By Chris Ezeonoh, Port Harcourt,
Governorship candidates of opposition political parties in Rivers State on Wednesday made a frantic call on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and security agencies to rise to the occasion and nip in the bud alleged grand plot by Governor Nyesom Wike to rig the March 18 governorship and House of Assembly election in favour of the PDP in the state.
At a joint press conference in Port Harcourt, the candidates made up of All Progressives Congress, Arc. Tonye Patrick Cole, National Rescue Movement, Amb. Sobomabo Jackrich; Action Alliance, Dr Dawari George; Accord, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs and African Democratic Congress, Chief Tonte Ibraye said they have been reliably informed of the plots by the Governor of Rivers State to use the instrumentality of the 23 Local Government Area Council Secretariats serving as LGA Collation Centres by the INEC to rig and manipulate the results of the March 18, 2023, Governorship and State House of Assembly Elections in the State.
They further alleged that Wike has instructed all LGA Executive Chairmen, as the chief security officers of their respective Local Government Areas, to carry out what he calls “Operation No Mercy” on every other party Agent. According to them, the Council Chairmen are to ensure those Agents representing their parties’ interests do not have access to the Collation Centres.
“The PDP Government of Rivers State has also assured INEC officials of their safety provided they comply with the PDP Agents to manipulate the process before taking it out to the State Collation Centre”, the opposition candidates added.
Against this background, the candidates demanded that INEC and every relevant authority should stop all Government officials from accessing the collation centres.
“That in accordance with Section 43(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 prohibiting Government officials from acting or serving as Agents to political parties at elections, INEC and relevant security authorities should restrict the movement of all Rivers State Government officials beginning with Governor Wike down to the Executive Chairmen of the Councils. INEC should ensure that all categories of officials prohibited by the Electoral Act stay away from the Collation Centres as their presence will compromise the process.
“That only persons who are party agents according to law and designated INEC officials should have access to the Collation Centres at the Ward, LGA and State levels only party agents be allowed access to the collation centers.
“That on no account should Governor Wike be exempt from the restrictions of access to Collation Centres in accordance with the law. Moreover, his presence at the Obio/Akpor Council Collation Centre in the last and previous elections compromised the process and cast doubts on the credibility and ability of INEC to conduct free, fair, and credible elections in the State.
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“That activities of INEC officials and Ad-Hoc Staff be closely monitored as there is connivance between some INEC officials and officials of the Rivers State Government to rig and compromise the process in favour of the PDP.
“The candidates expressed desire for peaceful, free, fair and credible elections in the State where the will of the people would not be subverted as “we saw during the Presidential and National Assembly elections”.
They also expressed the hope that INEC would do the right thing and not make themselves “willing tools and enemies of the State by conniving with those with ulterior motives to compromise the process.”
The candidates contended that credible elections are possible in Rivers State when the Resident Electoral Commissioner takes full charge of the process in accordance with the law.
“We, therefore, call on the President and Commander-in-Chief, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR to direct security agencies to intensify surveillance on INEC and the Central Bank of Nigeria to safeguard the electoral process and the forthcoming elections in Rivers State.
“Foreign missions and International Elections Observers must take a deep interest in the elections in Rivers State to avert any danger and subversion of the will of the majority of Rivers people and the electorate here”.
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