•Gov Wike vindicated
By Emma Njoku
A report of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on the December 10, 2016 rerun legislative elections in Rivers State has indicted security operatives who participated in the poll.
The report of the administrative enquiry into the rerun election, set up by the Commission, detailed how security operatives engaged in snatching of electoral materials, intimidation of voters and deliberately refusal to accompany electoral officers to their duty posts.
Security operatives were accused of having actively participated in electoral offences. Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike had written a petition against security agencies.
With the INEC report, he has been vindicated.
The INEC report said: “As part of preparations for the elections, the entire 23 Electoral Officers (EOs) in the state were replaced with new ones from Plateau, Anambra and Oyo states. They all reported in Rivers State on November 28, 2016 and were posted accordingly to the local government areas.
“Reposting of EOs was rather late, making it difficult for them to understand the environment and prepare adequately for the elections…
“One of the low points of the Rivers rerun elections of December 10, 2016 was the flagrant intervention of security operatives in the process. This was widely identified by staff of the Commission and independent observers alike, as one major factor that led to the failure of the process in some local government areas. There were too many security agencies involved in the process, outside the framework of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).
“It was not clear whether many of them were acting as part of their various organisations or as groups and individuals serving political interests. Most importantly, many of them showed profound political partisanship.
“Ironically, security operatives, who were expected to protect the process, turned on it. There were reported cases of wilful obstruction of the process by security operatives, including snatching of materials and intimidating voters. In other cases, they refused to accompany and protect men and materials for elections.
“But, the most mind-boggling were cases of hostage-taking, hijack of materials and physical attacks on INEC officials perpetrated by security operatives. Of singular note was a certain policeman named Akin Fakorede, who ostensibly is a commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in Rivers .
“Fakorede first tried to lure INEC staff to travel with him from Port Harcourt to Emohua LGA, under the pretext of enabling them to collate results.
“But, for the intervention of National Commissioners, we suspect that he would have put our staff in harm’s way. When he failed in his initial bid, he stalked the INEC officials to the collation centre in Port Harcourt and physically assaulted Dr. C. Odekpe and Mrs. Mary Tunkayo. In fact, Dr. Odekpe ended up with a gash on his head and both spent days at the Air Force hospital in Port Harcourt.
“The security situation was worsened in some areas by the activities of political thugs and militants. Etche, Akoku-Toru and Emohua are examples of areas where both the security operatives and the militants caused serious mayhem…”
On alleged partisanship of INEC staff, the report said “there were very credible allegations that members of staff at the INEC office in Port Harcourt were split between the two main political parties in the state, namely, the ruling PDP and the APC.
The report stated: “It was clear that confidential information, including documents, was routinely leaked to political parties from the INEC office.
“The REC, Administrative Secretary and several EOs, in their depositions to this committee, confirmed these widespread accusations of partisanship. Among other things, this created a deep crisis of confidence that affected administration of election.”
Meanwhile, INEC said it was yet to receive the official report of the police investigative panel on the December 10, 2016, legislative rerun elections in Rivers.
The commission’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
The panel’s report, submitted to police authorities on February 7, 2017, indicted 23 electoral officers for allegedly collecting monetary inducements to rig the elections.
Out of over N360 million said to have been received by the INEC personnel, the panel publicly displayed N111 million which it recovered from the officials who participated in the polls.