From all indications the proposed re-run elections in Rivers State slated for March 19, 2016 may be postponed due to security challenges across the length and breadth of the state.
A top official in the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Port Harcourt informed our political correspondent that the possibility of organizing the re-run elections on the said date is not visible, considering the ever increasing rate of killings, cultism and hooliganism across the twenty-three (23) LGAs of the state.
The INEC officer who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that the Rivers State is tensed and opened to unprecedented political violence, adding that in such a situation INEC cannot organize a free and fair polls in the state.
Of recent the entire state is moving toward rock as politicians from different political parties are exchanging inflammatory words that are capable of turning the state upside down, “INEC staff are not comfortable with the insecurity nature of the State”.
The INEC officer maintained that the commission had resolved that if sufficient security men were not drafted to the state, the re-run elections would not be possible.
He hinted this weekly that the INEC might likely fix April 2, 2016 as the new date for the fresh polls in Rivers State.
The reason for the likely postponement of the re-run election is anchored on violence.
Our correspondent at the weekend interviewed some electorate on the re-run elections. One of the electorate who identified himself as Elder Green Chukwu said that politicians should count him out of voting if the insecurity continues the way it is now. He regretted the high wave of violence and pleaded with the federal government to send enough security men to the state during the re-run polls.
Meanwhile, A strong member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ofinjite Amachree, alias Kalapo was burnt alive in Buguma, Asari-Toru Local Government of Rivers State on Monday.
Amachree was beaten up and burnt. Five were clubbed to death between Saturday and Sunday.
The murder of Amachree took place barely 48 hours after APC’s Ward 4 chairman in Omoku, headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Franklin Obi, was beheaded at his home by masked gunmen at 9 pm. His wife and 18-year-old son, Bestman, were also killed.
Four APC members were killed in Obibi, Etche Local Government, while Gabriel Cookey was clubbed to death in Opobo, headquarters of Opobo/Nkoro.
There were sporadic shootings at the wee hours of Tuesday in Omoku, headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni. Also a young man was brutally murdered in Obonoma town in the Akuku-Toru Local Government Area.
A source said: “We don’t really know what caused the fight; but what we know is that it is a clash between the APC and PDP. There were gunshots; so, we had to take cover in our house. One strong APC member, popularly known as Kalapo was killed and burnt. As I speak with you, there is tension in Buguma”.
Police spokesman Ahmad Muhammad confirmed the incident.
Muhammad said normalcy had returned to the area following the response of security operatives.
He said: “On Saturday’s killings in Omoku, no arrest has been made yet, but it is under investigation.
“There was a report of security breach in Buguma, but normalcy has been restored, due to the intervention by our men. I do not have any report on killings in Opobo and Obibi-Etche, for now (at 3:49 pm).”
Rivers State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the 2015 election Dr. Dakuku Peterside has described the state as a killing field.
Peterside, in a statement Tuesday, condemned the murder of Ofinjite Amachree, an APC stalwart in Buguma, Asari-Toru Local Government Area.
Amachree was beaten up and set ablaze.
He decried the execution, describing it as frightening and unprecedented. According to him, the pathetic security situation in the state is unfortunately an affront on the Federal Government’s power to protect life and property within its territory.
Peterside, who spoke in Port Harcourt said the state urgently needs help.
“The security situation in our state is distressing and we cannot continue to live under such a desperate situation. I am again drawing attention to daily killings in Rivers State.
“Last Friday, Mr. Franklin, APC Ward 4 chairman in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government was killed and beheaded in Omoku. His wife and son were also killed. Franklin, who recently moderated APC ward meeting in the council, hails from the same ward as the state chairman of the PDP, Felix Obuah.
“Four APC persons were killed in Obibi, Etche council in the last 48 hours. Gabriel Cookey was clubbed to death in Opobo, Opobo/Nkoro councils.
“Only Monday morning, in Buguma, Ofinjite Amachree , an APC member was set ablaze by alleged thugs of PDP.
“In fact, in the last two weeks, over 30 APC members have been killed in different parts of the state. We are tired of this bloodbath; this is why we are calling on the Federal Government to come to our aid.
However, Governor Wike has said that there is no political violence in the State, but cult clashes. He said that his government will continue to protect lives and property.
In a similar vein, some lecturers of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) who were 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, on 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 on 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 (Peoples Democratic Party). 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.###