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INEC To Tribunal: Rivers Governorship Poll a Sham, Warfare, Mockery of Democracy

The Independent National Electoral Commission yesterday dismissed the governorship election that took place in Rivers State on April 11 as a sham  and mockery of democracy.

The Head, Election and Party Monitoring Department (EPM) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Charles Okoye, told the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja yesterday that the election was akin to warfare, describing it as kangaroo.

Okoye, who was subpoenaed by the tribunal to give evidence on the findings of INEC’s team that monitored the election, told the tribunal that he was the coordinator of the team that monitored the election.

He said: “My duties include monitoring the conduct of every election with a view to assisting the commission to improve on the electoral process. I monitored parties’ activities like congresses primaries, campaigns and party finances. I performed my functions (election monitoring) in relation to the April 11, 2015 election.

“On April 11, in carrying out my statutory duties as the Head of election and party monitoring, I strongly believe that no other person, either within or outside INEC is more equipped and competent to say what transpired at the election more than myself.

There are reasons for that. Fifty-eight observer groups, who came to Rivers State to monitor election with over 6,000 members, reported to me and I briefed them concerning the election and debriefed them after the election.

“I also set up a monitoring team that went to various parts of the state to monitor election and they reported back to me at the end of the election. I was also the person at the commission that gave directives to the parties both before and at the end of the election.

“At the election, we now wrote a report on what we saw that happened on that day.

There are 23 LGs in the state. We covered 19 of the LGs, with my men and myself.

“During the monitoring exercise, what we observed was that the election was warfare. It was a militant terrorism and also a sham, a kangaroo election. It is a mockery of democracy. The election was characterized by large scale violence and disruption of polls.

“There were snatching of election materials, shooting and allocation of figures and all kind of impunity happened at the election. I visited about eight LGs in the company of three National Commissioners of INEC, including my staff.

“At the end of the monitoring exercise, we wrote a report, which I signed with other members of the EPM department that went to other LGs in the state.”

The All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate at the election, Dakuku Peterside, are before the tribunal, challenging the outcome of the election, which they claimed was marred by irregularities and violence.

Respondents to the petition by APC and Peterside are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candiade, Nyesom Wike.

Earlier, the tribunal, led by Justice Mohammed Ambrosa, overruled the objection raised by lawyers to the respondents against Okoye testifying orally.

Respondents’ lawyers—Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), representing INEC; Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) representing Wike and Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) for the PDP—had argued that it was wrong for Okoye to testify for the petitioner when his employer, INEC, was a respondent in the case.

Ikpeazu argued that en electoral officer or any officer of the commission (INEC) is duty bound to defend an election petition. If there is a reason for the officer not to defend, then the officer shall seek a written consent of the AGF.

“Where INEC is made a party, in this case a respondent, all the officials of INEC are respondents,” he said, referred to Paragraph 51 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act (EA).

“For an officer of INEC to be called as a witness by a petitioner, not just to tender documents but to give evidence, will violate Paragraph 51 (1) of the EA,” Ikpeazu said. Ukala and Adedipe argued in similar vein.

In a counter-argument, petitioners’ lawyer, Akin Olujinmi (SAN) noted that Ikpeazu, Ukala and Adedipe were relying on the old Electoral Act, noting that “if they were able to purchase the amended Electoral Act, they would not be arguing as they were doing.

He said the National Assembly on December 29, 2010, enacted an amended the Electoral Act in which Paragraph 51 (1) of the Act was amended to prevent a situation where INEC will commit atrocities in an election and then seek the cover of the law to prevent the scrutiny of their illegal act.

He added that even before the amendment,  “the Court of Appeal held emphatically, in the case of  Ibrahim vs Ogunleye 2012 1 NR part 1282 at page 489, that, that provision cannot stop a subpoenaed witness from INEC from giving evidence without the consent of the AGF.

He urged the tribunal to reject the respondents’ objection, a position the tribunal took in its ruling.

The petitioners also called two officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) – Funmilayo Akindele and Kenneth Okiah—who said they provided security during the election.

Akindele said the election was marred with violence at the Asari-Toru Local Government, where election materials, including buses meant to convey the materials to wards, were burnt by hoodlums.

Okiah said he monitored election at Okirika Local Government where election held, with few incidents of election material snatching and attacks.

Further hearing resumes today.

The nation


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