Tony John, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has declared that the challenges that characterised the 2019 elections would have been averted, if President Muhammadu Buhari had assented to the amended Electoral Act.
Wike told a political team from the British High Commission that visited him at the Government House, Port Harcourt, that the amended Electoral Act would have legitimised the card reader and strengthen the process of result collation.
He said: “If the president had assented to the amended Electoral Act, we wouldn’t have had the kind of problem we had.
“That means there must be card reader in the electoral process. In that case, it makes it difficult for security agencies, who want to commit electoral fraud to succeed.”
The governor said with the card reader given legal teeth, it would play a key role in the results that would emerge and discourage violence.
“With the card reader, results that don’t tally with accredited figures in the device will not be accepted. Since the card reader is not in the law, it creates the loopholes for them to manipulate.
“They created the room where some security agencies tried to force returning officers to sign result sheets. Remember in Rivers State, the army took over the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters. The essence of that was to see that the returning officers were hijacked for fraudulent purposes.
“But, if the card reader was legitimised in the Electoral Act, it would not have been possible, because the only acceptable result would be the one that tallies with the card reader. I have always said to Mr. President that in the interest of the country, let us do the right thing. Let us not politicise everything,” he said.
Governor Wike called for the demilitarisation of the nation’s democracy, saying the amended Electoral Act, when signed into law, would restore confidence in the electoral system.
He said: “We should reduce the militarisation during elections. It is unfortunate that instead of police, the army takes over our elections, with flimsy excuses.
“What happened in Rivers State is an eye-opener. Bringing in the army every time is not the solution. The police should be allowed to do their job. INEC should be truly independent.
“In the case of Rivers State, we must commend INEC officials for being assertive. If they were not assertive, I don’t know where we would have been.”
Wike urged INEC to be truly independent, adding that the appointment of INEC leadership should not completely be in the hands of the Federal Government as suggested by the Uwais report.
He said Rivers State has suffered the politicisation of security, as the Nigerian Army clamped down on the state Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency, at its training site at the National Youth Service Corps camp, even though the agency was modelled after that of Lagos State.
He noted that the Rivers government will go ahead with the Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency and urged the British government to provide technical support.
The governor stated that state police is key to tackling insecurity across the country.