INEC To Announce Date For Fresh Rivers Rerun

INECNigeria’s electoral umpire, INEC has restated its decision to uphold results of the Rivers rerun elections in the federal and state constituencies where the exercise had been concluded.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also promised to announce results in constituencies where it is satisfied that voting and collation were done in compliance with the electoral act.

In a statement, INEC says, it will conduct fresh elections on a date to be decided in all local government areas, constituencies, registration areas and polling units where the exercise was disrupted before voting was concluded on Saturday march19th.

The commission, however, insists it will not return to Rivers State until a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of fresh elections is guaranteed.

According to INEC “Even where dates have been fixed and published, the commission will not hesitate to again suspend the exercise where there is a clear danger or credible threat of a breakdown of law and order”.

The commission also commiserates with the National Youth Service Corps as well as the family, friends and colleagues of Samuel Dumebi Okonta, the corps member who lost his life while serving as a poll official.

Below is INEC’s full statement on Rivers State Rerun election:
FURTHER STATEMENT BY INEC ON THE RIVERS RE-RUN ELECTIONS

Following the disruption of the re-run elections in Rivers state and the consequent suspension of further action in the exercise, the Independent National Electoral Commission held a meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Rivers State and its Supervisors and Monitors who were in the State.

The Commission has considered the submissions of these officials and undertaken an audit of its personnel deployed as polling officials and for related duties. Its findings are that the elections were characterized by violence, intimidation, threats, palpable fear and abduction of some of its officials in many areas.

INEC acknowledges that there were some challenges in its operational efficiency, especially as it concerns the production and customization of the result sheets used for the conduct of the election.

Specifically, there was the omission of the original watermark in the result sheets for a few polling units in 3 (three) Federal Constituencies and the omission of some delimitation details in 47 (forty seven) of the over 20,000 (twenty thousand) booklets produced. Political Parties that participated in the elections and their accredited agents, witnessed the distribution of all materials from the Central Bank Vaults and subsequent distribution to the various INEC Local Government Area Offices and the Registration Area Centres (RACs).

On election day some of the RACs were invaded and barricaded by hordes of people who prevented our officials from leaving for the polling units, thus disrupting the prompt commencement of the exercise in many places. Fortunately, the Commission was able to undertake the exercise in several places after explanations by the INEC staff and further validation/authentication of these result sheets by the endorsement of the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) and Electoral Officers (EOs) of some of these Local Government Areas.

The Commission wishes to emphatically state that there were no fake result sheets or any fake materials used in the conduct of the elections.

Position as at Time of Suspension
As at the time of the suspension of further action by the Commission, the exercise was at different stages, as follows:
(i.) The Elections had been concluded in some constituencies with the declaration of results and return of winners by the respective Returning Officers;
(ii.) Results declared and/or returns made under duress or by unauthorised persons;
(iii.) Collation had been concluded but no declaration or return made;
(iv.) Voting had been concluded and collation was on-going but yet to be concluded;
(v.) Voting concluded but collation yet to commence;
(vi.) No voting at all or voting commenced but was disrupted before conclusion.

Modalities and Way Forward
Faced with the above scenario, the Commission restates its earlier decision to uphold the declarations and returns made in the Federal and State Constituencies where the exercise had been concluded.

Similarly, the Commission will conclude and make returns in constituencies where it is satisfied that voting and collation were done in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and our Guidelines (This will cover scenarios iii, iv and v above).

Further details as to the constituencies and the nature of the exercise will be announced by the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the next few days.

INEC will, at a date to be decided, conduct fresh elections starting with accreditation and voting in all Local Government Areas, Constituencies, Registration Areas and Polling Units where the exercise was disrupted before voting was concluded on Saturday 19th March, 2016. Even so, this will only be after due consultation with stakeholders and subject to the advice of the Security Agencies and guarantees by the Political Parties, Candidates and their supporters.

While the Commission is committed to conducting free, fair and credible elections, it hereby reiterates its resolve not to return to Rivers State (or anywhere else where there was a breakdown of law and order in the cause of conducting elections) until there is a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of credible elections. As a responsible organization, it will not expose its stakeholders especially voters, its officials, observers, media personnel to any danger and even where dates have been fixed and published, it will not hesitate to again suspend the exercise where there is a clear danger or credible threat of a breakdown of law and order.

INEC reassures that all materials used for the conduct of the elections which were not destroyed by hoodlums are safe and are being kept in secure custody.

The Commission condemns in no uncertain terms all those who have been spewing hate speeches and making incendiary statements, which no doubt exacerbated an already tense situation. It will like to again commiserate with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the family, friends and colleagues of Samuel Dumebi Okonta, the Corps member who unfortunately lost his life in this patriotic service as a poll official. May his soul rest in peace.

Issued this 25th day of March, 2016

Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi
Director, Voter Education and Publicity, INEC.

 

Wike Blames INEC, Security Operatives For Chaos

Governor WikeThe Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, is blaming Nigerian Army personnel and INEC for the chaos in most of the local government areas where results of the re-run elections have been cancelled.

He said while INEC failed to print a uniform form with federal government seal for all the council areas, the soldiers according to him acted beyond their brief by attempting to stop party agents from accompanying electoral materials.

“As early as 9AM yesterday morning I was getting calls from local governments. I got a call from Bonny Local Government that ‘look the results they brought to us, we don’t think its original’.

“I asked ‘how do you know the original result?’ They said the one they had seen for the Senate was different as they could see the coat of arms and the one for the House of Assembly also had the coast of arms but the one for the House of Reps had nothing and was not even signed.

“I got to the REC on phone and told him about the complaints, he said that the problem was that he told the electoral officers (EO) to counter-sign those ones that don’t have codes so that that would form as original but most of them did not sign,” Governor Wike said.

He also berated the security operatives for allegedly failing to play their expected role during the election.

He said that he had suggested that the military should not be involved in the election but play strictly the role of providing security and manning strategic positions.

Rivers Rerun: Missing INEC Electoral Officer Found

Rivers Rerun Election INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers State, Mr Aniedi Ikoiwak, has confirmed that the electoral officer for Ikwerre who was earlier declared missing during the Rivers rerun election has been found alive.

Mr Osifo Osaze is reported to have been attacked by gunmen who opened fire on his vehicle but he managed to escape his assailants into the bush.

The REC told Channels Television that Mr Osaze was found with bullet wounds and has been taken to hospital for treatment.

In another incident, a Youth Corps ad hoc INEC official was killed during violence at a polling unit in Ahoada West Local Government area on Saturday.

Mr Ikoiwak said that further announcements on the polls will be made in due course.

INEC had suspended further activities in the Rivers State rerun elections following the violent incidents trailing the conduct of the polls.

In a statement late on Sunday, INEC’s Director in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, regretted that “some of these elections witnessed the disruption of the process, including the barricading of  some of the INEC Local Government offices and Registration Area Centres (RACs) used for the distribution of Electoral materials which led to the late commencement of the exercise in some places and consequently, its smooth take off”.

He said that “the suspension does not affect constituencies where the exercise has been completed and the results declared by the returning officers”.

INEC had earlier suspended election in eight local government areas of the state.

Addressing reporters earlier on Sunday the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Aniedi Ikoiwak, said that the cancelation was due to irregularities at the affected local government areas.

The Flaws In Nigeria’s Electoral Law Ahead Of 2015 Elections

Politics Today - Agbaje setNigerian Politician, Jimi Agbaje, believes that the 2010 amendment of the country’s Electoral Act is not entirely a bad law but that the challenge for Nigeria remains how to implement the laws.

Jimi Agbaje was a guest on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ on Sunday, April 6.

While advocating the need for the Independent National Electoral Commission to raise its game and earn the confidence of Nigerians, he recalled the contrast between the 2007 elections conducted by the INEC which he referred to as a disaster, and the improvement witnessed in the 2011 election which “provided hope for Nigerians.”

He believes that the recent conduct of elections in Anambra State had again undone the good that the commission had done by its improved conducts in the Edo State elections. Therefore, the onus was on INEC to work hard to earn the trust of Nigerians all over again.

He noted that any form of amendment being proposed for the Electoral Act would be coming against the background of how much INEC can do, “Is INEC getting better?”

Joining the programme via the telephone, a legal practitioner, Chima Nnaji, placed emphasis on the logistical challenges facing the country and the controversies surrounding the introduction of electronic voting.

He stated, “If there is just one thing that we need to get right, if it is possible, that would have a multiplier effect on the rest, it is this electronic voting process. If we can get this right, the tendency is that it would reduce rigging and all this idea of people sitting down in one room and writing results.

“It will also help good governance in absolute terms because if a politician knows that it is the voters that matter in the electoral process they will respect the ballot box.”

The plan to review Nigeria’s electoral laws had been in the news in the past week and Director of Voter Education and Publicity, INEC, Mr. Olumide Osaze-Uzzi, was also on the programme from our Abuja studio to offer INEC’s perspective for a balanced view of the development.

He revealed that INEC had made a number of requests in the ongoing electoral reform process, including those bordering on its operational independence, the electronic voting, and being at the forefront of the establishment of an Electoral Offences’ Tribunal as well as the Electoral Offences’ Commission.

Electronic Voting

Speaking about the expectations of Nigerians as regards the possibility of INEC deploying electronic voting in the 2015 general elections, Mr Politics Today - Osaze-UzziOsaze-Uzzi, revealed that the Electoral Act at present prohibits electronic voting in the country, a situation which the commission feels should not be so.

While admitting that the commission was not insisting that it was ready for e-voting, he said that they were requesting for INEC to be allowed to commence that process whereby foundations are laid for the exercise to be able to take off soon in the country.

He noted that the commission had demonstrated its willingness to embrace the process with its launch of the electronic register during recent elections and as also seen in its distribution of permanent voter cards in parts of the country, like Osun State.

Osaze-Uzzi said that the legal restrain was the reason why all its activities had been to deploy their technology mainly to activities like registration, voter verification and other pre-election processes which they are allowed to conduct electronically.

Mr Jimi Agbaje, in his reaction stated that Nigeria was not ready for electronic voting. He said that there were many things that would need to be put in place for such system to work in Nigeria.

He said that Nigerians would need to believe in the system for it to work, adding that INEC would need to convince Nigerians that the electronic voting would be fraud proof before they can see it as worthy of being embraced.

Independent Electoral Offences’ Commission

INEC has also requested that it is allowed to be at the fore front of electoral prosecutions in order to be able to prosecute electoral offenders.

Osaze-Uzzi explained that if a person has been found guilty of an electoral offence, such person should be disqualified from participating in any election, but INEC does not have the powers to disqualify candidates.

Therefore, giving the powers to a well-funded independent Electoral Offences’ Commission which would have the powers to arrest, investigate and prosecute offences, including the qualification and disqualification of candidates, would ensure that the system is cleansed.

Agbaje agreed that there needs to be a separate commission whose job it would be to prosecute election offenders.

He noted that the reason violence had continued to rise in Nigerian elections was because there had been no real punishment for offenders.

The militarization of elections in Nigeria also came to the fore in the discussion, as Agbaje noted that the deployment of soldiers during elections was an indication that the system was not perfect as their presence already reduces the chances of calling the elections “free and fair”.

He, however, would not totally condemn the practice as he admitted that indeed the Police cannot handle the management of elections in Nigeria due to the violent attitude of many Nigerians during elections.

He further emphasized the need to have electoral violence well punished as the only way to put a stop to the practice in Nigerian politics.

With INEC’s request for an independent body to prosecute electoral offences, the level of independence that INEC itself has was also scrutinized. Mr Osaze-Uzzi, said that the INEC was “as independent as the law permits it.”

While admitting that the commission wished that it was more independent, he noted that they do not take orders from anybody but they were still subject to the judiciary, the legislative, and when they submit budgets it is subject to approval.

Agbaje while corroborating Osaze-Uzzi’s submission on the level of INEC’s independence said that the commission could never be 100% independent. He, however, noted that attention should be given to the states and not necessarily the commission at the national level.

He said that the choice of Professor Attahiru Jega as head of the electoral commission was a good one with a level of independence maintained over the years, but the state electoral commissions cannot be seen as being independent and more attention should be paid to the commission at that level since most of the electoral issues arise from them.