The inability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abia State to announce the result of Aba North and South Federal Constituency election seven days after the election was concluded is generating bad blood among the supporters of the three major political parties (APGA, PDP and APC) in the zone.
Apparently worried by the INEC delay of announcing the result, residents of Aba North and South Federal constituency took to the streets of Aba and Umuahia shutting down economic and commercial activities in Aba, the commercial nerve of Abia State in peaceful protest over the continued silence of the electoral umpire.
The Nation had reported that the Returning Officer (RO) for Aba North and South Federal constituency INEC, Prof. Iwe neither declared the election inconclusive nor declare the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Hon. Ossy Prestige, who has the highest number of votes cast winner of the election even after entering the outcome of the election in the final result sheet on Sunday (February 24) night.
This is as he claimed that a candidate in the election submitted petition to him over the conduct of the election.
Our reporter who monitored the protest that saw the protesters move round major streets of Aba and Umuhia, later headed for the state headquarters of INEC where they went to register their displeasure and to also submit a petition to the State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state capital.
The protesters bearing placards with different inscriptions “it is Prestige that we voted for, declare the result. “Our votes must count. “INEC don’t thwart the will of the people of Aba. “INEC delay of result declaration, an injustice, Prestige is the winner. “INEC give us our results. “We say no to rerun. “Ossy Prestige is the people’s choice” among other inscriptions also gave INEC 24hrs to declare the result of the election or they may be forced to take laws into their hands.
One of the protesters, Mrs. Nene Michael speaking to newsmen in Umuahia, the Abia State capital said “Abia North and Abia Central results have been collated and announced. We don’t know or understand the reason why our own result has not been declared. Both women, the old and the young in Aba are all angry that after casting their votes, INEC is yet to make public the name of the candidate that they widely voted for as the winner of the last election of Aba North and South Federal constituency.
“All that we are saying is that the outcome of the election should be made public. Ossy Prestige should be declared winner of the just concluded National Assembly and Presidential election of February 23.
Another speaker, Hon. Jeff Okafor, speaking on behalf of Aba residents said “Aba people came out enough mass to vote for him and Nkwonta. We are calling on INEC to declare the result for everyone to know his or her stand. We are bringing this protest to your doorstep to register our complaint and dissatisfaction about the inability of INEC to declare the result of the election in Aba South and North Federal constituency.
“We are here to have a peaceful demonstration. We are here only on one mission and that is to remind the electoral umpire of this state that enough is enough. We have taken enough in this state, especially in Aba North and South Federal constituency.
“We all know that elections took place in all the polling units in Aba North and South and results duly collected. The results were duly signed by the agents of various political parties present who equally collected their respective result sheets. We also have our copies and we wonder why they have not been able to declare the result.
“We are pleading with INEC to save Aba from this impending violence. If there is an attempt to tamper with the people’s choice and mandate, Aba will go on rampage. We are equally using this medium to warn those vying for upcoming elections in the state whose hands are in this, that we the Aba people are watching and we are seeing their impact and they are telling us that we shouldn’t trust them. They should give the winner, Hon. Ossy Prestige the certificate of return.
“We are giving them 24hrs to know what to do or face the impending danger that is looming. INEC should be hold reliable for any crisis that would come up as a result of the actions of INEC. INEC should do the right thing.
“INEC Chairman; Prof. Mahmood said that he is yet to cancel any election in any part of the country. We are wondering why our own is not announced. Abia is one of and if not the only place that there was free and fair elections always, but up till now we haven’t seen our results.”
Mr. Henry Nna also adding his voice argued while INEC in Abia has failed to announce the result of the election four days after the election was concluded.
“President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari participated in the election that Hon. Ossy Prestige also participated. The President has long been declared winner of the election. The same result collated in Aba was part of what was used to declare him (Buhari) the winner. What’s still holding the declaration of Aba North and South Federal constituency result? We don’t know when Returning Officers started receiving petitions from someone or on behalf of someone who is losing an election and cancelling result of an election that he has duly signed.
“We are not here to fight. We are not here to make troubles. We are here to register our unpleasant request to INEC. This is injustice and a call for anarchy. This is not fair to Aba residents. We have spoken through the ballot. There are elections that you cannot rig. No one will rig elections in Aba. This is one of the elections that you cannot rig. The election was very free and fair. They tried to manipulate it, but that couldn’t work and their plan is to hold on to this result. How long are they going to hold on to the result? APGA polled 15, 040 votes, PDP got 9,565 while APC polled 2,867 votes. The winner of the election should be declared.
“The person that they want to impose on us is the same person that Aba people vehemently rejected in 2015 because of his poor performance and now, they think that this is an opportunity for them restore him back to power.
“If INEC goes ahead to impose this man on Aba, economic and business activities in the city will be paralyzed. We are asking INEC to release the result of the election as an unbiased umpire that they are.”
However, events went bad as policemen suspected to have come from the state command.
Who arrived in a hilux van started firing teargas canisters at the protesters, injuring and arresting some of them in the process.
Our reporter gathered that the incident happened shortly after the protesters addressed journalists and were waiting for an official of the INEC to come and address them.
Some of the protester who spoke to our reporter from their hideouts alleged that the policemen injured many of them with their gun buts and later went away with some of them.
They said that some of the protesters who were said to be badly injured and asthmatic were admitted in various hospitals where they until the time of this report are receiving medical attention.
The chieftains who condemned the action of the policemen wondered when it has become against the constitution for people to hold peaceful protest and questioned why the police could descend heavily on people who are demonstrating peacefully over the “irresponsibility” of INEC returning officer who decided to pervert the will of the people through his actions.