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Rivers South East remains contentious as APC, PDP bicker over rerun polls

By Kelvin Ebiri and Ann Godwin, Port Harcourt
13 December 2016   |   4:19 am
Magnus Abe of the APC who was returned Senator-elect for Rivers South East Senatorial district from the, described the electoral process as a “titanic struggle” that he has battled for two years. 
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

Civil societies queries credibility of election

The squabbles between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) over the legislative rerun elections have not abated even after the end of the poll.

Out of the three Senatorial, eight Federal and 10 State constituencies seats that were up for grabs, the Rivers South East Senatorial district remained the most contentious and have continued to elicit reactions from the two dominate political parties in the state.

Magnus Abe of the APC who was returned Senator-elect for Rivers South East Senatorial district from the, described the electoral process as a “titanic struggle” that he has battled for two years.

Abe (APC) who polled a total of 125,938 votes to defeat Olaka Nwogu (PDP), who scored 25,394 votes, said his victory in the election was a reward for faithfulness.

“I have been faithful to my party, I have been faithful to the people of the Rivers South East Senatorial District and I have been faithful to my leaders and I thank God that His infinite mercies has rewarded me with this unprecedented victory. There is no victor, no vanquish,” he said.

“I also want to use this opportunity to extend a hand of friendship to Governor Nyesom Wike and to say to him that he had promised that there was nothing personal in this contest and he has said that if I win he will congratulate me,” he added.

But PDP rejected the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared results, which affirmed Abe and other APC candidates including Barry Mpigi, Friday Nke-Ee, Innocent Barikor winners of their respective offices in Rivers South East Senatorial District.

PDP State Chairman, Felix Obuah, said that the rejection of the results stemmed from the fact that election never took place in the whole of the Rivers South East District. He challenged the APC, INEC, Army, Police and other security agencies to show proof that there was election in the zone.

Obuah further contended that what happened on the day of the rerun election was like scenes from a classical movie where military might was brazenly deployed to over-run a hapless and defenseless people.

According to him, “The PDP raised alarm over the invasion of some communities in Tai Local Government area by the combined forces of the army, police and scores of identifiable thugs imported by the APC.

He explained that the party having reviewed the entire exercise of last Saturday came to the conclusion that there was no election in Khana Local government area and has called on INEC to cancel the rerun elections, as it has been marred by irregularities and orchestrated violence by the APC against members of the PDP”

“PDP draws the attention of INEC, APC and its collaborators, the army, SARS and police, which mortgaged its conscience to declare Magnus Abe, Barry Mpigi and the other APC candidates in Rivers South East winners to the consequences of going to equity with unclean hands,” Obuah stated.

Meanwhile, a report from the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room comprising of over 70 civil society groups have called for a probe of the disturbances observed during the polls.

The civil society group include: Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Proactive Gender Initiative (PGI) Enough is Enough Nigeria, WANGONET, Partners for Electoral Reform, JDPC and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA). Others are Development Dynamics, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Stakeholders Democracy Network, Human Rights Monitor, Election Monitor, Reclaim Naija, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, CITAD, Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE), among others

The groups observed two wards in Gokana Local Government (B Dere CP School Ward 4 & Bomu Ward 7 Units 1-8) claiming that while voting had closed and early counting at school and church locations with a cluster of units which was proceeding without any significant problem, a team of police and military personnel arrived and removed all of the election materials and officials from the location.

The report said In Bomu, presiding officers at 3pm were waiting to count under a calm situation when a combined team of police and army personnel arrived in Hilux vehicles with an armored personnel carrier, chased voters away, and carried away materials and ad hoc staff. They claimed that in B Dere, the security team was accompanied by a party agent for one of the major parties and departed with party supporters from the location.

“The credibility of an election hinges on a fair process in the build up to the poll, a conducive environment, and a transparent counting of votes. The violent disruption of voting and collation in the areas observed means that these polls will not be accepted locally as credible, and conduct observed has called into question the neutrality of security forces and of election officials.

“INEC has issued an interim statement effectively labeling the poll a success. If this statement pre-dates the breakdown seen on the afternoon of Saturday 12th this needs correcting. A failure to acknowledge the serious issues in the poll and the impact on collation would call INEC’s own credibility into question”

The groups called for An investigation that includes independent actors to be initiated into the security incidents affecting the December 10th polls, specifically looking at why so many areas had officials and materials removed before collation took place at polling units.