After over two years of legal battles, Anambra Central Senatorial zone is set to get a representative in the red chamber of the National Assembly as a fresh election ordered by the court holds today.
The zone has been without a representative since 2015 when the Court of Appeal sacked Uche Ekwunife who was declared winner of the election conducted during the 2015 general elections.
The candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Victor Umeh, had gone to court to challenge the election of Ms. Ekwunife who contested under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Ms. Ekwunife’s election was upheld in October 2015 by the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Awka, Anambra State.
Justice Naiyi Aganaba while reading the verdict of the tribunal in October said Victor Umeh failed to establish his case that Ms. Ekwunife was wrongly declared the winner of the March 28 election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
But the Court of Appeal ruled that election of Ms. Ekwunife did not meet the provision of the Electoral Act.
Despite the court’s order that elections be conducted within 90 days, INEC did not conduct fresh elections till now citing various litigations pending in various courts.
The electoral commission has said 14 candidates would participate in the re-run election which will hold in Awka North, Awka South, Idemili North, Idemili South, Anaocha, Njikoka and Dunukofia local government areas.
According to INEC a total of 7,670 ad-hoc workers would conduct the election in 1,548 polling units.
However, the main opposition party in the country, Peoples Democratic Party, will not be taking part in the election as ordered by the Appeal Court.
The leading candidate in today’s election is APGA’s Victor Umeh who has seen his popularity sour following the victory of Governor Willie Obiano in last year’s governorship election in the state.
Mr. Umeh, a former National Chairman of APGA, was the Director General of Mr. Obiano’s campaign organisation for the election.
The removal of the PDP from the ballot paper is also an added advantage to Mr. Umeh as he now has one less major challenger for the seat.
Over 5000 security personnel will be deployed to provide security during the elections. While the police deployed 4000 personnel, the Nigerian Security and Civil defence Corps deployed 1000 officers.
Our reporter spotted a convoy of more than 10 military vehicles entering Awka, the state capital, from Enugu on Friday evening obviously part of the military’s contribution to ensure security during the election.
The Labour Minister, Chris Ngige, who is listed as the APC candidate for the election has said he is not participating in it. This effectively means the APC has no candidate for the election.
Read Mr. Ngige’s statement below.
“My attention has been drawn to a list by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) which contains my name as a candidate in the rerun Anambra Central Senatorial Election being conducted Saturday, January 13, 2018.
“For the information of the General Public and voters as well as my numerous supporters in Anambra Central Senatorial District, I’m not participating in the said election which can be described as a charade.
“I have since by a letter dated 11th January 2016 withdrawn from this rerun Election when it was earlier scheduled for March 2016 in accordance with the provisions of sections 33 &35 of the Electoral Act 2010 for personal& Family reasons.
“My party, the APC accepted and promptly wrote INEC for my substitution. It went ahead and communicated its intention to organise a primary election for my substitution.
“The primary monitored by INEC was organised at Awka and the name of a new candidate that emerged was promptly submitted, only for INEC to reject the new candidate on 29 January.
“My party, the APC and INEC are in the Court of Appeal Abuja over this obnoxious & illegal action of INEC with hearing on the matter fixed for 23rd of January which is still within the armbit of 90days ordered by court, only for the INEC to fix an ‘election’ for 13th in order to give an unfair advantage to the APGA candidate to go ‘unopposed’.
“I have met with INEC on this issue and I’m using this forum to inform the general public that I’m not part of the re-run.”
Residents of Awka, the Anambra capital, appear uninterested in the Anambra Central Senatorial election as many of them were seen going about their normal duties, Saturday morning.
Despite the restriction of movement, cars have been seen moving around the city unimpeded.
One major issue observed is the non-accreditation of journalists covering the election. At two checkpoints, police officers on duty asked for election accreditation tags from reporters.
They were obviously not informed that no accreditation tags were issued to journalists covering the election.
Even the police officers themselves don’t have accreditation tags as was the case during the governorship election last year.
However, the officers who were very cordial, after explanations allowed this reporter to continue.
Some of the youth in the city were seen with their sports kits obviously going to play football.
One of them, who refused to disclose his name, said he would rather play football than vote.
“What do I have to gain from voting in this election?” he asked.
A vulcanizer, Johnson Obinze expressed similar sentiments.
” I have mouths to feed at home, so I will rather come out and work than go to vote. Luckily, cars are allowed on this express( Enugu Onitsha expressway) so I will get some work despite the ban on movement,” he said.
Many Ad hoc staff, mostly Corps members at INEC office in Aniocha local government, are still waiting to be given the electoral materials.
Some of them are still grumbling that INEC has not completed payment of their allowances for the last government elections.
An ad-hoc staff is seen talking to a colleague alleging that the list of ad hoc staff may have been doctored.
“After attending training and getting text message that we will be part of the ad hoc staff, they are now saying our names are not on the list. They are busy attending to corps members only,” he says.
Meanwhile, in Awka, materials have been distributed to most wards, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
At Nkwele primary school Awka which has about three polling units electoral officers have arrived. Voting is expected to commence soon.
At Igboamaka Polling Centre, Aguluzuigbo, which has two polling booths, voting has started.
But card readers are not malfunctioning. In one of the booths, the card reader was registering three persons instead of one person at a time.
The situation forced the officials to reset the device and restart accreditation.
Meanwhile, despite Senator Chris Ngige’s statement yesterday that he has withdrawn as candidate of the APC in the elections, his name is conspicuously displayed in the list of contestants at polling centres.
APGA candidate, Victor Umeh, arrives the polling booth in Aguluzuigbo to cast his ballot with his wife.
The card reader works at the first try and they proceed to cast their vote.
Mr. Umeh in an interview after casting his ballot said low turnout of voters was expected because of “propaganda” that the elections will not hold.
He further commended INEC for staging a hitch-free exercise.
INEC has shown that it is determined to defend democracy and the rule of Law.
Transporters, Corps members abandon INEC duties in Idemili North LG
Some transporters engaged to move materials for Anambra Central re-run election in Idemili North Local Government Area, abandoned the assignment because the payments they were given were insufficient, Ayeleso Olutope, INEC Electoral Officer said.
Mr. Olutope, INEC Electoral Officer in-charge of Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra, told NAN at Ogidi on Saturday that all materials for the election were supposed to have be moved to polling units at 5 a.m on Saturday.
Mr. Olutope regretted the hitches recorded, noting that while some transporters conveyed the materials, some refused on the grounds that the part payments were insufficient for the job.
He also said that some NYSC member engaged as ad-hoc workers also demanded that their stipend be paid before they commence work.
The corps members said that some of their colleagues had received alert from their banks for the election duty while they did not get.
A transporter, who gave his name as Johnson Uchendu, said because of the hike in the price of petrol, 50 per cent of the amount he agreed for the job was not enough to fuel his vehicles for this job.
He said that was why he demanded that INEC pay him complete to enable him buy enough petrol for the job.
NAN reports that as at 10.30 a.m electoral materials were yet to arrive at some locations, including Central School Nkpor-Agu, Nkpor Ward two all in Idemili North Local Government Area.
Nwachukwu Enekwuwa, agent of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), expressed concern over the delay in arrival of materials, and called on INEC to sort out the problem before it affect the outcome of the election.
Two security personnel from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, who pleaded anonymity, said they arrived Nkpor ward two as early as 7 a.m but were yet to see any electoral officials for the exercise.
Collation of results at various local government collation centres have commenced.
The election which was hitch-free had low turnout of voters.
The final collation of results is expected to begin very soon at INEC state headquarters in Awka.
The zone has been without a senator for more than two years after the Appeal Court cancelled the election of Uche Ekwunife.
Legal tussles in various courts by various interested parties delayed the conduct of a re-run.
Meanwhile, an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has said the commission is not aware of the withdrawal of the All Progressive Congress, APC, candidate in the election.
The party’s candidate, Chris Ngige, had last night issued a statement
that he had in January 2016 written to the electoral umpire on his withdrawal from contesting for the senatorial position in the zone.
But the official told PREMIUM TIMES that the commission was not aware of such letter.
“We have no interest in what anybody is saying in the media. You don’t withdraw in the media. We have no records of such letter,” the source said.
“There were 15 candidates for the election in 201t, but the court asked that we remove PDP from the ballot and we complied,” the source added.
The final collation centre at the INEC state headquarters in Awka Anambra state is set.
PREMIUM TIMES can confirm that results from some of the local governments have also arrived the centre.
Heads of security agencies, observers, journalists and other parties including, party agents, all seated waiting for the collation to commence.
As we awaits the results, here are the names of the 14 parties that took part in today’s election.
They are ACCORD, ACD, ADC, APC, APGA, GPN, ID, KOWA, LP, MPPP, NCP, PDC, PPA and UPP.
Pics: The venue for the final election collation at INEC state headquarters Awka.
Charles Okechukwu Esimonye, a professor and deputy Vice Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, is the returning officer for the election.
“Four local government’s have already gotten to the centre while three others are on the way”, he says.
Awka North LGA
Accredited voters- 7864
Idemili South h LGA
RAs – 12
Registered voters- 101484
Accredited voters- 4911
ADC – 04
Total valid- 4796
RAs – 14
Accredited voters- 7667
Awka South LGA
RAs – 20
Accredited voters- 13029
Umuawulu ward had over voting and results were cancelled
RAs – 19
Accredited voters- 12634
Incident in Aguluzuigbo ward 4, two polling stations didn’t use card reader so their results were cancelled says the Collation officer of the polling unit.
To save time, the Returning Officer decides to commence entering the results in the results sheet while waiting for Idemili North LGA results.
In the pictures below, he is seen opening the sealed result sheet.