “the commission suspended all electoral processes in Rivers State having determined that there was widespread disruption of collation of results of the elections conducted on March 9, 2019. Subsequently, the commission set up a fact-finding committee to assess the situation and report back within 48 hours.
“The commission met and considered the report of the committee and established that the governorship and state Assembly elections took place in most of the polling units and results were announced. The results from 17 local governments out of 23 are available and are in the commission’s custody.
“The declaration and returns for 21 state constituencies out of 32 were made prior to the suspension. That collation centres were invaded by some soldiers and armed gangs resulting in the intimidation and unlawful arrest of election officials thereby disrupting the collation process.
“Consequent upon the foregoing, the commission expresses displeasure with the role played by some soldiers and armed gangs in Rivers State disrupting the collation process and attempting to subvert the will of the people. The commission is committed to expeditious completion of the collation process where results of the elections have been announced.
“Will engage the security agencies at national level and the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee at the state level to demand neutrality and professionalism of security personnel in order to secure a peaceful environment for the completion of the elections.
The commission “will also engage with key stakeholders in Rivers State with a view to ensuring a smooth and peaceful completion of the process. Will issue detailed timelines and activities for the completion of the election on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.”