By Emmanuel Oloniruha
The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said that the commission recorded at least, 70 incidences of obstruction of election electoral processes in Dec.10, re-run legislative elections in Rivers.h
Yakubu disclosed this while addressing a world conference at the opening ceremony of a two-day Capacity Development for INEC Press Corps on Friday in Abuja.
The INEC boss said that the violent incidence included harassment, abduction and physical assaults of election duty personnel during the election.
He decried the high level of violence and thuggery witnessed in the exercise, adding that ”on the eve of the election, thugs disrupted the delivery of election materials.
Registration Area Centres (RACs), a situation that prevented early deployment to the Polling Units (PUs)on election day.
Yaukubu said, “Indeed, in many instances, we had to deploy directly from the local government areas to PUs, contrary to our plans.
“Amidst heavy shooting by political thugs, vehicles transporting materials and personnel to PUs were hijacked.
“Voter registers, ballot papers, result sheets and Smart Card Readers (SCR) were brazenly snatched at gun point.”
He said that the commission had documented all the instances of violence adding that
”The INEC shall carefully scrutinize them and take appropriate action under the law and its guidelines and regulations.
He, however, pledged that INEC would work with security agencies to uncover and punish people who disrupted the distribution of election materials and electoral processes in the Rivers rerun elections.
He cited violenc in Okrika and Gokana Local Government and the heavy shooting reported in Biata and Bodo.
“We are confident that the security agencies will investigate all violations of the nation‘s laws before, during and after the last re-run elections in Rivers.’’
This he said include the alleged unsavory roles played by actors in uniform.
“INEC will work with the security agencies to uncover and punish those who disrupted the distribution of election materials
“To uncover the hijacking of election materials in Andoni, Oyibo and Ogu-Bolu, the hostage taking in Akoku Toru, the physical attack and kidnapping of election personnel.
He said that the hijack resulted in the loss of ballot paper consignment for Ward 16 in Khana Local Government Area of the state.
“Also the unmasking of the identity of the thugs that threatened to burn down our personnel inside the vehicles conveying them to pulling Units (Pus) in Etche.
“The process which resulted in the massive disruption that made it impossible for elections to be conducted in a substantial part of the Federal and State Constituencies in the LGA.’’
According to him the INEC is also in contact with the security agencies to secure the release of its three Collation Officers detained in a security facility in Port Harcourt for almost a week.
He said that the commission was also aware of reports of infractions by some of INEC staff, ranging from absence from duty posts to partisanship in the discharge of their duties.
“We also acknowledge that in Ahoada East and West, a Supervisory Presiding Officer (SPO) unsuccessfully tried to abscond with ballot papers and result sheets.
“We are also investigating the allegation of bribery involving other staff, particularly those deployed to Etche and Ikwerre.
“We wish to assure all Nigerians that the Commission is instituting an administrative inquiry as part of a comprehensive review of the Rivers re-run elections.
“Needless to say that any INEC staff found to have disobeyed clear rules and regulations will be appropriately sanctioned.’’
The INEC boss, therefore, appealed to perpetrators of violence during elections to regard politics and competition for office as monumental responsibilities that called for civility and candor, “not aggression and blood-letting.’’
Yakubu, however, expressed the commission’s condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in the violence in the rerun elections in Rivers.
He, however,commended Prof. Oji Ekumankama, the Returning Officer for Rivers East Senatorial District, allegedly assaulted by unknown persons in uniform and threatened to arrest him.
“Election materials, including result sheets and his personal belongings were taken away at gun point, yet he stood his ground, supported by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) for the area who offered to be arrested along with Ekumankama.
“In the same vein, Ms. Mary Tunkuyo, Mr Agona Isaac, Mr Ademola Toba, NYSC members that served as electoral officers were physically assaulted and sustained serious injuries, yet theystood their grounds and discharged their responsibilities.(