Following several cases of irregularities which trailed the on-going Rivers legislative rerun the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has suspended voting exercise in four Local Government Areas, which includes, Bonny, Gokana, Abua/Odual, Andoni, Eleme and Tai.
According to the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Rivers, Mr Aneidi Ikoiwak, the unrest started after party agents attacked INEC officials for allegedly using fake election materials in their areas
Recall the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, earlier on Saturday protested alleged distribution of fake result sheets in Tai, Gokana and Khana Local Government Areas of the state.
Meanwhile, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Saturday debunked speculations that fake result sheets were in circulation in Akuku-Toru, Tai, and Bonny local government areas for the ongoing state and national assembly rerun elections in the state.
The Rivers State Government had in a statement issued by the state’s Commissioner for Information and Communication, Austin Tam-George, said there were reports of widespread distribution of fake result sheets to Khana, Bony, Andoni, and other local government areas.
“We have seen so far, a completely messy logistical nightmare, as voters seem unable to differentiate between fake and real INEC documents,” the statement claimed.
The Rivers Government warned that the people would only accept the outcome of the election if the process is free, fair and credible
But in a message posted to its twitter account shortly afterwards, INEC said: “The allegations are untrue and they should be discountenanced.” It further advised voters to go out and exercise their franchise peacefully.
The commission’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi reiterated the same position in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja.
He was reacting to reports from Kana Local Government Area of the state that some youths alleged that INEC officials were distributing fake materials, and prevented them from conducting the poll.
The same issue was said to have been by some political parties’ agents at Unit 17 of Ward 16 in Obio/Akpor, who disrupted voting.
Osaze-Uzzi said that the materials sent to polling units were customised with serial numbers and barcode, adding that there was no way it could be changed.
“The election materials handled by our accredited electoral officials are not fake; the party agents followed them through the whole process of distribution.
“Once the serial number and barcode correspond with what party agents signed, it means that they are not fake.
“It is only an INEC official who is familiar with the result sheet that can say that it is fake or not,’’ he said.
On the fate of eligible voters in polling units where election materials arrived late, Osaze-Uzzi stated that any voter on the queue as at 2pm would be allowed to vote.
“Everybody who is on queue as at 2 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
“If electoral officers or the Resident Electoral Commissioner sees the need to extend the time for voting in any particular unit, we will give allowance for it and extend it.
“But, it will not be extension for the whole state,’’ he said, adding that allowance had been made for extension in the programming of the card reader.
Earlier, the state governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike accused INEC of not being prepared for the re-run elections in Rivers, noting that the challenges that greeted the elections would have been avoided if the commission had prepared for the re-run elections.
Speaking after he voted at Ward 9 Unit 7 in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area on Saturday, Wike said that information available to him indicate that INEC failed to take necessary measures to ensure credible polls.
He regretted that some areas in the state do not have result sheets, which could lead to violence as the people suspect foul play.
“It is obvious that INEC was not prepared for the re-run elections. They refused to tell members of the public the challenges they hard,” he said.
The accreditation process for the Governor was cumbersome as two card readers were used severally before the governor was eventually passed to vote. Meanwhile, his wife, Justice Suzzette Nyesom-Wike was accredited smoothly.
The Governor told journalists that in several polling units, information of scanned results were received. He added that there were cases of snatching of election materials in Ubima and Omagwa, noting that it was unfortunate that the challenges came up despite the time INEC had to prepare.
Wike, however, commended security operatives for maintaining law and order in the state.