The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Imo State, has sacked all its trained collation and returning officers and has replaced them with fresh hands.
But the INEC officials in the state including the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Chukwuemeka Ezeonu, and the body’s spokesperson, Emannuella Opara, have refused to either confirm nor deny the development.
The ad-hoc staff, who were recruited across the higher institutions in the state, were accused of compromising the electoral process during the presidential and National Assembly elections two weeks ago.
The INEC did not announce their sack until this morning when fresh hands were brought into the state from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State.
However, due to a shortage of the required number needed, INEC is currently sieving its earlier lists to recruit those found worthy.
Newsmen reported on Friday that the commission had complained that many of its ad-hoc staff colluded with politicians to frustrate the last elections.
When newsmen visited the INEC office on Saturday, the affected returning and collation officers gathered in their hundreds, blaming the electoral body for delaying the announcement of their sack till the last minute.
One of the affected officers, who asked not to be named, said they were shocked to be told to go home on the day of the election at about the time they were supposed to leave for their various duty posts.
The source said; “Normally as collation officers or returning officers, our duty starts between 3 and 4 p.m.; but we received instructions in the morning at the state INEC office.
“Unfortunately we resumed here this morning and found out that the list had been changed and that new people from Anambra State have been engaged. We protested but we were teargassed.
“Since then we have been waiting here to really know what our fate would be. But it is almost 7 p.m. and they are just very few among us to join those from Anambra.”
When newsmen tried to speak to INEC Commissioner, he said he was busy and did not pick his phone. He did not also reply to a message sent to the phone, ditto the spokesperson.
As at the time of filing this report, the sacked officers are seated in their hundreds on the main road in front of INEC office along Port Harcourt Road in Owerri, the state capital.