The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Monday continued its defense of the victory of Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike at the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, with further proofs that the election was peaceful, credible and conducted in line with the Electoral Act.
Presenting its case before the Justice Suleiman Ambrosa-led tribunal sitting in Abuja, INEC maintained that relevant electoral procedures were followed before the Commission arrived at the lawful declaration of Governor Wike as the winner of the election in view of the valid votes garnered by him on April 11, 2015. The Commission stressed that best practices were observed in the conduct of the Rivers State governorship election.
At the resumed sitting on Monday, INEC presented seven witnesses who are presiding officers in polling units spread across four local government areas. The witnesses conducted elections in Bonny, Tai, Oyigbo and Akuku Toru local government areas. They were serving corps members at the time the election was conducted.
The defence witnesses were led in evidence by the counsel to INEC, Onyechi Ikpeazu(SAN ).
In her testimony, Ogechi Anyanwu, a corps member who served as Presiding Officer Ward 8 Unit 8 of Tai local government area confirmed that elections were free and fair, noting that nobody snatched election materials as alleged by Rivers State APC.
The youth corps member noted that there was no case of violence during the governorship election and that as presiding officer she never participated in electoral fraud.
She maintained that in line with training received before the election she adopted manual accreditation after the card readers malfunctioned.
Another defence witness, Jerry Nyikwagh who served as Presiding Officer for Ward 7, Unit 4 in Tai LGA explained that he reverted to manual accreditation after the failure of the card readers, but first got permission from his supervisor.
He explained that the accreditation and voting process were in line with the training they received and the Electoral Act.
Adeyemi Saheed who served as Presiding Officer at Alabrabra Polling Unit in Akuku Toru LGA described the election as peaceful, credible and free and fair with all the party agents participating.
He noted that contrary to the Rivers State APC allegation, the governorship election did not witness any case of ballot box snatching, election malpractices or fraud.
Mr Fidelis Zeribe who served as Presiding Officer at Ward 7, Unit 5 of Bonny LGA said nobody manipulated the election, stressing that accreditation and voting took place and a return was made.
The Presiding Officer for Ward 1 Unit 1 in Oyigbo Local Government Area, Ifem Charles Chidozie, a former youth corps member, said he didn’t participate in electoral fraud, neither did he see soldiers partake in violent acts or electoral malpractices.
Sofiri Jumbo, a former youth corps member who served as the presiding officer for Ward 4 unit 1 in Bonny LGA testified that the election in his area of coverage was in line with the Electoral Act and election .
They maintained that the official training they received mandated them to revert to manual accreditation in the event that the card readers failed. All seven witnesses stressed that the presiding officers had no powers to postpone election when the election process had commenced with voters lined up for accreditation.
In the meantime, Justice Suleiman Ambrosa adjourned further hearing on the matter to September 28, 2015 for the continuation of INEC’S defence.
So far, INEC has called 8 defence witnesses from five local government areas spread across the three senatorial districts of Rivers State.