INEC Blasts Politicians in Rivers Over Botched By-election, Says Act ‘Shameful’

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sunday blamed the suspension of Saturday’s Rivers State House of Assembly by-election on politicians in the state, describing the violent disruption as “shameful”
The vote into the vacant state legislative seat for Port Harcourt Constituency 3, with only 142 polling units, was marred by violence; destruction of electoral materials, attack on electoral officers and carting away of ballot boxes from some polling units by hoodlums. Following these, the election was cancelled.
The position became vacant following the victory and subsequent swearing in of its former occupant Victor Ihunwo as the executive chairman of the Port Harcoirt Local Government Area in June.
INEC chiefs praised the police for preventing a slip into chaos, but Governor Nyesom Wike blamed it all on the police which he accused of “declaring war on Rivers State.” But he hailed INEC for its good organisation.
Three INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), Obo Effanga (Rivers), Mike Igini (Akwa Ibom) and Cyril Omoregbe (Bayelsa), who conducted the election, described the situation as unhealthy for the nation’s democracy.
They expressed “gross” disappointment at the display of shamelessness by politicians and their supporters.
Effanga accused political heavyweights of openly storming polling units with thugs and armed security personnel to disrupt the well-arranged and peaceful process.
She said: “The Commission in full readiness for the said election deployed personnel and materials to the 142 polling units involved. However, midway, miscreants and hoodlums accompanied by heavily armed security personnel in uniform stormed the various polling units and registration areas, disrupting voting activities, destroying and carting away election materials, including smart card readers and ballot boxes. In addition, many electoral officials were manhandled, injured and held hostage.
Igini, who represented the National Commissioner (South-South), said an official of the Commission was stabbed, others beaten up and held hostage, while a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member’s leg was broken.
Igini said reporters were attacked and voters injured by thugs in some of the units.
He praised Commissioner of Police Zaki Ahmed for providing experienced personnel for the exercise, but wondered where the heavily armed personnel were brought from by their sponsors.
Igini said: “What happened yesterday (Saturday) was a tragedy. It was shameful. It represents a higher level of electoral discredit and falls below the minimum expected standards. Election must be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere which will allow voters to vote and leave the centre without grumbling.
“While election was going on, there was violence in significant areas of the polling centres. Some journalists, INEC staff, including NYSC members were attacked and held hostage during the election. An official of the the Commission was stabbed, others beaten up. Also, a Cops member’s leg was broken, individuals beaten and injured.
“Thanks to the security personnel who worked with us, they were not part of those who disrupted the election as they were not armed according to the law.”

Author: News Editor

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