The Abia, Akwa Ibom and Cross River chapters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday threatened to boycott the Saturday elections over their lack of confidence in their respective resident electoral commissioners (RECs).
The states in separate letters to INEC Chairman, Prof. Mamhood Yakubu, called for the immediate redeployment of the RECs.
APC alleged that the RECs – Dr. Joseph Iloh (Abia), Mike Igini (Akwa Ibom) and Dr. Frankland Briyai (Cross River) – are working in cahoots with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to rig the elections in its (PDP) favour in the states.
It alleged that the recruitment of ad-hoc staff was done with the involvement of PDP-led government in the three states.
APC is in opposition while PDP is the ruling party in the three states.
The Abia APC’s position was contained in a letter by the secretary of the party, Perfect Okorie, dated February 18 and addressed to INEC Chairman.
According to the party, the names of the Returning/Coalition Officers compiled and submitted by the Abia REC, Dr. Joseph Iloh, including ad-hoc workers released by INEC in Abia State to conduct election in the state are known agents and friends of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government in the state.
The party further stated that the names of most of the officials were submitted by the present Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, Prof. Francis Otunta, who is a known PDP member and acolyte of PDP government of Abia.
In addition, the party alleged that Prof. Otunta’s hatred for President Muhammadu Buhari and what he stands for is legendary, adding that he has boasted openly to the hearing of many, most of whom are willing to attest to this fact, that President Buhari will never emerge as the president of Nigeria again.
The party also alleged that the results of the last botched election were already written by an official of the state government, one Mr. Chinese Nwaogu, who is the Special Assistant to the Governor on N-Power Empowerment Programme and his cohorts.
“An INEC staff in the state was apprehended with about 4,000 Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) to be delivered to her PDP cronies for purposes of rigging the election. The said staff and her cohorts are currently in police custody.
“A PDP stalwart was also apprehended in Abia State with about 3,000 PVCs in his possession obviously handed over to him by INEC officials in the state.
“INEC REC in Abia State has displayed a monumental bias in favour of PDP in the state that allowing him to stay and conduct election in the state will be very suicidal to opposition parties in the state,” the party added.
The Abia APC, however, called for the immediate redeployment of the REC to another state and a transfer of a neutral REC to the state.
The Akwa Ibom chapter of the party, in its own letter to INEC chairman dated February 18, noted that the “activities of the Akwa lbom State REC, Mr. Mike Igini, leave much to be desired, especially as it relates to the conduct of the forthcoming elections, which constitutes a grave threat to the healthy growth of our nascent democracy.”
APC told the INEC chair: “It is sad that the REC, saddled with the constitutional responsibility of conducting elections – the most crucial aspect of democracy, has been found compromising and lagging in the discharge of his duties.
“The continued retention of the REC who has not only shown partisanship, but has also compromised the electoral process in favour of Governor Udom Emmanuel, will be a disaster to democracy. He has been found to be an ever ready rigging tool for the PDP in Akwa lbom State.
“This is evidence with the mass and highly choreographed irregularities, including the brazen shortlisting of only PDP apologists as ad-hoc staff in connivance with Government House, widespread cases of vote-buying by top Akwa Ibom State government officials who were caught on camera handing over uncollected PVCs to Governor Udom Emmanuel and PDP members in exchange for a bribe of N20,000 for each PVC.
“While we await the response of the Commission, we write to state that we would embark on mass civil disobedience and eventually boycott the elections if Mike Igini is not immediately removed as he works hand in gloves with PDP to subvert the electoral process.”
But Igini debunked the allegations, insisting that the Commission had been non-partisan and unbiased in its dealings with all political parties.
He denied that the recruitment of ad-hoc staff was done in collusion with the state government.
“This is untrue, totally inaccurate and wholly incorrect because poll officials of various category and the institutions from where they are sourced are well known to the Nigerian people,” he said.
According to him, apart from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members, other election officials were drawn from federal agencies, including the University of Uyo.
“They are civil servants and by the law of the land, civil servants are not card carrying members of any political party.
“In any case, the list of the collation officers was sent from the headquarters. Why would someone make up this kind of allegation,” Igini said.
Also, APC in Cross River State has demanded the redeployment of the REC, Dr. Frankland Briyai, alleging that the commissioner is working in agreement with the PDP to manipulate the forthcoming elections in the state.
APC South-South Vice Chairman, Ntufam Hilliard Eta, made the call while speaking to journalists in Abuja yesterday.
According to him, APC has enough evidence to prove that the REC was bias and working in tandem with PDP to manipulate the forthcoming elections.
He said: “We have enough evidence in Cross River State as a party that the REC in the state is in bed with PDP. Number one, in the local government area (LGA) of the governor, Obudu Local Government Area, when the voter’s registration exercise was going on, against the less than 20 per cent average as regards the number of voters, Obudu council now recorded over 100 per cent new voters. It rose to about 58,000 to 158,000, a figure of about 70,000 difference, which is an impossibility.
“Second, we are aware that the REC has released sensitive electoral materials to the PDP candidates, including result sheets and ballot papers. We are also aware that when he was conducting the training of ad-hoc staff, he solicited the support of those ad-hoc staff for PDP. He told them in clear terms that they should do everything possible to ensure that they bring their people for that exercise.
“Even when I wrote to him as the national vice chairman, that the list of agents from the state is from my office, he still discountenances that letter and instead took the list from Usani Usani, which is working in cahoots with PDP in Cross River State.
“With all these, we have realised that the man is working very hard to see that he decimates APC in Cross Rivers State to the advantage of PDP.
“We are calling for either his resignation or he should be posted out of Cross River State. Since he has become comfortable with the governor and PDP, we want him posted out of Cross Rivers State.”
But, the Cross River State REC, Dr. Briyai has denied any link with any political party, saying he is apolitical in the discharge of his duties in the state.
While addressing newsmen in his office yesterday, Briyai said he was not interested in working for any party, insisting that he was in the state to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
He said: “It is not true. Nobody has confronted me. I have been accused that I have been working for a political party and most of the things that have been published online about me are just fake news. Online media have also reported the sighting of printed ballot papers in other parts of the country.
“All the smart card readers have been returned and we have reconfigured them. The deadline given to us is Wednesday (today) and we completed our own yesterday and we have over 3,000 of them. We are set to go.”
He said the increase in the number of new voters in Obudu Local Government Area of the state, the governor’s local government area, was based on the continuous voters’ exercise, where people presented themselves “and what INEC did was to register them.”
Briyai also assure the public that all arrangements, including transportation, security and other logistics had been ready for this week’s rescheduled elections, saying: “What we are waiting for, is the time and days of movement and I don’t think we have any issues against the RECs