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Rivers State’s shameful rerun elections

Rerun National and state assembly elections for Rivers State conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last Saturday turned out to be inconclusive, tragic…

Rerun National and state assembly elections for Rivers State conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last Saturday turned out to be inconclusive, tragic and lacking in all the indices of free and fair elections. The rerun polls, which were necessitated by Election Tribunal and Election Appeal Tribunal verdicts that annulled the polls held last year, are best described as shameful.
After announcing only a few of the results, INEC cancelled the election in eight local government areas, suspended the collation of results in all the others and said it would have to conduct fresh polls “when peace returns.” What happened was hardly unexpected. Two days before the rerun election,  a Major in the Army and another soldier were brutally killed in Abonnema, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of the state. Many people were shot dead in other locations in the state. Two days after the election, INEC announced that a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, Samuel Dumebi Okonta who was an ad hoc staff was killed by thugs. Another corps member, Anana Aniekan Udoetor who was initially reported missing was later found alive.
Police Assistant Inspector General in charge of Zone Six, Calabar Adisa Bolanta said four deaths were recorded while 22 people were arrested during the poll even though other sources said the casualties were far higher than that. Secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG) Kenneth Kobani was arrested by the military for going to a local council with thugs who fired shotguns. Similarly, Special Adviser to Governor Nyesom Wike on Projects was paraded before newsmen after he was arrested at Bori with armed thugs in military uniform and N40million cash in his vehicle.
On the other hand, Minister of Transportation and former governor of Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi was accused of abducting the INEC collation officer for PHALGA Ward 10, Mrs. Ekwi Adebisa, a claim which he denied. Both Amaechi and Wike stormed the Mile 1 police station on Sunday to have access to Adebisa and there they had an open confrontation. From day one, both Wike and Amaechi, who are leaders of PDP and APC in the state respectively but were not contesting in this election, nevertheless went about the campaign as a do or die affair and mobilized their supporters to do the same. The two of them and their leading supporters set the stage for the mayhem that followed.
The elections took place in three senatorial districts, 12 federal constituencies and 22 state constituencies in 23 local government areas in the state but INEC released the results of only nine state constituencies and one federal constituency. Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Aniedi Ikoiwak said PDP won in eight state constituencies while APC won in one. Defending its inability to carry out a conclusive election, INEC said the process witnessed serious disruption, including the barricading of some INEC local government offices and Registration Area Centres (RACs) used for the distribution of election materials. INECs Director of Voter Education and Publicity Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi said of more serious concern was the level of threats, violence and intimidation of election officials and voters by well armed thugs and miscreants allegedly acting on behalf of some politicians. Both local and international observers have condemned the violence that characterized the rerun, saying it fell short of expected standards.
While PDP leaders are now calling on INEC to release the results from the remaining areas, APC leaders are calling for the rerun election to be cancelled, saying it was the worst election INEC ever conducted. INEC’s Director of Publicity Nick Dazang said a different date will be set for fresh elections where the exercise could not be concluded due to violence. We strongly condemn what transpired in Rivers State. No election is worth the blood of citizens. We urge Rivers State’s PDP and APC leaders to borrow a leaf from their colleagues in the rest of the country and end this shameful culture of do or die politics and elections.

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