By Lemmy Ughegbe, Abuja
THE Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega and over 60 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) yesterday disagreed on the credibility of the gubernatorial polls in Rivers State.
Whereas the CSOs under the aegis of the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room described the elections in Rivers, Abia and Akwa Ibom states as “lacking in credibility and fraught with irregularities,” Professor Jega said, “there is no evidence before the Commission as it relates to election irregularities in Rivers State.”
Last week, the Situation Room criticised the elections in Rivers and the two other states, when the convener of the group and Chief Executive of Policy and Legal Centre (PLAC), Clement Nwankwo said the elections in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia states should not be allowed to stand.
Speaking in Abuja yesterday at Situation Room Dialogue Session with INEC chairman, Nwankwo reiterated the group’s position on the polls in Rivers State thus: “Situation Room has expressed its concern about the overall conduct of the elections in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states where there are good grounds to question the credibility of the elections results in both states. There are also concerns about Abia State, which recorded multiple cases of electoral misconduct.”
But in his response, Jega said the Commission on getting the petition of irregularities in Rivers State sent three national commissioners to investigate it, stating that the reports submitted by the team did not show any irregularities in the election.
“We have no power to cancel elections results once returns have been made. On the petition against election irregularities in Rivers State, the Commission sent three national commissioners to the state to investigate it. Some people don’t want elections to hold, they are the ones calling for cancellation.
“We investigated the allegation of fake result sheets in Rivers, our reports showed that there was nothing like that,” he said.
Answering questions on whether he will accept the offer of being re-appointed as INEC boss, Jega said that he would not accept such offer, stating that he has other plans.
The INEC boss admitted that the Commission did not do enough to prosecute electoral offenders during the 2011 polls because, according to him, “We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of offenders.”
He said INEC will do more on prosecution of offenders this time, pointing out that someone had already been tried in Adamawa State and sentenced to six months imprisonment for illegal possession of Permanent Voters Card.
He disclosed that the Commission is already in partnership with the police and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to prosecute electoral offenders.
He called on anyone with evidence relating to electoral offences to bring such to the Commission, pledging that such will be investigated and consequently tried in court.
On the proposed supplementary elections in Abia State, Jega said that the polls will hold only in the wards where election was cancelled and not in the entire three local councils.
Jega further revealed that about 20,000 permanent voters cards were not produced before the election because the producer was arrested by the police over the allegation that he gave the password to a political party.
The INEC boss attributed the success achieved in the elections to the use of technology, adding that subsequent elections can be better if the present success is sustained.
“Evidently, some people did not want us to use the card reader machine. That was why we allowed manual election in some few places where the card reader did not function well during the presidential election.
“Some people said that we deliberately deployed card reader machines that will not work in some zones, and to prove them wrong, we instructed that manual voting should take place in such places. But some people want to take advantage of that.
“But during the governorship election, we ensured that all the card reader machines worked. We have earlier sent warning to all the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) that they will be held responsible for any card reader that did not work properly,” he stated.
Also speaking, the Country Representative of DFID in Nigeria, Catherine Weiss, commended INEC for a job well done.
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