INEC, Wike bicker over Rivers rerun poll
I’ve facts to back my allegations, gov insists
Ahead of the rerun election in Rivers State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has cautioned Governor Nyesom Wike against making comments that could instigate his loyalists to cause violence.
The re-scheduled National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) and House of Assembly election will hold next Saturday.As preparations are being concluded for the poll, INEC yesterday expressed worry over Wike’s alleged “relentless false allegations, provocative and dangerous comments” capable of inciting people to commit violent acts that could derail the election.
The electoral body also appealed to stakeholders and all the political parties as well as their supporters to refrain from actions that could breach the extant laws governing the electoral process.
In a statement yesterday, the commission reminded the stakeholders that the elections earlier fixed for July 30, 2016 could not hold following persistent inflammatory comments by political actors and others in the state.
While re-stating its determination to conclude the elections in a free, fair and transparent manner next Saturday, INEC reassured Nigerians of its commitment to remain impartial at all times. “The commission hereby restates its determination to conclude the elections in Rivers State in a free, fair, and transparent manner on the said Saturday, 10th December 2016.
“The recent Edo and Ondo governorship elections eloquently speak of the feat that can be achieved if all stakeholders do the needful.
“However, INEC condemns, in very strong terms, the relentless false allegations, provocative and dangerous comments being made by some political actors, especially the Governor of River State, Mr. Nyesom Wike against the commission, all of which are capable of inciting people to commit violent acts that could derail the election.”
In his reaction, Governor Wike urged INEC to do the right thing,saying he would continue to speak on the conduct of free and credible poll irrespective of INEC’s warning.
The governor’s spokesman, Simeon Nwakaudu, told The Guardian that Wike “insists on free, fair and credible elections and for every statement he has made he has facts and figures. For every position he has made public he has clear facts and figures to support them and INEC is aware of them.
“Fake materials were printed here. The people were arrested. INEC has done nothing to facilitate the prosecution of those persons. It has kept quite and allowed the police to sweep the issue under the carpet.
Wike wondered why INEC allegedly failed to respond to allegations that it handed electoral materials to members of the APC. In obedience to court orders resulting from disputes over the 2015 general elections, INEC conducted a rerun poll in the state on 19 March, 2016, to fill state assemblies. Unfortunately, an outbreak of violence forced the commission to suspend the exercise.
At the time the election was suspended, voting had either ended in some constituencies with the winners declared or the exercise had been concluded in other areas but collation of results had not been completed.
Besides, the electoral umpire said certain unauthorised persons had put the commission’s officials under duress to declare results at some locations, while balloting did not take place at all in others.
In an effort to conclude the election, the commission held a stakeholders’ forum in Abuja on June 30, 2016, where it was agreed that the exercise be held on July 30, 2016.
But following an attack on the commission’s office at Khana Local Government on July 22, 2016 by unknown persons and security reports, it became impossible to hold the election as planned.
After months of wide consultations with stakeholders aimed at creating a conducive atmosphere, the INEC announced on November 3, 2016 that the election would hold on December 10, 2016.
Meanwhile, Kano State governor and Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Campaign Committee for the election, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has promised that the party would repeat in Rivers State the feat it achieved in Ondo State.
But he admitted that the party and the committee would need to seriously strategise to win because, according to him, Rivers is a difficult terrain to win an election.