The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said materials used for the suspended Rivers election, not destroyed by hoodlums, are safe and being kept in secure custody.
INEC Director, Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said this while making further clarification on the poll.
He said: “Following the disruption of the re-run elections in Rivers state and the consequent suspension of further action in the exercise, the Independent National Electoral Commission held a meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Rivers State and its Supervisors and Monitors who were in the State.
“The Commission has considered the submissions of these officials and undertaken an audit of its personnel deployed as polling officials and for related duties. Its findings are that the elections were characterized by violence, intimidation, threats, palpable fear and abduction of some of its officials in many areas.
“INEC acknowledges that there were some challenges in its operational efficiency, especially as it concerns the production and customization of the result sheets used for the conduct of the election.
Specifically, there was the omission of the original watermark in the result sheets for a few polling units in 3 (three) Federal Constituencies and the omission of some delimitation details in 47 (forty seven) of the over 20,000 (twenty thousand) booklets produced. Political Parties that participated in the elections and their accredited agents, witnessed the distribution of all materials from the Central Bank Vaults and subsequent distribution to the various INEC Local Government Area Offices and the Registration Area Centres (RACs).
“On election day some of the RACs were invaded and barricaded by hordes of people who prevented our officials from leaving for the polling units, thus disrupting the prompt commencement of the exercise in many places. Fortunately, the Commission was able to undertake the exercise in several places after explanations by the INEC staff and further validation/authentication of these result sheets by the endorsement of the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) and Electoral Officers (EOs) of some of these Local Government Areas.
“The Commission wishes to emphatically state that there were no fake result sheets or any fake materials used in the conduct of the elections.
Position as at Time of Suspension
“As at the time of the suspension of further action by the Commission, the exercise was at different stages, as follows:
(i.) The Elections had been concluded in some constituencies with the declaration of results and return of winners by the respective Returning Officers;
(ii.) Results declared and/or returns made under duress or by unauthorised persons;
(iii.) Collation had been concluded but no declaration or return made;
(iv.) Voting had been concluded and collation was on-going but yet to be concluded;
(v.) Voting concluded but collation yet to commence;
(vi.) No voting at all or voting commenced but was disrupted before conclusion.
Modalities and Way Forward
“Faced with the above scenario, the Commission restates its earlier decision to uphold the declarations and returns made in the Federal and State Constituencies where the exercise had been concluded.
“Similarly, the Commission will conclude and make returns in constituencies where it is satisfied that voting and collation were done in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and our Guidelines (This will cover scenarios iii, iv and v above).
Further details as to the constituencies and the nature of the exercise will be announced by the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the next few days.
“INEC will, at a date to be decided, conduct fresh elections starting with accreditation and voting in all Local Government Areas, Constituencies, Registration Areas and Polling Units where the exercise was disrupted before voting was concluded on Saturday 19th March, 2016. Even so, this will only be after due consultation with stakeholders and subject to the advice of the Security Agencies and guarantees by the Political Parties, Candidates and their supporters.
“While the Commission is committed to conducting free, fair and credible elections, it hereby reiterates its resolve not to return to Rivers State (or anywhere else where there was a breakdown of law and order in the cause of conducting elections) until there is a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of credible elections. As a responsible organization, it will not expose its stakeholders especially voters, its officials, observers, media personnel to any danger and even where dates have been fixed and published, it will not hesitate to again suspend the exercise where there is a clear danger or credible threat of a breakdown of law and order.
“INEC reassures that all materials used for the conduct of the elections which were not destroyed by hoodlums are safe and are being kept in secure custody.
The Commission condemns in no uncertain terms all those who have been spewing hate speeches and making incendiary statements, which no doubt exacerbated an already tense situation. It will like to again commiserate with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the family, friends and colleagues of Samuel Dumebi Okonta, the Corps member who unfortunately lost his life in this patriotic service as a poll official. May his soul rest in peace.