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INEC’s daunting task in court-ordered re-run/supplementary elections in Imo

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Ezeonu

Following the order of the Court of Appeal in Owerri, capital of Imo State last year, the Imo State office of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), led by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Francis Ezeonu, will tomorrow, Saturday comply with the order for rerun and supplementary elections. The affected three constituencies are Njaba State Constituency, Okigwe/Onuimo/Isiala Mbano and Orlu/Orsu/Oru East Federal Constituencies.

Political watchers say coming polls will be tough and volatile in some areas, this has been giving INEC major concern, as it do a thorough job in the application of electoral dexterity.

The Guardian gathered that the re-run/supplementary polls in the case of Njaba involves Mrs. Uju Jovita Onwudiwe (Action Alliance – AA), Charles Abia of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Perry Uchenna Ekwunazo of All Progressives Congress (APC). In Okigwe/Onuimo/Isiala Mbano Federal Constituency, the trio of Princess Miriam Onuoha of APC, Obinna Onwubuariri of PDP, and Princess Uchenna Uba of APGA are to face the electoral fight, while Jerry Alagboso of PDP, Edwin Iheanacho of APC are the contestants for the Orlu/Orsu/Oru East Federal Constituency in the re-run exercise.

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It is instructive to note that Onwudiwe, Alagboso and Onwubuariri, who were earlier declared winners by the INEC, had been in the Imo State House of Assembly and House of Representatives before the court ordered for re-run in the affected polling units due to some discrepancies. While Onwudiwe was in her second term, Alagboso was enjoying his third term.

In Njaba, there will only be supplementary poll in 12 polling units.

Since the order by the court, the affected lawmakers had been working to regain grounds, while their challengers also are leaving nothing to chance.

Ezeonu, while briefing journalists recently, said arrangements were on to ensure successful elections this weekend. He also convened a meeting of stakeholders, comprising representatives of the political parties, security agencies, civil society groups and the media.

He disclosed that arrangements about the deployment of security personnel have been made, noting that the usual logistics were going to be adopted, including the activation and use of Super Registration Area Centres (RACs) and Registration Areas where non-sensitive and sensitive materials would be kept a day before the elections with the ad hoc and INEC workers guarded by the security operatives.

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As usual, Ezeonu said the sensitive materials would be kept at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Port Harcourt Road, Owerri, before they are moved to the RACs some hours to the election day in the presence of security, observers, political party agents, journalists, and INEC’s officials. The INEC chief also said that only accredited observers and journalists would be allowed to observe the elections, adding that there would be restriction of human and vehicular movements in the affected areas from 8.00am to 4.00pm.

He also directed all political parties involved in the exercises to submit a list of their agents (one each) before the commencement of the elections.

His words: “You are all aware that the court has ordered a re-run election for the Okigwe/Onuimo/Isiala Mbano Federal Constituency as well as supplementary elections in 18 polling units of Orlu/Orsu/Oru East Federal Constituency and 12 polling units of Njaba state constituency. All the 18 polling units designated for supplementary elections in the Orlu/Orsu/Oru East Federal Constituency are in Orlu LGA. You are also aware that the commission has scheduled Saturday, 25 January 2020 for the re-run and supplementary elections. I want to assure you that the commission is concluding arrangements for the elections as scheduled.

“I want to inform you that we will retain all logistics arrangement made during the general elections. To that effect, we will use the earlier approved ward and local government collation centres. We will also activate and use all the Super RACs and RACs in Okigwe, Onuimo and Isiala Mbano LGAs respectively for camping on the eve of the election (that is 24 January) for easy deployment of materials to the polling units on the election day.

“We appeal to stakeholders and communities in which these centres are located to help maintain the sanctity and security of these centres. In both Orlu and Njaba LGAs, we will deploy directly from INEC LGA offices as the polling units where supplementary elections will hold are within reach.”

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While clarifying, Ezeonu, said: “All are reminded about the rules guiding election and election day activities. There will be restriction of movement in all the constituencies where elections will be held on the day. For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to restate that this exercise is restricted to only political parties that participated in the earlier elections for which a re-run or supplementary election has been ordered.

“The commission has completed the reconciliation of election results in the two constituencies where supplementary elections are scheduled to hold and for transparency will be sharing the data with you.”

Meanwhile the leaders of the major political parties involved in the exercise – AA, PDP, and APC – have indicated willingness to adhere to the guidelines and instructions for the conduct of the elections. Partyies’ officials included Charles Ezekwem (Imo State PDP chairman), Anthony Ahaneku (Imo State AA chairman). Resolution as to who heads Imo APC is still hovers around Chief Marcellinus Nlemigbo and Daniel Nwafor. Nlemigbo is the recognized chairman by the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole and the Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma.

Nwafor was allegedly put in place during the reign of the erstwhile governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, when there was power tussle between Okorocha and Oshiomhole. But APC national chairman, after the Supreme Court declared Uzodinma the duly elected governor, announced a resolution of the loggerheads between him and Okorocha. All eyes are on the leadership of the party to formally announce the faction of the party that should head it in Imo.

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