No fake materials were used in Rivers rerun, INEC insists
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has dismissed allegations that fake result sheets or any fake materials were used in the conduct of the Rivers State national and state legislative rerun elections last Saturday.
In a statement issued yesterday and signed by Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, Director, Voter Education and Publicity, INEC, after a meeting with the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) and its Supervisors and Monitors, who were in the state during the exercise, and having considered their submissions and undertaken an audit of its personnel deployed as polling officials and for related duties, it concluded that the elections were characterised by violence, intimidation, threats, palpable fear and abduction of some of its officials in many areas.
The commission acknowledged some challenges in its operational efficiency, especially as it concerns the production and customisation of the result sheets used for the conduct of the election, specifically the omission of the original watermark in the result sheets for a few polling units in three Federal Constituencies and the omission of some delimitation details in 47 of the over 20,000 booklets produced.
It insisted that political parties that participated in the elections and their accredited agents witnessed the distribution of all materials from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) vaults and subsequent distribution to the various INEC local government area offices and the Registration Area Centres (RACs).
It stated: “On election day, some of the RACs were invaded and barricaded by hordes of people, who prevented our officials from leaving for the polling units, thus disrupting the prompt commencement of the exercise in many places.
“Fortunately, the Commission was able to undertake the exercise in several places after explanations by the INEC staff and further validation/authentication of these result sheets by the endorsement of the REC and Electoral Officers (EOs) of some of these local government areas.
“The Commission wishes to emphatically state that there were no fake result sheets or any fake materials used in the conduct of the elections.”
It added that as at the time of the suspension of further action by the Commission: “The elections had been concluded in some constituencies, with the declaration of results and return of winners by the respective Returning Officers.
“Results declared and/or returns made under duress or by unauthorised persons.
“Collation had been concluded, but no declaration or return made.
“Voting had been concluded and collation was ongoing, but yet to be concluded.
“Voting concluded, but collation yet to commence.
“No voting at all or voting commenced, but was disrupted before conclusion.”
Faced with above scenario, the Commission restated its earlier decision to uphold the declarations and returns made in the Federal and State Constituencies where the exercise had been concluded and would conclude and make returns in constituencies where it is satisfied that voting and collation were done in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and its guidelines.
It said further details as to the constituencies and the nature of the exercise would be announced by the REC in the next few days, while it would, at a date to be decided, conduct fresh elections, starting with accreditation and voting in all local government areas, constituencies, registration areas and polling units where the exercise was disrupted before voting was concluded last Saturday.
Even at that, INEC explained that this would be after due consultation with stakeholders and subject to the advice of the security agencies and guarantees by the political parties, candidates and their supporters.
While expressing commitment to conduct free, fair and credible elections, it reiterated its resolve not to return to Rivers State, or anywhere else, where there was a breakdown of law and order in the cause of conducting elections, until there is a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of credible elections.
It added that as a responsible organisation, it would not expose its stakeholders, especially voters, its officials, observers and media personnel to any danger and even where dates have been fixed and published, it would not hesitate to again suspend the exercise, where there is a clear danger or credible threat of a breakdown of law and order.
INEC reassured that all materials used for the conduct of the elections, which were not destroyed by hoodlums, are safe and are being kept in secure custody.
The Commission condemned in no uncertain terms, all those who have been spewing hate speeches and making incendiary statements, which no doubt exacerbated an already tense situation.
The electoral body again commiserated with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the family, friends and colleagues of Samuel Dumebi Okonta, who lost his life during the exercise, where he served as a poll official.