(Tony John, PORT HARCOURT)
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stated that no date has been set for suspended rerun elections in some Local Government Areas of Rivers State.
INEC’s Resident Electoral Commission (REC) in the State, Mr. Aniedi Ikoiwak, disclosed this in Port Harcourt during an interactive forum with politicians and a group of mediators from the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
Ikoiwak said all the Commission has been doing by organising one programme or the other was to see the preparedness of stakeholders in the election for the poll.
Speaking further, the State REC charged politicians in the state to see election as a civic duty and not war.
Ikoiwak appealed to politicians in the state to allow voters to exercise their civic duty by voting for candidates of their choice.
He explained that elections would not be adjudged free and fair in a situation where INEC officials were forced to announce results at gunpoint.
He added that politicians must allow peace to reign during elections.
He said: “We must know that the date of the election has not been fixed and all we are doing is to see whether we are ready to hold the elections.
“The political parties, the electoral body and security agents should join hands so that we can achieve the goal of completing the election in this state
“Most of the time, when people talk about free and fair election, most people think of INEC. But, the truth is that you cannot have a free and fair election when an INEC official is told to announce election result at gunpoint.
“As Nigerians, we have agreed that there were lapses in the last election and we must be ready to agree to correct our mistakes and not to continue to feel as if we are angels,” the state REC said.
“The INEC headquarters has gone ahead to set up a team to interact with us so that we can have an election that is violent-free. We must agree that elections are a civic duty and not a war.
“Election is not a war situation. It is an exercise where people should be allowed to decide because it is their constitutional right. That is why we must provide a conducive environment for people to vote,” he stated.
Ikoiwak maintained that it was wrong to blame INEC whenever elections were inconclusive, adding that everybody, including politicians and security agencies, owed it as a duty to ensure a conducive environment for a free and fair election.
The REC explained that the interactive forum was organised for stakeholders to come together and agree on when the suspended rerun elections (held on March 19, 2016) would be completed.