…Violence-free, marred by voter apathy
The Rivers State local government election, which held yesterday, was characterised by voter apathy and late arrival of electoral materials.
The All Progressives Congress, which boycotted the election, described it as a sham and illegal.
Contrary to the state government’s security concern that a faction of the APC was arming political thugs to disrupt the election in Abua/Odual, Akuku Toru, Asari Toru, Degema, Emohua, Ikwerre, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Opobo and Tai Local Government Areas, the entire process was devoid of violence and snatching of ballot boxes.
Though the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) began distribution of election materials on Thursday, with voting expected to commence by 8:00 a.m., yesterday, the election was almost marred by logistics challenges, particularly in Port Harcourt and Obio-Akpor Local Government Councils.
As early as 7:00 a.m., scores of electoral officers had gathered at the Registration Area Centres (RACs) at Obio-Akpor, Port Harcourt, Degema, Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni, Gokana, Khana and other local government areas, but the distribution of sensitive voting materials did not begin till well past 9:00 a.m.
RSIEC spokesperson, Sarah Menney-Amgbara, said the delay in distribution of electoral materials in some local government areas was due to advise by security agents, who obtained intelligence reports that some people were planning to hijack materials and cause chaos.
“To be candid, we got security report that some people wanted to be funny and the security agents had to advise us to hold on while they investigate the report,” she said.
Voting commenced on time in places such as Omoku, Bolo, Buguma, Bonny, Opobo, Bori, Oyigbo, Tai, Eleme. But, voting did not start in Obio-Akpor till about 11:00 a.m. due to late arrival of materials.
The poll was entirely devoid of violence, but the process was marred by poor turnout of voters, which most people blamed on boycott by the main opposition party.
APC factional chairman, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, said the party still stands by the outcome of the May 23, 2015 local government election, which its candidates won.
But a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt had in July 2015 sacked the 22 council executives on the basis that they were elected in flagrant disobedience of a valid and subsisting order restraining RSIEC from conducting the May 23 2015 polls. The case is presently before the Supreme Court.
An APC federal lawmaker representing Tai-Oyigbo-Eleme constituency in the House of Representatives, Barry Mpigi, after voting in Tia, yesterday, castigated his party for boycotting the election.
As at 2:00 p.m., voting had already been concluded at Governor Nyesom Wike’s Ward 9, Unit 7 at Rumuepirikon.
Wike lauded both RSIEC and security agencies for the successful conduct of the polls and for ensuring that the election was peaceful.
He said the non-participation of the APC was one of the reasons the process was peaceful. “Sixty-six out of sixty-eight political parties participated, but no violence. That means that if APC had participated, probably we would have seen violence. “Sixty-six political parties, no violence, no shooting, nobody has died. But, if the APC had participated, they would want to coerce security agencies; they would do all manners of negative things like bringing cultists to shoot. You can see that nobody hijacked materials. Everything has been peaceful,” he said.
He explained that the message to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is that it can conduct credible elections if it resists pressures from different quarters.
“INEC can be committed to do the right thing. Once they build confidence, every other thing will move on smoothly,” the governor said.
The polling officer at Ward 9, Unit 3, Omagwa, in Ikwerre Local Government Area, blamed the late arrival of materials on the early morning shower witnessed in Port Harcourt.
The candidate of the PDP for Ikwerre LGA, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, praised the police for being neutral and for providing security. He described the conduct of the election as peaceful and democratic.
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