Joe Effiong, Uyo, Judex Okoro, Calabar and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The re-run elections held, yesterday, in Ekpene Senatorial District, Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency and Essien Udim State constituency of Akwa Ibom State witnessed low turnout of voters, especially in Senator Godswill Akpabio’s community, Ukana Ikot Ntuen.
The voters’ apathy may not be unconnected with Akpabio’s withdrawal from the rerun elections.
The appeal court had ordered the re-run elections held yesterday in the affected areas.
Akpabio in an earlier statement released by his Chief Press Secretary, Anietie Ekong, had cited ministerial responsibility as the reason for his withdrawal from the race. It reads in part: “It is well known that because of higher national responsibilities as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Akpabio had withdrawn his candidature from the said election. He was replaced by the APC with Obongemem Ekperikpe Ekpo.
Other APC candidates who also withdrew from the rerun elections included Rt Hon Nse Ntuen and Rt. Hon Emmanuel.
In Cross River State, the house of assembly re-run election in Affanya community in Abi Local Government was marred by violence, resulting in abduction of INEC staff as well as hijack of election materials by some gunmen.
The re-run election followed the Appeal Court ruling in September, 2019 which ordered rescheduled rerun in 8 polling units in Afayna/Igoni-Igoni ward in Abi state constituency Cross River State.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Alalibo Johnson, in company with the Federal Commissioner in charge of South South region, Dr. Mohammed Lecky and Administrative Secretary of the INEC in the state, Mrs. Irene Ngozi Oghuma, said the incident occurred in the middle of the river leading to the community.
His words: “Gunmen accosted the electoral officials with materials and went away with all the voting materials along with the SPO (State Presiding Officer).
“Well security men that accompanied the materials and men of election duties decided to avoid casualty by not engaging the unknown armed men in the middle of the river.
“However, I thank God that all the NYSC members on duty and other election duty officials have returned safely to office except the SPO, whose phone is ringing but he is not picking.”
However, the exercise was generally peaceful with massive turnout of voters across the wards in Ekureku I and II in Abi Local Government Area of the state. Sunday Sun observed that election materials arrived very early just as voters turned out as early as 6: 30 am.
At Gbagaro Agbara and Egbonyi polling units at Wkureku II ward, INEC officials had initial difficulty containing the mammoth crowd.
The Presiding Officer for the polling unit, Mr Isaac Oke, said: “I can tell you the election materials arrived at 8:00am and we commenced accreditation immediately because the voters were already on ground.”
The APC candidate for the rerun, Dr Alex Egbona, said:” The turnout is encouraging and you know that the election is in my community. I am in touch with my community and that is why you see this unprecedented turnout.”
Meanwhile, APC and PDP have been trading accusations and counter accusations over the abduction of INEC staff as well as hijack of election materials. A chieftain of People Democratic Party (PDP) and state Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Mr Ukpong Akpabio, told newsmen that election materials for six units in Akpautong in Essien Udim council had been allegedly recovered in the house of a member of the APC in the area.