Soldiers of the Nigerian Army allegedly invaded the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, the home local government of the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience, and snatched results of the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
The INEC Electoral Officer of the area, Leo Okon, said soldiers invaded INEC office in Okrika and snatched results of the last Saturday polls for the area.
The INEC official was speaking at the Rivers East Senatorial District Collation Centre on Monday, as a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Ashimom Msuguhter, who served as an ad hoc official of the electoral agency, also discredited the election that took place at his unit in Nasarawa State.
Msuguhter, who described himself as NYSC Doctor at Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital in Lafia, the state capital, said out of 900 registered voters at the polling unit, the card readers were able to authenticate only 15 persons, while all the others voted without being accredited.
The corps member claimed in a social media post that he was forced to hand over ballot papers to persons who thumb-printed the papers for a particular party.
While regretting ever working for INEC, as his life was put in danger, he said, ‘’having disenfranchised myself in the name of ad-hoc staff, I was almost thoroughly beaten. I was cowed into submitting the bulk of ballot papers for mass thumb-printing.
‘’Well, I filled the incident form and I hope the result would be cancelled. I’m just angry with everything, most especially for getting involved in the first place. No one forced me, actually. First, this card reader rubbish should be quashed in subsequent elections. The whole aim has been defeated.
‘’Out of about 900 registered voters in my unit, the card reader could authenticate only 15. The rest had to do manual accreditation, which opened more room for rigging. Quite sad!’’, adding that last Saturday’s election was not as good as that of 2015, which was superintended by Prof. Attahiru Jega.
Apparently displeased, he called on the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to resign, pointing out that rural areas were used for rigging and this, according to the corps member, ‘’has continued to undermine Nigeria’s democracy. This Prof. Yakubu has to resign immediately after this elections and apologise to Nigerians. The extra one week he got did not prove anything different. In fact, he’s made Jega’s INEC much more coveted.
‘’As of 11am, we had not seen materials, the people were already agitated, thinking we were compromised… They started threatening to descend on us… Luckily, we escaped that. Because we reported late at the polling unit, we were forced to extend voting time till around 7.30pm. When it was dark, these people requested for the remaining ballot papers, that is the tradition of the polling unit not to return ballot papers to INEC… Before we knew it, the atmosphere became very tense.
‘’The short of it is that we allowed them to do their wish, but I pray the result is cancelled. The fact is, most of the rigging is done in the rural areas. There, there is no electoral law, anything goes… Party agents do the voting for people and you don’t dare talk. We must penetrate the grassroots if we must overcome this plague. I’m glad I returned safely.’’
In the mean time, Okon who alleged that the invading soldiers were led by one Captain Inuwa, however, regretted that prior to snatching the entire results, the soldiers frightened the collation officials through massive shootings and violence.
According to him, the Collation Officers moved to the INEC office because of widespread violence on Election Day, claiming that earlier on election day, some security personnel snatched election materials for some wards. He listed the affected wards. However, he said elections held in all the other wards.
Continuing, he said, ‘’I am here to present a report on the elections for the Presidential and National Assembly elections for Okrika Local Government Area. We actually deployed men and materials for the elections. It will interest you to know that materials for ward 6, 7, 8, 9 were going to the super RAC centre, I was informed that the materials were diverted to an unknown destination.
‘’Every other ward went successfully to he polling units. Elections were held. At the end of polls, there were heavy gunshots. Poll officials could not collate form EC 8a at the polling units. They opted to come to INEC office at Okrika for solace and to continue filling form EC 8a.
‘’At the collation for ward level, a military team of soldiers led by one Captain Inuwa came and ordered the suspension of collation. He ordered his men to do away with every other material, including the results being collated by the collation officials. The materials were carted away with nothing left for me to present as an evidence for this election. As I speak with you, I have no record or results to present for collation at this collation centre.’’
Meanwhile, local and foreign observers were shocked on Monday at the Rivers East Senatorial District Collation Centre when INEC Officials narrated how soldiers of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army also invaded the Collation Centre of Emohua Local Government Area and Ikwerre Local Government Area to snatch result sheets.
Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi was allegedly in company of about 100 soldiers who invaded the INEC Office at Isiokpo, the headquarters of Ikwere Local Government Area.
In Emohua, a former commissioner under the Amaechi administration allegedly led the invasion of the Collation Centre by soldiers.
Speaking during the Collation Session on Monday, Mrs Mary Efeture Imawuya, the INEC Electoral Officer of Ikwerre LGA declared that no collation was carried out in the local government area because of the invasion of the INEC Office in Isiokpo by soldiers.
According to her, ‘’between 7 and 8pm of Saturday, February 23, 2019, the military invaded INEC office at Isiokpo and they walked out every adhoc staff that were there to present their results to the Collation Officers. The evidence is still there. We took recordings. At the end of the day, no Collation was carried out. The results of the Collation Officers, issued to them , was retrieved by me and returned backed to the INEC State Office.’’
She claimed that the military personnel did not allow the adhoc staff to carry out collation in their wards, hence permission was sought and obtained from INEC for Collation to hold at the INEC office at Isiokpo.
‘’We sent messages to all our polling officers that the should report at Isiokpo with their results. As they were coming, one after the other, the Collation Officers were asked to identify their polling units and do their collation’’, she said. The INEC Returning Officer said that the military disrupted the process by sporadic shootings and snatched the election materials.
Also speaking, INEC Electoral Officer for Emohua Local Government Area, Kenneth Etah blamed massive shootings by the military for the disruption of Emohua Local Government Area Collation process.
According to him, ‘’as I speak, I do not have any results to present for Emohua Local Government Area because collation did not take place. This was due to sporadic shootings that disrupted the process. There was pandemonium and everything was scattered. After one hour shootings, security officials evacuated us to the council hall.
‘’We remained there, while materials remained in my office. By 5am, I discovered my office was burgled. I have not seen my Collation Officer or the materials. I have not seen results. I submit there were no results.’’
The Returning Officer for Emohua was initially reported to have disappeared with the invading soldiers only to resurface later at the Collation Centre in company of soldiers.