The United Kingdom High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright and his United States, France, Germany and the European Union counterparts, Messrs Stuart Symington, Denys Guaer, Bernhard Schlagheck and Micheal Arrion respectively, yesterday called on the federal government to conduct a transparent investigation into the killings of innocent Nigerians during the just concluded Rivers re-run election.
Also yesterday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) vowed that it would get to the root of incidences of malfeasance involving its staff, politicians and some security agents during the just concluded re-run elections in Rivers State.
This was contained in a statement, signed by the Deputy Press and Public Relations Officer of the British High Commission, Jamila Fagge, on behalf of the five envoys resident in Abuja.
The envoys also alleged wide rigging of the December 10, parliamentary re-run election in the state.
The countries who claimed to have been following proceedings before and during the election indicted some staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as personnel of security agencies.
They however did not mention any politician or political party as a beneficiary of the rigging.
The envoys called for a full-scale investigation of the allegations as well as the death of some civilians and police officials with a view to bringing them to book and serve as deterrent to others in future elections.
“We note with concern the rising tension in Rivers state ahead of elections on 10 December. We followed closely the conduct of the elections held in Rivers state on 10th December and the days immediately following. We are extremely concerned by the use of incendiary language, intimidation and violence by supporters of both the major political parties prior to and during the elections.
“We praise the bravery and commitment of those INEC staff, who persevered in their work on the ground to ensure polls went ahead in the face of severe challenges, but are troubled by reports that some INEC officials accepted payment to influence election outcomes”, the statement said.
They added: “We are saddened by the reported death of civilians and police officers who were present in the state. We call for a transparent and full investigation into those deaths and other security incidents, including credible reports that some elements of the security forces either obstructed the course of the elections or improperly influenced the results.
The envoys called on the leadership of all political parties and their supporters to allow future elections in Nigeria to go ahead peacefully.
In a related development, INEC has vowed to get to the root of incidences of malfeasance involving its staff, politicians and some security agents during the just concluded re-run elections for legislative seats in Rivers state.
To that effect, the leadership of the commission said that it had constituted a probe panel to investigate acts of illegality and violence.
It also said that INEC would recommend any security agent found to have aided or participated in acts of malfeasance during the elections for prosecution and sanctions by the appropriate authority.
While the statement of the commission on Friday at a workshop for journalists in Abuja, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said: “There will never be any cover up; we will never sweep anything under the carpet. Anyone with information on the involvement of INEC staff in rigging the elections in Rivers state is free to make it available to the panel and we assure Nigerians that all infractions will be investigated and appropriate action taken against such a staff.”
He said that INEC and security agencies would work together to uncover and punish those who disrupted the distribution of election materials in Okirika, Gokana, Oyibo and Ogu-Bolu as well as heavy shootings recorded in Biata and Bodo
“We also acknowledge that in Ahoada East and West, a Supervisory Presiding Officer unsuccessfully tried to abscond with ballot papers and result sheets. We are also investigating the allegation of bribery involving other staff, particularly those deployed to Etche and Ikwerre.”
Speaking further on the outcome of Rivers re-run election, Yakubu said that out of the 22 outstanding federal and state constituency elections where elections were held on December 10, 20 comprising three senatorial districts, seven federal and nine state constituencies were concluded and winners declared.
The INEC chairman said that the commission will fix a new date for election early in January for the two remaining federal and state constituencies in Etche Local Governments where massive disruption occurred.
A worried Yakubu, said the practice whereby many governors from other states mobilise men and resources to one state to campaign for their party’s candidate raises unnecessary tension.
On the issue of alleged bias by the commission in favour of APC, the Presidency, government functionaries, Yakubu said such never happened.
“I cannot be intimidated by anybody directly and indirectly, I do not think that anyone has influenced me. There is no influence on INEC and there will never be any influence on the commission under my leadership,” he said.
Also yesterday, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, stated that the audio clip being aired in the social media which implicated him, was sponsored by the APC and produced to divert public attention from the massive electoral fraud by INEC, Police and Military killings that marred the rerun elections.
Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt, Wike said the audio clip was fabricated using audio software, pointing out that he never spoke with any electoral officer or anyone for that matter, either in person or over the phone seeking to influence the elections.
He said: “When you look at certain things, you just laugh. At no time did I speak to any electoral officer, let alone issue threats to any electoral officer.
“There is nowhere I spoke to an electoral officer, threatening him or her as the case maybe. I never spoke with anybody, I never threatened anybody. Nobody can say that he sat with me or that I threatened him or her. Let any electoral officer come forward to say that Ì called him or her on phone.
“I never spoke to anybody. It is totally not correct. The major issue is: did the police participate in rigging election? Did the army participate in rigging election? Did INEC compromise? The police is denying somebody that was captured on video. That is what they are trying to cover up.
“Face the reality and stop chasing shadows. Let them show me. What is audio clip? What can’t this government do? I don’t have an orderly, I don’t have a Chief Security Officer, I don’t have a camp Commandant. All were taken away before the election. “
The governor stated that rather than bringing the SARS Commander, Mr. Akin Fakorede, to justice for his criminal activities captured on video during the rerun elections, the police authorities have arrested the policemen who accompanied him (Wike) to stop Akin Fakorede from swapping Rivers East Senatorial District results sheet.
“They have now arrested and detained the policemen who accompanied me to the collation centre to stop that criminal. Even Akin Fakorede who was caught on video, has been released so that police can bungle it.
“What kind of country is this? And you are telling me that they are circulating a contrived audio clip. You caught a man on camera committing crime, but you have swept it under the carpet.”
Meanwhile, members and supporters of the APC in Rivers State yesterday staged a peaceful protest to the INEC and the Rivers State Police headquarters, demanding for removal of the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Elder Aniedi Ikoiwak, on allegations that he was compromised during the rerun election.
The protesters, who dropped letters for the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, and INEC National Chairman, Professor Yakubu Mahmood, also opposed the demand by Governor Nyesom Wike for the transfer of the Assistant Commissioner of Police in-charge of Operations, Stephen Hasso and the Commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Akin Fakorede, out of the state.
They also dropped a copy of an audio recording where Wike allegedly threatened to deal with officials of the INEC that refuses to work for him during the December 10, 2016 legislative rerun election in the state.