Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Rivers State office, has claimed that threat of violence by the political actors necessitated its postponement of Rivers State legislative re-run election billed for this Saturday, July 30.
The latest suspension the elections in Rivers is coming on the heels of the burning down of INEC office in Khana Local Government Area on July 22.
In a press statement signed by the secretary to the commission, Augusta Ogakwu, the decision became imminent as a result of recent developments in the state, even after the assurances from stakeholders at a meeting in June, where the date for the re-run was decided.
According to the commission, “As responsible organisation and conscious of the violent maiming and fatalities which accompanied the previous elections in March as well as developments in the state since then, the commission cannot ignore such credible reports. In the circumstances therefore, it is compelled to further postpone the re-run legislative elections in Rivers State as one of the principal conditions earlier stipulated for return to the state for the conclusion of the elections has regrettably not been met.
“The commission restates its readiness to create a level playing field for all stakeholders to participate in the electoral process. However, it has a responsibility to ensure that voters, electoral personnel, observers and other stakeholders are not exposed to undue threats to their lives. This the commission holds it also as a collective responsibility to be borne by all political actors irrespective of political positions and affiliations. If the goal of political contest is to serve the people, then there is no greater service than ensuring at all cost the preservation of the lives of the people to whom such services would be rendered,” it noted.
Similarly, the Resident Electoral Commissioner REC in the state, Elder Aniedi Ikoiwak told reporters in Port Harcourt yesterday that INEC national headquarters, Abuja, having received intelligence that some politicians are planning to cause violence during the polls, ordered the postponement.
Elder Ikoiwak disclosed that the various political parties signed peace accord at the recent meeting it held with them, but regretted that they had reneged in the peace accord and resorted to violence.
“We told you that one of the conditions for the conduct of the remaining elections is assurance of peaceful atmosphere, but since it is not realisable, our commission has no choice than to postpone it till we are sure of peace,” he declared.
He blamed the political class for incisive utterances, appealing to them to guide their speeches, actions, as well as those of their followers, urging them to begin to view politics as a game and not a do-or-die affair.
Confirming that the postponement was indefinite, he also noted that the INEC headquarters had also notified the political parties in a press release of Monday, July 25, regarding the postponement.
Last week, a group of angry protesters identified to be supporters of the All Progressives Congress, APC, marched to the state judiciary and House of Assembly and locked the complex, saying they did not want the election to hold.
It would be recalled that the INEC office in Bori, Khana Local Government Area of the state, was at the weekend burnt down by yet to be identified mob.
Efforts to reach out to the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and that of the APC to react failed as they could not take their calls.
INEC messing up democracy in Nigeria – Fayose
However, Ekiti State governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose has said that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was messing up democracy in Nigeria with manner it is handling elections under the President Mohammadu Buhari-led government.
The governor, who described the postponement of the Rivers State re-run elections and the alleged manipulation of the Imo North senatorial election as another dangerous signal of what to come in 2019, asked how an INEC that could not conduct elections conclusively in just one state would be able to conduct elections in the entire country in 2019.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by the special assistant to the governor on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, the governor reiterated his fear that “democracy in Nigeria is being threatened by INEC and this should call for national and international reflection.”
He said, “Lovers of democracy in Nigeria and the entire world should be worried that after conducting inconclusive elections in Rivers State in March this year, INEC postponed conclusion of the elections twice.
“INEC had on June 20, after a meeting with relevant stakeholders, fixed June 30 as new date for the conclusion of the poll.
“However, the electoral commission postponed the elections for the second time, claiming reports of violence, and one wonders how INEC will be able to conduct elections in 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory in 2019 if it has not been able to conclude elections in Rivers State in four months!”