Osun Election: INEC confirms arrest, release of its officials over suspicious movement of electoral materials

INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega ... Photo Credit:234NEXT

The Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] on Friday confirmed that two of its officials in Osun State were arrested over suspicion that they were trying to divert  electoral materials.

The commission, however, said the officials, one of which is the Electoral Officer for Obokun Local Government Area, were released by security agencies after INEC explained the reason for their actions.

Some vigilante youth in Osun State had reportedly intercepted and arrested a truck full of ballot papers meant for Saturday’s governorship election in the state.

The truck was allegedly intercepted in Obokun Town, Obokun Local Government Area, in the wee hours of Friday along with the driver and three men who claimed to be INEC officials.

In a statement by Kayode Idowu, the media aide to the INEC Chairman, the Commission said its investigation into the matter showed that although two officials were arrested, both men did not deliberately act the way they did.

“The bid to retrieve the non-sensitive materials triggered suspicion of something untoward among the communities, some of which resisted the retrieval,” Mr. Idowu said. “A number of them alerted security agents, who promptly arrested the EO and the officer who had distributed the non-sensitive materials.

“The EO and his officer have since been released and they have gone on with their duties, following the Commission’s investigation and satisfactory explanation to the security agencies about the true nature of the incident.”

The INEC chairman’s spokesperson said, “This statement is to clear the air over the widely circulating report, especially on online sites, which suggested that the integrity of the process leading up to the Osun State Governorship Election on August 9, 2014, has been compromised,” it said. “Investigation shows that no sensitive materials were diverted, neither was any official of INEC caught in cohort with political partisans.”

The Commission explained that the EO of Obokun Local Government had, at some point on Wednesday, discussed and agreed with all stakeholders, including political parties in his LGA, that sensitive and non-sensitive materials would be distributed together once the sensitive materials were received at the INEC LGA office.

It further said early on Thursday morning, all EOs in Osun State were asked to report to Osogbo to collect sensitive materials for their respective LGAs, hence why the Obokun EO and one of his officers left for the state capital to collect the materials.

It stated that while they were in Osogbo, the EO realised that mattresses needed for operating the Registration Area Centres, RACs, which ought to have been delivered at the RACs, had not been distributed.

Consequently, it explained further, he (EO) sent back his officer to go distribute the mattresses to all the RACs.

The Commission said the officer assigned the task misinterpreted the instruction and, rather than distribute only the mattresses, began to distribute non-sensitive materials as well – contrary to the earlier agreement between the EO and political parties.

“The EO returned to the LGA office around 7pm on Thursday with sensitive materials for his jurisdiction and, on learning that the officer had overreached his instruction, became concerned about the breach of the agreement he had with the political parties and other stakeholders. He immediately ordered the retrieval of the non-sensitive materials from all RACs.

“The bid to retrieve the non-sensitive materials triggered suspicion of something untoward among the communities, some of which resisted the retrieval. A number of them alerted security agents, who promptly arrested the EO and the officer who had distributed the non-sensitive materials.

“The EO and his officer have since been released and they have gone on with their duties, following the Commission’s investigation and satisfactory explanation to the security agencies about the true nature of the incident.”

INEC said, for the avoidance of doubt, sensitive materials were not involved in the incident and that sensitive materials from the State INEC Headquarters arrived at the LGA long after the non-sensitive materials had been distributed.

The Commission also said there was absolutely no truth to the claim that the EO or any other staff of INEC was found in a vehicle other than the Commission’s vehicle distributing materials.

“That may explain why the only vehicle shown in the various social media reports on the incident was the Commission’s vehicle with registration No.: FG 816 VO1.”

INEC reassured the public that it remained committed to ensuring high integrity of the electoral process and delivery of free, fair and credible governorship election in Osun State.

 


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