Anxiety as INEC begins collation of governorship election results in Bayelsa

Anxiety as INEC begins collation of governorship election results in Bayelsa

Sunday, November 17, 2019 7:02 am


We are yet to decide whether to do in  areas of reported violence— INEC National Commissioner.

Governor Dickson accuse, APC, Security agencies malpractices

Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt

Anxiety is building up in Bayelsa as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC is set to begin collation and announcement of results for the State’s governorship election held on Saturday.

Already, security has been beefed up at the Yenagoa headquarters of Bayelsa office of INEC ahead of commencement of collation of results of the election which was characterized by violence, hijacking of electoral materials, delays in commencement of voting and abduction of electoral staff in some parts of the 21 local governments of the state.

However, few accredited journalists were allowed into the centre.

The head of Voter Education of INEC in Bayelsa, Wilfred Ifogah, assured that the collation centre will begin operation on Sunday morning.

Commenting on reported cases of violence at the polling units, INEC National Electoral Commissioner in Charge of  Bayelsa, Edo and Rivers State, Mrs May Agbamuche- Mbu,  said the Commission is yet to make up its mind on whether there should be a rerun or not in the areas affected. 

According to her, INEC will study the official reports from the officers who were on ground where the alleged election malpractices or violence took place and decide on its next line of action.

Abduction of INEC officials, hijack of electoral materials

There were reports that four staff of INEC were abducted in Bumodi-Gbene in Yenagoa and Ologi in Ogbia Local Government areas, but were later released after the conduct of the governorship election.

It was also gathered that the officials of INEC on election duty were abducted in Bumodi-Bgbene community in Ekpetiama clan of Yenagoa Local Government Area by suspected party thugs.

The abducted INEC officials were and taken to a building nearby where they were locked up and held incommunicado for sometime.

Similarly, Angiama community of Southern Ijaw, election materials meant for the area were intercepted and hijacked by suspected thugs.

One of INEC’s ad-hoc staff, who is also an NYSC member and who managed to escape from the scene, said one female police officer was pushed into a creek in the area, but is alive, while the whereabouts of three officials are unknown.

The official, Ukuachukwu Orji, who is the INEC supervisory resident electoral commissioner for Ogbia LGA, said members of the Ologi community forcibly prevented election in the riverine area, “As our people (electoral officers) were coming into the community after crossing the river, they seized the electoral materials and burn them materials.They chased our people away and seized some but the military rescued them.”

Mr Orji, who is originally the REC for Anambra State, spoke in Otuoke (Ward 13 of Ogbia LGA) where President Goodluck Jonathan and his family voted. He said election in the community was then cancelled because of the violence.

He expressed satisfaction that election has been smooth in other communities that form the LGA, except in Ologi. 

There are allegations that hoodlums also hijacked electoral materials in Sagbama Ward 6, 7, 11 and 14 where the incumbent governor, Henry Seriake Dickson hails from.

Disappointment

Former President, Goodluck Jonathan initially expressed disappointment over the late arrival of election materials to his polling unit, 39, in Otuoke under ward 13 of Ogbia Local Government Area of the State.

Jonathan, initially met only journalists on ground, when he arrived his polling unit about 8:30a.m. Arriving the polling unit he said to a reporter: “are you an electoral officer,” and when the journalist replied that he is a reporter, Jonathan then asked “where are they?

But eventually, the former President came back with his wife, Dame Patience to cast his vote in the presence of Ukuachukwu Orji, who is the INEC supervisory Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ogbia LGA.

According to Jonathan, “My wife and I were able to cast our votes today as soon as the polling booth at Unit 39 Ward 13 in Otuoke opened just before noon. I urge Bayelsans and voters in Kogi State to go about performing this important civic responsibility in a peaceful manner. I am encouraged by the determination and yearning of Nigerians for good governance to believe that we will soon get to a point where we will adopt the right attitude and innovation that will strengthen our democracy”.

Call For Cancellation

However, the Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson who voted at Oruerewari, Polling Unit 005, Toru Orua in Sagbama local government area, called on the Independent National Electoral Commission to cancel the election in some parts of the state, where the exercise was characterized by alleged brigandage, hijacking of electoral materials and personnel.

Governor Dickson, also called for outright cancellation of the elections in Nembe local government area where over 20 PDP members were allegedly massacred by armed APC militia during an aborted campaign rally of his party in the area said, “I call on the Chairman of INEC to issue an order canceling the process in all the wards, in all the local government areas affected, in all the wards and units, where materials have been stolen or hijacked, where officials have been kidnapped and held hostage to enable the APC cook up non existing figures.”

The Governor accused “some unprofessional elements in the Nigerian Army” of conniving with APC thugs to perpetrate electoral fraud and insecurity in some parts of Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor and Ogbia and even in the state capital, Yenagoa.

Governor Dickson, who highlighted the alleged gruesome killings during the PDP campaign in Nembe claimed that what is going on in Bayelsa is a charade and not a democracy.

 “Materials meant for Eniwari community, Opuama ward, most locations in Southern Ijaw as we earlier predicted were hijacked. As everyone knows, the APC has no foothold in Bayelsa to win an election, but they have an armed militia, surveillance contractors who kill and maim for the APC.  They also have the Nigerian Army and rogue elements of the Police Force working in concert with them to deny the citizens of these communities their right to vote”. 

“So as we are speaking, in our country, in this day and age, gun wielding militia men with the aid of security forces have overrun the election officials and most of the electoral officials in Southern Ijaw. These officials as we speak, have been kidnapped and held hostage. This has been the lot, this has been what we’ve been managing since 2015, with APC at the center, not caring about the lived and dignity of our people. The APC at the center are too hungry and determined to make Nigeria a one party state”.

“The president has to wake up and do something. What is going on in Bayelsa in the name of election is not a democracy. I call on the President to call on the security agents particularly the Army to stop desecrating Democratic governance and subjecting the image of the country to ridicule. I call on the Inspector General of Police to be true to his professional calling and direct the DIG and all the security operatives to protect the people of Bayelsa”. I do not want to be pushed to call on them to defend and protect themselves.”

Voters’ Apathy

But former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, has lauded the people of Opokuma in Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State for their peaceful conduct during the governorship election in the area.

Though there was some level of voters’ apathy in the area ostensibly due to the ravaging flood, which has displaced several families, the people were orderly in their conduct.

On the near voters apathy recorded in the area he said, “I think there is a level of voters apathy especially from this side and I am still trying to know why. But some of the physical reasons are clear, the flood has affected a lot more of our families, communities and we sympathise with them. 

 “Some of the polling centres have been moved to other places where people can vote. Nobody will be happy to be casting his or her vote in a situation where you don’t even have a place to lay your head.

“So these are the environmental challenges that we suffer here in the Niger Delta especially in Bayelsa State that is carrying the whole body of water to the ocean.”

State Chairman of PDP, Cleopas Moses, the Director General of the PDP campaign, Nimibofa Ayawei and the former Chairman of the APC, Tiwei Oruniniegh hail from the troubled Koluama 1 and Koluama 2.

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