The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is determined to conclude the suspended Federal and State Constituency elections in Rivers State in October this year.
The National Commissioner in charge of Electoral Operations, Hajiya Amina Bala Zakari, expressed the Commission’s resolve when she addressed Stakeholders in Port Harcourt last week Thursday. She called on Stakeholders, especially members of the political class to co-operate with the Commission in order to bring this about.
Hajiya Zakari emphasized that INEC was non-partisan and was interested in strengthening Nigeria’s democracy by providing political parties and contestants a level playing field.
She said that the Commission was worried that some parts of the Rivers State had no representation at the National and State Assemblies, hence the convening of the Stakeholders’ Forum to discuss issues emanating from the conduct of the May 19, 2016 re-run elections which were suspended as a result of violence.
She explained that the March 19 re-run elections were suspended at various stages due to violence. They were according to her at the stages of post-collation, pre-collation and during collation. Therefore, she further explained some “cooling off” period was allowed by the Commission to re-strategize on how to return to the affected areas to conclude the elections”. Hajiya Zakari informed the Forum consisting of political leaders and candidates of the 28 political parties that participated in the re-run elections that INEC was determined to conclude them and had earlier fixed the date on July 30. She regretted that it could not hold because of security reasons, non-compliance of the political class with the peace resolution signed by them and the arson which took place at INEC’s Bori Khana LGA Office on July 21st, 2016.
She stated that in spite of the efforts of Mediators, the conditions earlier set as precedent for the conduct of the elections by the Commission were not met in Rivers State. She said that the elections in Imo and Kano States were conducted because they satisfied INEC’s conditions.
Also speaking at the Forum, the INEC National Commissioner supervising the South-South Zone, Dr. Mohammed Mustapha Lecky, expressed the readiness of INEC to conclude the re-run elections once the security situation improved. He appealed to the politicians to ensure that the atmosphere was conducive for the elections to be concluded.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Rivers State, Elder Aniedi Ikoiwak, earlier explained that the decision of INEC to suspend the March 19 poll was based on field reports from Electoral Officers and Security Agencies. He assured the candidates of the Commission’s commitment to conclude the elections.
In his comment, the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State, Francis Odesanya, informed all of the readiness of the Security Agencies to provide a level playing field for the re-run elections. He promised to ensure adequate security during the elections.
Present at the forum were: Resident Electoral Commissioners from Adamawa and Ondo: Baba Abba Yusuf and Mr. Olusegun Agbaje respectively; INEC Rivers Administrative Secretary, Barr. T.O.N. Ongele; some heads of security agencies; representative of State Director SSS, Mr. Alex Osilem; State Commandant NSCDC, Comm. H. O. Amakiri; State Director of NOA, Mr. Oliver Wolugbom; and Director of Operations of INEC, Mr. Kayode Oladimeji.