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Rivers State Election: Wike, PDP Shop For Witnesses

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The incumbent Governor of Rivers State, Chief/Barr Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike and his Peoples Democratic Party appear to be in serious dilemma as most of the Electoral Officers decline to appear before the Election Tribunal to testify.

This is coming after the woeful appearance of the Electoral Officer in charge of Obio/Akpor Local Government, Mr. Tebekaemi O. Ebikoro. Mr. Ebikoro, apparently under a “deny all orientation” denied been aware that Card Reader was meant to be used for the April 11 Governorship Election in Rivers State, the evidence which forced INEC lawyer to apply for an adjournment at the Tribunal.

An insider source in INEC revealed that following the Deputy Director and Head of Election Planning and Monitoring (EPM) Department of INEC Rivers State’s testimony before the Tribunal to the effect that the Governorship Election in Rivers State was “a sham” and “Militant Terrorism”, Barr Wike and Dame Gasila Khan have been very agitated and unsettled.

Dame Khan, you will recall, is the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers State who has been accused of colluding with PDP to subvert and compromise the electoral process in the state.

The source added that following the evidence of the Head of EPM, Barr. Wike has been shopping for witnesses that would appear before the Tribunal to “counter” that piece of evidence. Unfortunately, his efforts so far have hit a brick wall. It was revealed that Barr. Wike was able to secure the initial commitment from one Mr. Sekibo of the EPM Department for N10m and conveyed him to Abuja last week.

However, Mr. Sekibo began to sing a new song as soon as the INEC’s and Barr. WIke’s lawyers told him to claim that his immediate boss, the Head of EPM Department in Rivers State, who had testified before the Tribunal, did not go round to monitor the election and that he, and not his Head of Department, wrote a monitors’ report. Mr. Sekibo insisted that holding such a position on the issue was quite extreme and might put him on a head-on collision with his superiors at the National Headquarters, knowing fully well that his Head of Department actually went round on the Election Day, wrote and submitted the said report to INEC immediately after the Election. The information has it that Mr. Sekibo’s refusal got Barr. Wike highly infuriated and he ordered that Mr. Sekibo be released to return to Rivers State along with all other Electoral Officers.

However, it seems that Barr. Wike has no other options as he has reverted back to Mr. Sekibo, being the only one who has accepted the offer for now. He has also re-invited some of the Electoral Officers that he had rejected earlier, who are now demanding for N3m per person insisting that their testimony is as useful as the one for which Ten Million Naria is been paid. The source also reveals that some of the Electoral Officers tipped for testimony on Monday 28th September 2015 include: Oyibo, Tai, Akuku-Toru, Degema, Bonny, Etche, Asari-Toru, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni and Gokana. A couple of Supervising Presiding Officers have also been brought into Abuja and all including the Electoral Officers and Mr. Sekibo are presently lodged in Awala Hotel, Zone 11 Abuja.

The source also added that the Lawyer to INEC, Mr. Ikpeazu is seriously opposed to bringing in any other Electoral Officers to testify. According to the source, the Lawyer’s argument is that once the testimony of an Electoral Officer is discredited, as was the case with Obio/Akpor Electoral Officer, that entire Local Government Area would be down. He prefers that testimony should be at the lowest level, the polling unit. Sink or swim, only a polling unit would be affected. Curiously, it is for the same reason that those who believe that the Electoral Officers should be called argue.

Some of the PDP lawyers who champion this view believe that with the devastating testimonies of the Security Agencies that election was marred by violence and two uncontroverted testimonies and several Reports from INEC that there was no election in Rivers State, one needs such higher authority to rebut those evidence. They argue that calling 100 polling unit officers in evidence, as the case may be, in a State with over 4,400 polling units is not sufficient to rebut the impression created by both the security and INEC witnesses who testified for the APC. They said the APC would have been in the same dilemma but for the overwhelming evidence of those Security personnel and the INEC officials and Reports.

In another development, Electoral Officers were on Tuesday and Wednesday this week; 22nd and 23rd of September, 2015, summoned to the INEC Office in Rivers State to sign and back date some sets of documents created several months after the elections had been concluded. Some of the documents include Forms: EC25 series, which are receipt of materials issued at different levels to the SPOs and POs; EC40, the statement of account of how ballot papers were used; and other documents including affidavits of loss of documents in which INEC Rivers State claims to have lost most of the original documents used for the election.

A source revealed that a few of the Electoral Officers and Supervising Presiding Officers refused to sign, warning that APC had earlier been issued with certified true copy of the initial documents by INEC and that creating a completely different set would further complicate the already tensed situation in the Commission. However, the REC and the Head of Operation in INEC Rivers State, Mr. Gboko, who regretted the initial issuance of those documents to the APC without considering its implication, contend that it is better to put in contrary documents and allow the lawyers and the court to resolve the issues than allow the initial documents issued to APC to stand without contradiction.

As serious as these issues appear, the parties seem unperturbed. When calls were put across to representatives of the APC and the PDP, their reactions were almost the same. An APC Agent simply said “we are waiting for them at the Tribunal”, on the other hand the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Rivers State said “I’m not interested in that rubbish. We will see how it goes in court on Monday”. Indeed, Rivers State people and Nigerian await to see how the fireworks will go on Monday when the Tribunal resumes.



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