Following a seeming war-scale military invasion of Collation Centres in Rivers State, a strategic oil and gas state in the Niger Delta and the capital of Nigeria’s oil industry during the March 9, Governorship and State House of Assembly elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) suspended the electoral process there on Sunday.
But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has strongly condemned the military action, saying the confiscation of the state’s governorship election results by soldiers is treasonable and accordingly demands the immediate release to avert serious crisis in the state.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement, ‘’PDP completely revile this subversive act by soldiers, who seized and diverted the results to an army barrack in Port Harcourt and calls on all lovers of democracy, to unite against this brazen attack on our democracy by the Buhari Presidency and All Progressives Congress (APC).
‘’Such barefaced assault is only akin to a coup d’état and should not be allowed to stand. Nigerians watched in bewilderment as soldiers, in the company of APC thugs invaded polling units in Rivers, unleashed violence on voters, disrupted polling processes and hauled away electoral materials, just because the APC is not in the ballot, following its self-inflicted exclusion from the election.
‘’The use of soldiers to ambush the electoral process and confiscate results is an extreme scheme by the APC and the Buhari Presidency to enmesh the Rivers state governorship election in controversy, seeing that there is no way they can take away victory from the PDP.’’
Soldiers, allegedly under the directive of the Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation and Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, invaded INEC offices, waylaid INEC officials and forcefully took away collated results to the army barracks, where APC agents have been stationed to alter figures and destroy evidences of PDP’s victory.
Continuing, Ologbondiyan said PDP wants Nigerians to note that ‘’APC is frustrated that it is not in the ballot in the Rivers state election and for that, it has resorted to violence, killings and heavy militarization of the area, in the attempt to disrupt the electoral process, seeing that the PDP had already won.
‘’What the APC and its compromised soldiers fail to note is that the PDP already has valid documents of all the results as delivered from all the polling units where elections held across the state and that the figures are with all the stakeholders.Therefore, deploying soldiers to confiscate the results will not change the victory already recorded by our party in Rivers.’’
However, according to a statement by INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, the electoral agency explained the reason it took the decision.
‘’Based on reports from our officials in the field, INEC has determined that there has been widespread disruption of elections conducted on the 9th day of March 2019 in Rivers State. These initial reports suggest that violence occurred in a substantial number of polling units and collation centres. Staff have been taken hostage and materials including results sheets have either been seized or destroyed by unauthorised persons.
‘’In addition, safety of our staff appears to be in jeopardy through out the state and the commissioner is concerned about the credibility of the process. Consequently, at a meeting held today 10th March 2019, the Commission has decided to suspend all electoral processes in the state until further notice.
‘’This is in line with Section 26 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and Clause 47 (e) of the Regulation and Guidelines of the commission. The Commission has also set up a Fact-Finding Committee to access the situation and report back in 48 hours. We appeal to the people of Rivers State, particularly the voters, for their understanding as we look into the circumstances of these disruptions and what further actions need to be taken.’’
The PDP does not appear to be on the same page with INEC on this. The party is charging the electoral agency to end its ‘’manipulative schemes’’ and immediately declare the result of the Rivers governorship election.
Consequently, the party has rejected the decision by INEC to suspend the electoral process in the state, after results have been collated, alleging, ‘’this is a premeditated plan by the APC-led Federal Government to use the instrument of INEC and security agencies to truncate the wishes of the Rivers people as already delivered at the polling units.
‘’Our party contends that elections have been concluded in Rivers; results of the Governorship and House of Assembly polls have been declared at the various polling units, wards and local government collation centers and all returning officers and political parties in the ballot conclusively have the figures.
‘’It is therefore directly incumbent on INEC to declare the final results instead of deliberately creating openings for the subversion of the final process; a development, which exposes the Commission’s complicity with the Buhari Presidency and the APC to enmesh the election into unnecessary crisis.’’
They cautioned INEC to note that ‘’a lot of innocent Nigerians have already been killed by the APC in its desperation to forcefully take over Rivers state. The commission should therefore save the state from more bloodletting by immediately declaring the results.’’
The PDP is calling on President Buhari to reflect on the bloodlettings that have characterised this election, which many Nigerians believe, would have been averted if he had signed the Amendment to the Electoral Act, and accordingly urged him to ‘’immediately call the security agencies (who have been annexed as departments of the APC) to end their siege to our electoral process. Any further delay is a recipe for escalation of crisis in our nation.’’