The Independent National Electoral Commission has said it would continue collation of results in Rivers State.
Although no dates were immediately assigned for the resumption of electoral process, the commission said it would on March 20 make available a detailed plan on how the exercise would continue in earnest.
The collation of results and other activities for Rivers State governorship and other state parliamentary elections were suspended on March 10 following widespread report of violence and other forms of intimidation that prevented electoral officers from seamlessly performing their roles.
The commission said Nigerian soldiers and some armed gangs contributed to the charging atmosphere that made it difficult for electoral officers to continue with collation at the state INEC headquarters in Port Harcourt, the state capital, prompting the suspension of all electoral processes on March 10.
The postponement drove a wedge between major political parties and INEC, with the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress warning against subversion of the people’s will at the ballot box.
The APC, which does not have a candidate in the race following a legal dispute, said the PDP was already losing the election to the candidate of AAC, a party many state residents weren’t familiar with until days to the election.
A few days to the election when the APC realised its legal challenge to its disqualification by INEC had reached a dead end, transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, urged party loyalists to vote for the AAC candidate.
Initial results claimed the AAC was winning some local governments by large margins, but that was countered by the PDP which accused Mr Amaechi of fabricating results in collusion with soldiers.
A host of local and international observers said intimidation of electoral officers by soldiers were observed in Rivers State election, a development they said undermined the process.
The Nigerian Army swiftly rejected the allegations, saying those found disrupting ballots were not soldiers but thugs in military fatigues. This claim was however undermined by videos clips showing troops alighting from military branded vehicles.
The commission in a statement Friday said a panel raised to investigate what transpired in the state had submitted its report, and found that elections indeed took place for governorship and House of Assembly seats in Rivers State on March 9, alongside dozens of other states in the country.
It said soldiers were actually found to have disrupted the collation exercise in the state, especially in the capital where officers did not allow collation officers to announce returns in peace.
Still, INEC said it would have a rapport with security agencies, especially the Nigerian Army, as it worked out another date to complete the process and declare winners for the House of Assembly and governorships seats.
INEC said it already concluded results of the governorship election from 17 of the state’s 23 local government areas.
For the House of Assembly elections, returns had been made for 21 of 32 state seats in the exercise.
All the rest would now be concluded on a date to be announced on March 20, INEC spokesperson, Festus Okoye, said in the Saturday morning statement. SEE FULL REPORT BY INEC BELOW.
1. On the 10th of March 2019, the commission suspended all electoral processes in Rivers State having determined that there was widespread disruption of collation of results of the elections conducted on the 9th day of March 2019.
Subsequently, the commission set up a fact-finding committee to assess the situation and report back within 48 hours.
2. The commission met on the 15th day of March 2019 and considered the report of the committee and established the following:
i. That the governorship and state assembly elections took place in most of the polling units and results were announced.
ii. That results from 17 local governments our of 23 were available and are in the commission’s custody.
iii. That the declaration and returns for 21 state constituencies out of 32 were made prior to the suspension.
iv. That collation centres were invaded by some soldiers and armed gangs resulting in the intimidation and unlawful arrest of election officials thereby disrupting the collation process.
3. Consequent upon the foregoing, the commission: Expresses its displeasure with the role played by some soldiers and armed gangs in Rivers State disrupting the collation process and attempting to subvert the will of the people.
ii. Is committed to expeditious completion of the collation process where results of the elections have been announced.
iii. Will engage the security agencies at national level and the inter-agency consultative committee at the state level to demand neutrality and professionalism of security personnel in order to secure a peaceful environment for the completion of the elections.
iv. Will also engage with key stakeholders in Rivers State with a view to ensuring a smooth and peaceful completion of the process.
v. Will issue detailed timelines and activities for the completion of the election on Wednesday, March 20th, 2019.
Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee March 15, 2019