· Election violence tracking NGO however blames blockage of due process for violence in PH
By Ignatius Chukwu
Gov Nyesom Wike has at last opened up but threw his weight behind the crowd of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) blocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) access to the premises of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Port Harcourt.
Fighting has continued in Port Harcourt between the APC who wished to gain access to INEC and the PDP protesters who said they will never allow only the APC to access the certified true copies of results announced by the INEC, that all political parties must go together, whereas it was the APC that got court order to do so. Wike has been accused by APC’s Tonye Cole of being behind the blockage.
Now, Wike has spoken, wondering why Cole and not his lawyers or agents, is the one going to the INEC office to collect certified true copies (CTC) of electoral materials.
Speaking at the inauguration of Government Secondary School in Kpor Community of Gokana Local Government Area on Tuesday, Wike stated that Cole lost the governorship election undoubtably.
He described what he called show of desperation by Cole, by not allowing his lawyers to do their duties, as suggestive of a sinister motive that should not be waved away but queried. He did not show where in the Electoral Law that it is the lawyers, not the candidate, that should go for the inspection.
While urging Cole to come out clean so that people would know his intentions, Wike also dismissed as baseless the allegations raised against the PDP that they attacked him and prevented him from accessing INEC office in Port Harcourt.
“Have you seen where a candidate is going to INEC to collect certified true copies (CTC)? What are your lawyers doing. What are your agents doing? These are duties of lawyers. What CTC do you want to collect.
“Can’t people see the truth of the matter, you’ve lost the election. Even if they cancel the election 25 thousand times in this State, you cannot win us (PDP) in this State. Let the truth be told.”
Governor Wike said already, proactive measures are taken to ensure that APC is not allowed the liberty to repeat what they did in 2015, when it manipulated the Nigeria Police to tender results at the tribunal that truncated the will of the people.
The police had swooped on APC lawyers perfecting their case to the tribunal last weekend and Cole had to pursue them to the state headquarters to free the lawyers and retrieve the materials.
INEC seems to want no crowd in its premises and has directed parties to go to the local council INEC offices to look for documents, but Cole turned that suggestion down, asking INEC in PH to do their work. It seems to be a long journey even before the tribunal starts work.
Now, the Community Initiative for Enhanced Peace and Development (CIEPD) with funding support from Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) which implemented the Collaborative Election Violence Prevention and Mitigation Project in Rivers State in the 2023 Presidential and Gubernatorial Election, has called for caution.
The Executive Director, Egondu Ogbalor, said following the release of the final result of the gubernatorial and state house of assembly election, held on the 18th of March 2023 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), there has been unrest in the state (Rivers State).
She said CIEPD said a key attribute of a credible electoral process is the access to seek redress in court when candidates and political parties feel they have been undone by the outcome of an election.
“The 2023 gubernatorial elections in Rivers state may have come and gone but the fallout from the process has been characterized by violent triggers such as intimidation and counter-accusations from all parties involved. This has led to heightened tension in the state. As an organization that is committed to ensuring peace and nonviolent means in resolving disputes, we are concerned by recent happenings and hereby make the following calls to all stakeholders involved:
“We condemn in its entirety the violence that took place in the wake of the protests by political parties around the INEC office and calls for constitutional means and violence-free measures to resolve electoral disputes.”
CIEPD said the INEC should take actions that depict their independent status. “They must act and be seen as independent to calm the brewing tension.
“Security agencies especially the Rivers State Police Command, in dealing with post-electoral complaints should not be seen by the actions and inactions as being partial and used by politicians to witch hunt any political party. They (The police) must act fast to calm the violence to avert the loss of lives and destruction of property.
“Finally, we urge all political parties, INEC, and security agencies to play by the rule and allow the law to take its full course to avoid the looming crisis. We stand for peace, as that is the only option.”
Police units have been seen on both sides of the fighting groups. The state command is expected to make a categorical statement on how the access to INEC should be done, by law.
The other political parties have washed their hands off the demand by PDP crowds to go into INEC with the APC, saying the court granted the order to only APC.