Rivers legislative rerun elections date still unknown
Uncertainty is trailing the suspended rerun national and state legislative elections in Rivers State as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared it was still assessing the situation.
Although INEC had last week announced that it might tentatively hold the suspended rerun polls in some remaining Local Government Areas of the State, the commission said security and safety would be the determining factors.
INEC’s Resident Electoral Commission (REC) in the State, Mr. Aniedi Ikoiwak, stated the commission’s reservations in Port Harcourt during an interactive forum with politicians and a group of mediators from the commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
He explained that the INEC interactive forum with political stakeholders was to ascertain the preparedness of stakeholders in the election for the poll.
He tasked the political class in the state not to see election as a war but rather a civic responsibility.
Ikoiwak urged politicians to allow voters in Rivers state to exercise their civic duties by voting for candidates of their choice as no election would be adjudged free and fair in a situation, where INEC officials were forced to announce results at gunpoint.
“We must know that the date of the election has not been fixed and all what 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 INEC official is told to announce election result at gunpoint,” he said.
The REC pointed out that it was wrong for politicians in the state to turn and blame INEC whenever elections were inconclusive. He insisted that politicians, security agencies and voters have obligations to ensure a conducive environment for a free and fair election to hold.
He said the interactive forum was organised to enable all the stakeholders to come together and agree on when the suspended rerun elections held on March 19, 2016 would be completed.
“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 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 election is 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 said.
Following the violence that characterised the rerun elections on March 19, 2016, the INEC had declared the three senatorial districts elections, some House of Representatives and Houses of Assembly polls inconclusive and suspended the polls.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers state and the state governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike had complained over the delay in the conclusion of the National Assembly and the state Assembly rerun elections.
In particular, they questioned the integrity of INEC alleging that there was a deliberate ploy to announce already cancelled results in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“How can they have results for a process that was ongoing when it was cancelled by the same INEC? Where did the result surface from? Their claim now is that some of the results in the eight local governments they cancelled were already collated and I ask how was it possible when it was cancelled,” the Wike claimed.
The Governor also alleged that the nation’s electoral umpire was trying to subvert the will of the people as expressed by voters in the re-run elections.
“As I said before, INEC has not showed any sign that they are impartial. They have not shown signs of that. Notwithstanding, we have raised complaints and they have seen that our complaints are genuine. So why are they running away from it?”, he queried.
In addition, he alleged that INEC was using the cover of the suspended election to perfect plans to rig elections in the eight local government areas in favour of the ruling party.
The Governor advised the election umpire not to be partial in the conduct of its responsibility stressing that the consequences of favouring one party over the other would be dire, asserting that INEC should be held responsible for crises in the state.
His words: “I foresee a situation where all they are doing now is to perfect a system where they will now want to rig us out. Just like I said, that will also be highly resisted. So, no one will say that there is crisis in Rivers State.
Similarly, a former National Vice-Chairman of the party in charge of South South, Dr. Cairo Ojugbo called on the Independent National Electoral Commission to conclude the rerun elections in Rivers State, accusing it of bias over the matter.