…as party chieftain seeks probe of INEC in Ebonyi for same offence
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has accused the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani of working with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to rob the party of victory in the just- concluded elections in Cross River State.
This is even as a chieftain of the APC in Ebonyi State, Dr Paul Okorie has called for the probe of INEC over the just concluded general elections in Ebonyi State.
The party also rejected the outcome of the governorship and State Houses of Assembly election in Cross River state, saying its candidates were denied participation by INEC, which allegedly delisted their names on the eve of the election despite an order of stay of execution by the Court of Appeal.
APC National Vice Chairman South South , Ntufam Hilliard Eta, its governorship candidate , Senator John Owa-Enoh and Cross River chairman Sir John Ochala, said their agents were sent away from the polling units on the excuse that the party was not part of the election.
They explained that party supporters were left confused as to the participation of the party in the election, only for the Resident Electoral Commission to call the party governorship candidate at about 2.00pm on Election Day on the restoration of his name to the ballot paper.
Eta explained that the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs did not hide the fact that he was in support of the PDP candidate, stressing that he has always worked hand in hand with the PDP led government in the state.
He said: “The National Assembly and Governorship/State Assembly elections organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Cross River State on Saturday February 23 and Saturday March 9, 2019, respectively, were, at its best, a sham that cannot stand the test of time.
“The contest was not just between the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates on one hand and the candidates of other parties that participated in the exercise on the other hand, but between the APC candidates on one hand and the ruling party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, the INEC, the Security forces and Gov Ben Ayade’s organised thugs on the other.
“The Etim John-led faction of the party was the one INEC collected list of party agents from instead of collecting from the authentic party exco led by Sir John Ochala.
“These anti-party agents (Etim John and co) colluded with PDP to subvert the will of the people.
“There is nothing more devastating and compromising than the attitude of the state INEC REC Dr. Frankland Briyai who on the eve of the Presidential/National Assembly elections on February 22, addressed the press and unilaterally announced the delisting of our candidates purportedly on the orders of a High Court whereas the matter was already in the domain of the Appeal Court from where a stay of execution order was secured.
INEC indeed, did the bidding of Gov. Ben Ayade,” they alleged. Also in Ebonyi, Okorie in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abakaliki accused the electoral umpire of performing far below expectations in the conduct of the general elections in the state.
He also alleged that the commission colluded with politicians to rig the elections in favour of the ruling PDP in the state.
Okorie, who called for urgent probe of the activities of INEC’s ad-hoc staff and other levels of electoral officers involved in the election, added that those found culpable should be prosecuted.
He also alleged widespread irregularities including multiple thumbs printing of ballot papers, intimidation, harassment of opposition, manipulation of election results and other malpractices.
“The elections may have come and gone, but the sad lessons learnt is that INEC failed to live up to the promise it made to conduct credible, seamless, free and fair elections.
“There was widespread irregularities ranging from multiple thumb printing, vote buying to under-aged voting, harassment and intimidation of the opposition members by armed political thugs and security operatives.
“There is an urgent need for radical electoral reforms that will purge the system and make our elections not only credible but also allow the outcome of election meet international best standard.
“A situation where people bear arms and ammunition during elections as if they are going to war is completely unacceptable and does not comment well about our electoral process,” he said.
Okorie, former Commissioner for Works and Transportation in the state, alleged that the commission`s officials deployed for the election were part of the rigging that characterised the election in Ebonyi.
“The permanent staff, the ad-hoc staff and the electoral officers are all culpable because you can’t rig an election without their active connivance.
“The Resident Electoral Commissioner and his top officials, they all know what happened and if God comes down today, can any of them boldly stand and say I did not compromise,” he said.
He called for a change of orientation among political stakeholders, discontinuation of political desperation and win-at-all cost mentality by political office seekers.
Reacting to the allegations, Prof. Godswill Obioma, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Ebonyi, dismissed the allegation of staff of the commission colluding with politicians to rig the election, he urged aggrieved politicians to channel their grievances to the appropriate quarters.