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Anambra guber: Soludo leads, INEC concludes poll Tuesday

By Lawrence Njoku, Uzoma Nzeagwu, Osiberoha Osibe (Awka) and Matthew Ogune (Abuja)
08 November 2021   |   4:30 am
Former governor of Central Bank and candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof Chukwuma Soludo, has secured majority of results declared in the votes cast in Saturday’s Anambra State governorship election.

Soludo… yesterday

• APGA wins 18 local councils, PDP, YPP take one each • No election in Ihiala LGA – Collation Officer
• I was tear-gassed, locked in toilet, signed Orumba North LGA result under gunpoint, says INEC official
• APC seeks cancellation of poll • How resilience, determination of electorate won Anambra polls
• Situation Room alleges vote-buying, non-payment of security personnel for election duty

Former governor of Central Bank and candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof Chukwuma Soludo, has secured majority of results declared in the votes cast in Saturday’s Anambra State governorship election. Soludo was, however, not declared the winner of the election yet due to the suspension of election in Ihiala Local Government Area.

The results of the election were formally announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the state collation centre in Awka, yesterday.

The APGA candidate won in 18 of the 21 local government areas of the state. One local government was won by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Valentine Ozigbo, while the candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Ifeanyi Ubah, also won in one local government.

However, the collation officer for Ihiala said at the INEC collation centre that elections did not hold in their local council.

While Soludo leads his closest challenger, Ozigbo, with over 52,000 votes, Ihiala local government alone has over 148,000 registered voters.

At exactly 12: 15a.m. this morning, the election was thus declared inconclusive to allow for rerun elections in the outstanding local government where elections did not hold.

INEC announced postponement of the election in Ihiala following alleged irregularities discovered in most communities in the council. The announcement was made during collation yesterday by the officer in charge, Ahmadu Umar.

The election has been rescheduled to hold on Tuesday, November 9, as Umar warned troublemakers to steer clear of all venues where the election will hold in the council.

According to Umar, there were 148,407 registered voters in the council, yet there was no election in the council area on Saturday due to activities of some politicians who tried to rig the election.

Anambra Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba, had alleged that a politician in the area and his group had tried to rig the election. He noted that some of the hoodlums have been arrested by security agents in the area.

INEC collation officer for Orumba North, Dr Michael Otu, a lecturer of Commercial Law at the University of Calabar, said elections did not hold. He stunned stakeholders at the collation centre when he denounced the result he signed.

He said he did not believe in the result. He accused the electoral officer that was supposed to work with him of collaborating with some people to scuttle the election results in the area.

Addressing the Returning Officer, Prof. Florence Obi, at the centre, Otu described his experience as very pathetic, thanking God for being alive.

“To be very frank, I want to categorically and unequivocally tell you that there was no election in the best of my knowledge and with the evidence I am going to buttress herein,” he said.

According to him, the total registered voters in 18 registration areas is 93,608. A drama ensued when he stated that though he collated the figures, he didn’t believe in it because he signed the results under duress.

“I was tear-gassed. I was locked in the toilet, until a policeman smuggled me out. I could not even go out to ease myself. They were monitoring me up and down. At a point, I saw that my life was in danger, so, I have to sign the results they prepared.

“93,608 is what we collated, although I signed this document under duress, I don’t believe in it. It is not my will,” he added.

In addition to signing the result under duress, the collation officer also cited security threats and alleged violence as reasons why election did not hold in his domain.

Responding to the allegation, the electoral officer who did not give her name, accused the returning officer of not knowing anything about collating election results.

“This man here has said so many things against me. But I observed that he has no experience in collating election results. This man does not know his left from his right. The result is full of mutilation. He does not know the difference between conducting election and collating results.”

Prof. Florence Obi said she was told about the crisis in the local government area. “This is the only local government I had a distress call from and I had to call the commissioner of police and told him that the lives of my staff are in danger,” she said.

Earlier, a Supervisory Presiding Officer reportedly carted away 41 results sheets. The Returning Officer in Idemili South Local Government Area, Dr Gabriel Othong, made this known while presenting results at the collation centre.

He said the whereabouts of the INEC official and result sheets were unknown, adding that 41 of the 42 result sheets for 89 polling units were “carted away.”

Othong, who is from the University of Calabar, Cross River, noted that there was no election in Oba Ward 1, Oba Ward 11, and Akukwu ward all in Idemili South Local Government Area.

The Returning Officer explained that electoral officials were not deployed in some of the polling units due to cases of gunshots. He said: “One of the SPOs carted away 41 result sheets out of the 42 result sheets meant for the 89 polling units in the affected wards. “Over 40, 000 voters were not able to vote in the affected areas due to the development.”

The agent of the APC, Chief Ebere Obiakor, said election held in those places but the results were not collated, but the collation agent of the PDP, Dr Alex Obiogbolu, countered the position of the APC agent, saying there was no election in any of the affected places.

HOWEVER, the Anambra chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has called for the cancellation of the election in the state. APC said the election was a fraud and accused the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano, and APGA of manipulating the process.

State chairman of the party, Chief Basil Ejidike, in a statement, said they would resist the rigging. He said: “What is happening in Anambra is never an election but big time electoral fraud and malpractice. We want the whole world to hear our voice that we will never accept the outcome of the Anambra gubernatorial election.

“The candidate of APGA and the sitting governor manipulated the whole electoral system and we will resist it.
“Ndi Anambra wants an APC governor and there’s nothing anyone can do to deny them that opportunity. We virtually won in all the local councils but Obiano and Soludo through instrumentality of corrupt-minded INEC officers subverted the whole process in favour of APGA.

“We want INEC to cancel the election and fix a date for a fresh election devoid of manipulations and malpractices. But if INEC goes ahead to announce the results, we will definitely challenge the election process in court up to Supreme Court. Nobody can intimidate us.”

ONE factor that stood strong and contributed to the success of the election was the resilience and sheer determination of the electorate to take their destiny in their own hands.

Prior to the election, there were heightened fears that it may not hold following threats by secessionist groups as well as insecurity created by killings and kidnappings, which marred political programmes and campaigns of various political parties.

Apart from the cancelled one-week sit-at-home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Biafra National Guard (BNG) on the other hand, vowed that the election would not hold; just as lateness in arrival of electoral materials and malfunction of their facilities affected the process.

While it also became difficult to hold open campaigns, following attacks on supporters found with branded party vehicles and attires, the development led to several calls for the postponement of the process.

But the election on Saturday defied the predictions of bookmakers who feared it would be fraught with violence, apathy and other activities associated with processes of such nature, as it turned out to be one of the most peaceful and orderly exercises held in recent times. The people turned out in sizable numbers and conducted themselves orderly, not minding the heavy presence of armed security officials scattered in the state.

MEANWHILE, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room said it received reports of widespread vote buying by political party agents during the election.

Contrary to pronouncement by police authorities that security agents on election duty had been remunerated, Situation Room noted that some of the security personnel stated during interaction with election observers that they had not received their allowances for election duty.

Situation Room Convener, Ene Obi, who made this known in a statement yesterday in Abuja, said: “Some of the specific instances include sale of votes for amounts ranging from N1,000 and N6,000 at various locations.

“However, this was being carried out very discreetly in some Polling Units (PUs), while in others, the vote buying was done in full glare without prevention from security personnel.

“Nevertheless, voters in a particular polling unit in the state rejected an inducement of N5,000 per vote. Situation Room commends the courage of these voters. For this, we say a big well done to Ndi Anambra.”

Obi, however, noted that the election was generally peaceful against the background of potential violence rhetoric leading up to it, even though there were pockets of disturbances.

On Bi-Modal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS), she stated: “Reports from field observers indicated widespread malfunction of this technology, as it failed to authenticate voters’ fingerprints and detect faces.

“This was the case in 59 per cent of the PUs observed, with a minimum of five minutes to accredit one voter in 65.8 per cent of the PUs observed.

“Furthermore, some of the ad-hoc staff experienced levels of difficulty in operating the machines. In some locations, the machines were working rather slowly and took as long as 10 minutes or more to accredit a single voter. This severely stalled the accreditation and voting process.”

“Situation Room notes that INEC ad-hoc officials in some instances gave priority to Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), elderly persons and pregnant women in most of the polling units observed. However, some of the PUs were not accessible to some categories of PWDs.

“On presence, conduct and welfare of security officials, at this time, Situation Room notes that security officials were present at most of the polling units visited. The security agents were relatively civil in their conduct within and outside polling units.”

Obi called on the resilient people of Anambra to remain calm and law abiding as the election runs its course.

“We call on INEC to ensure the peaceful and transparent conclusion of this election. Situation Room also calls on security agencies to continue to maintain law and order through the remaining phases of this exercise,” she added.

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