Mr. Obo Effanga, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Rivers State, has said that it is not certain when the Port Harcourt constituency 3 by-election which was suspended on Saturday as a result of violence on Saturday would be concluded.
Effanga said this on Sunday while addressing journalists on behalf of two other Resident Electoral Commissioners who were in the state to help in the conduct of the botched bye-election.
The two other RECs who joined the Rivers REC to conducted the bye-election were Mike Igini from the Akwa Ibom state and Cyril Omorogbe from Bayelsa State.
Effanga, however, assured that the Commission will continue to conduct credible elections in the state in spite of the roles played by the armed security personnel who accompanied hoodlums to disrupt the exercise yesterday.
Also speaking, Igini estimated 100 out of 142 polling units used for the election witnessed violence.
He said one NEC staff was stabbed while another was beaten by hoodlums, while a Corps member had a fracture on the leg bone.
Meanwhile, while some voters expressed joy for voting unfettered during the botched exercise, Austin Opara, the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives expressed regrets that he could not cast his vote in his polling unit because electoral materials were allegedly carted away by members of the opposition party.
But the Rivers State chapter of All Progressives Congress, APC, has expressed disappointment over what it called ‘the hasty decision of INEC to suspend the bye-election at the collation stage.
APC said it is unfortunate that what should be a mere state constituency bye-election witnessed pockets of voter intimidation, harassment, vote-buying and shooting activated by the PDP in line with their usual character of rigging elections through killing and maiming of APC members.
In a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Chris Finebone, the party noted that security agents gallantly rose to the occasion and effectively quelled the pockets of violence that threatened the exercise in some wards in the constituency, leading to the eventual collation of results at the St. Andrew’s premises.
The party however regretted that INEC later announced the suspension of the process at the point of collation of results.
”We want to believe that the suspension is to allow INEC officials to sort itself out and conclude the process accordingly. As a political party, APC is not questioning the judgment or discretionary powers of INEC to make decisions about the bye-election, however, such decisions must strictly conform to relevant laws guiding the system and specifically do not include cancellation of a process that has commenced..
“APC reminded INEC and reassure APC members and the public that, when it comes to any election process that has commenced, the powers of INEC end at suspension of the process for evaluation and eventual conclusion.
“Such powers do not include cancellation as widely and erroneously peddled. It is only the tribunal or court that can decide on the cancellation of such a process on approach by relevant stakeholders.
The APC said that it views the wording of “the memo suspending the PHALGA 3 bye-election as substantially mendacious, unnecessarily alarmist and generally convoluted with sinister innuendos by the author in a way that does not represent an accurate assessment of the process so far”
The party said it hoped that INEC will not be misled to derail or embark on a line of action that will leave her with a legal bad nose.
This, APC said, will neither be to the benefit of INEC nor the system in any way.
According to APC “In view of the need to timeously conclude the bye-election process and douse the anxiety of voters in the constituency, APC calls on INEC to swiftly and fairly do the needful and subsequently conclude the process and declare the result accordingly.
The party emphasised that INEC has no luxury of options over the matter than to audit the process up to the collation stage when the process was suspended and direct action towards bringing the process to a conclusion.
APC also alleged policemen attached to Government House, Port Harcourt was used to cart away electoral materials, rig and cause general disruption of the bye-election.
“It was with heavy heart that APC leaders, members and the public watched on as the PDP and their officials in Rivers State used policemen and armed militants to cause fracas in some wards during the bye-election in PHALGA 3, Rivers State.
“The Rivers State chapter of APC condemns the blatant intervention in the bye-election process in PHALGA 3 by Gov. Wike’s CSO using policemen attached to the Government House, against the established guideline that such policemen are barred from accompanying officials of government to polling stations on election Day.
owever, the APC applaud the brave intervention by security agents that ensured that the activities of the PDP did not substantially affect the overall outcome of the bye-election.”
However, it is worthy of note Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike had alleged plot by those he described as ‘failed politicians’ to important political thugs and cultists to negatively influence the outcome of the election.
Wike had in a state wide broadcast on Friday urged leaders of political parties and their candidates to advise their supporters to conduct themselves peacefully during and after the election.
He said the election is not a do-or-die affair while declaring that all those plotting to use political thugs and cultists would be tracked down and make to face the full weight of government and extant laws.