Joe Effiong, Uyo
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has applauded the Court of Appeal’s ruling in Calabar which ordered a rerun of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial Election only in Essien Udim Local Area, saying it has been vindicated.
In a statement by its Public Affairs Officer, Don Etukudoh, yesterday, INEC said the ruling has affirmed the position of the commission in the state that the widespread violence and irregularities during elections in Essien Udim council, had vitiated the outcome of the elections in that council area.
“The court re-affirmed as valid and preserved the elections as declared by the commission in nine out of the 10 councils that make up Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene).
“It, however, ordered a rerun of the senatorial election within 90 days in Essien Udim council only, where the commission had decried the massive rigging and manipulations that culminated in the award of 61,329 votes to Godswill Akpabio in the council, intended to upturn the results of the other nine councils.
“This was when the accreditation figure from the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) confirmed by ticks on the voter register for the entire Essien Udim stood at just 19,455. The commission rejected this travesty and maintained its position despite pressure, blackmail and threats to lives of lNEC officials.
“The court also ordered fresh elections in the same Essien Udim council in respect of the House of Representatives seat while upholding elections in Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara, the other two councils that constitute the federal constituency.”
While stressing that the state constituency judgment is being awaited, INEC said: “Nigerians will recall that Essien Udim was the only state constituency (of the 26) where INEC did not declare anyone winner or make a return on account of the violence and irregularities reported by the commission’s field staff and corroborated by the media as well as local and international observers.”
INEC said as widely reported then, thugs had gone on rampage in most parts of the council as soon as the polls were open.
“They snatched and stuffed ballot boxes, foreclosed the use of SCRs, brutalised INEC ad hoc personnel and prevented voters from exercising their franchise. Staff were held hostage for hours, TVC Television news crew and even foreign observers were assaulted while they fretfully doctored election results.”
INEC said its decision not to condone or reward the impunity in Essien Udim was earlier upheld by the elections petition tribunal in Uyo before the appeal.
“This affirmation of the commission’s position as exemplified by the Appeal Court’s ruling is victory for the electoral process and is heartily welcomed by the commission,” INEC said in the statement while stressing it would announce details pertaining to the rerun elections at a later date.