Some lecturers of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) who listed to serve as ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the March 19 state and National Assembly re-run elections in Rivers State have opted out of the exercise over an alleged threat by the state governor, Chief Nyesom Wike.
INEC had shortlisted about 300 lecturers from UNIPORT to serve in the election as ad hoc staff.
The lecturers, who met with the Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Ndowa Lale, monday, said their decision to stay away from the exercise was as a result of the statement credited to the governor that those who planned to rig the re-run elections should be ready for the consequences.
Wike had told Lale that the All Progressives Congress (APC) had infiltrated the list of lecturers from the institution with the aim of rigging the re-run legislative elections through the imposition of politically-compromised returning officers.
The governor had also claimed that one Dr. Otu Ekpeyong and an APC chieftain in Asari-Toru connived to draw up a list of returning officers from the UNIPORT with the aim of rigging the re-run polls.
He had warned that lecturers who would allow themselves to be used by APC chieftains would face the wrath of Rivers people.
Addressing the gathering of over 300 lecturers monday, Ekpeyong described himself as a man of integrity who had witnessed many elections in the past and wondered why the governor should suspect that he was planning to rig the March 19 re-run elections.
Ekpeyong said he had taken a personal decision not to be part of the election.
“The vice chancellor gave me a job, which I did to the best of my ability. This (INEC ad-hoc employee) is an assignment I have done for over seven years and my integrity has never been in doubt.
“Personally, I am making a decision of not going anywhere (not to be part of the election),” Ekpeyong said.
Another lecturer, Dr. Ben Ihewosira, explained that he was also opting out of the Rivers State re-run elections, adding that the exercise had been politicised.
Similarly, Dr. Abdulrahman Megida, who is a senior lecturer in UNIPORT, specifically demanded that his name be expunged from the list of INEC ad-hoc staff for the polls.
According to him, “My name is synonymous to the All Progressives Congress and you know that the government here is PDP. Based on that, I want my name to be expunged from the list.”
The vice-chancellor had earlier advised the lecturers to stay away from the election if they were not sure of contributing to the conduct of a free, fair and credible election.
Lale pointed out that since INEC had not faulted the list, he would not withdraw it, adding that doing otherwise would mean authenticating the allegations against the lecturers, whose names were on the list.
“The university will not take it kindly with anybody who may want to rubbish its (UNIPORT) name during the forthcoming elections. I signed the list because I know the people on the list are people with integrity.
“But each of you should be sure of the decision you want to take. I want you all to be alive after the rerun elections on the 19th of March,” Lale said.