Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday met with the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Rivers State, Monitors and Supervisors who superintended the Saturday, 19th March 2016 rerun elections with a view to taking a decision on the way forward on the just concluded elections.
This is as former Attorney-General of Nasarawa State, Barrister Lagi Innocent has declared that INEC lacks legal power to cancel an election that has been conducted, with results collated and declared at the polling units, wards and constituencies.
Speaking during a programme on the African Independent Television, AIT, Barrister Innocent said that, should INEC exercise the power it does not have, it would mean that the Commission is deliberately dragging the nation to the unfortunate era of June 12, 1993 when an election was illegally nullified.
He explained that INEC can only cancel an ongoing election, not an election that has been concluded with collation at different levels of the electoral process.
According to him, “Once voting has taken place, with collation done at different levels, only a court can take decision on the process.”
He added that the court is also empowered to collate results in case of disruption in the process after voting and counting has taken place at the polling units.
“Except we are trying to have a situation of June 12, INEC cannot do that; it is not lawful,” he said, faulting the approach of the Federal Government to election security during the Rivers rerun. He further explained that the repeated announcements bordered on subtle intimidation.
Lagi stated that it is the direct responsibility of the Federal Government to protect citizens during an election using security agencies, stressing that Federal Government cannot shift that responsibility to the civil society.
Meanwhile, INEC has decried the shedding of blood in elections, especially in the recent Rivers state rerun polls. In a statement, the Commission stated that, “It pains INEC profoundly when life is lost in the course of conducting elections. No matter the grievances of those involved in political contest, nothing justifies the cold blooded murder of an innocent official conducting a legitimate national assignment intended to afford citizens the right to freely choose their leaders.”
The INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, according to the statement, stated this yesterday when he paid a condolence visit to the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, Brigadier-General Johnson Bamidele Olawunmi over the corper, Okonta Samuel, who was killed while conducting the election.
Professor Yakubu who led a high-powered delegation of the Commission consisting of National Commissioners and Directors, assured that the Commission would fully participate in honouring the sacrifice of late Okonta Samuel and other members of the NYSC who might have suffered injury or even worse in the course of election duty in Nigeria in any way the NYSC considered appropriate.
Okonta Samuel, a serving Youth Corps member, lost his life as an ad-hoc election official during the Saturday 19th March, 2016 Rivers state rerun elections.
Professor Yakubu disclosed that another Corps member, Amana Oniekon, who could not be accounted for had been found hale and hearty. “We are glad to note that the other corps member, Amana Oniekon Odoeto who could not be accounted for, has been found alive, hale and hearty but understandably traumatised,” he said.
During the condolence visit at the NYSC headquarters, the INEC Chairman announced the offer of automatic employment to an ex-National Youth Service Corps member, Adeigba Daniel, who served in Yobe state between 2010 and 2011 and lost his eye sight due to injuries sustained while participating as an Ad-hoc staff in the 2011 general elections.
The INEC Chairman said: “My attention was drawn to an ex-corps member who lost his eye sight as a result of injuries he sustained in the course of conducting the 2011 general election. I wish to inform you that INEC is offering immediate employment to the corps member. He will be deployed to any of our state or local government offices of his choice anywhere in Nigeria”.
Professor Yakubu who explained that the visit was to pay the NYSC Director General and the entire NYSC family a condolence visit, regretted the loss of an innocent youth who out of love for his country paid the ultimate price of losing his life on national assignment.
He extolled the virtues and contributions of corps members in the conduct of elections, saying: “The young men and women in the NYSC are among the most educated, most committed, most reliable, most neutral and most patriotic election duty staff available to INEC. Their loss in the course of double national assignment, the youth service and election duty is a tragedy of monumental national proportion.
The Minister for Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung, who was at the occasion, lamented the recurring incidence of violence during elections. He said: “The act of violence during election is not only condemnable but is indeed a reflection of what I can refer to as primitive political culture. It is primitive for anybody to assume that he must shed blood to be able to access power.”
He appealed to politicians to play the game of politics in accordance with existing laws, stressing that: “at no point should officials and spectators of our game be made to be casualties of that game. Power is not worth the life of one single Nigerian”.
Rivers govt to immortalises slain corps member
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor, Barrister Nyesom Wike has declared that the state will immortalise the late Mr Samuel Okonta, the corps member who lost his life during the rerun legislative elections.
He also declared that the State Government will provide all necessary assistance for the police to investigate the killing of the corps member, with a view to identifying those responsible and prosecuting them.
Speaking at the Rivers State NYSC headquarters in Port Harcourt yesterday day, Governor Wike also announced an increment in the monthly allowance of corps members serving outside Port Harcourt, from N10, 000 to N15, 000 while also increasing of corps members serving in Port Harcourt from N5,000 to N10000.
Governor Wike expressed sadness that the corps member died serving the nation and pledged that the state government will take care of the family of the late corps member.
The state chief executive noted that the death is even more painful, because the corps member was an orphan, who suffered through schooling and was on the verge of being of help to his immediate family.
He said: “The death of this corps member is unfortunate and condemnable. I urge the Police to thoroughly investigate the crime. The outcome of the investigation should be made public so that those involved are prosecuted. The killing of this corps member must not be swept under the carpet.
“I call for post mortem on the corpse of the corps member so that we can ascertain the type of bullet and type of gun that killed him. The post mortem will also determine who bears that type of gun that killed the corps member.”
He also commiserated with the Department of State Services , over the death of their State Coordinator of the NYSC, Mrs Ngozi Nwatarali, who also commended the governor for commiserating with the NYSC at its moment of grief.
She appealed for greater protection of corps members during elections.