Rivers Elections: INEC committee ends inquiry as anxiety grips parties

INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu
INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu

The Independent National Electoral Commission’s fact-finding committee on the suspended Rivers State elections has completed its work in Port Harcourt.

It has, however, left political actors and the public in anxiety and uncertainty.

“They have finished everything, and they are going back to Abuja,” said a senior official familiar with committee’s work at the commission’s Port Harcourt office on Tuesday evening.

“They did not tell us anything. They are reporting to Abuja, and that is where a decision will be taken.”

Background

INEC spokesperson, Festus Okoye, who announced the suspension of the electoral process in Rivers State on Sunday, when contacted at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, said the committee members were being awaited at the headquarters in Abuja

The probe committee led by Anthonia Okoosi-Simbine, a national commissioner, is made up of senior officials deployed from the headquarters in Abuja.

The officials arrived in Port Harcourt on Monday and then grilled local staff, including electoral officers and collation officers at the various local government areas for at least eight hours.

They continued their inquiry today, Tuesday, and took submissions from the NYSC and the security agencies, a source at the Port Harcourt office of INEC said.

The committee’s assignment in Port Harcourt was announced on Sunday evening just as the INEC suspended the electoral process in Rivers State.

The commission, according to the announcement by the spokesperson Mr Okoye, said it had received reports “from our officials in the field” of widespread disruptions of Saturday’s governorship and state parliamentary elections.

PREMIUM TIMES understands it was the state office leadership that had decided to report the incidents of disruptions and violence during voting and at collation centres to the Abuja headquarters following reports from local areas.

The commission asked its fact-finding committee to turn in a report today.

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“We appeal to the people of Rivers State, particularly the voters, for their understanding as we look into the circumstances of these disruptions and what further actions need to be taken,” the commission had said in Mr Okoye’s statement on Sunday evening.

Ruffled

Since the commencement of the inquiry yesterday, the two main parties in the elections, the Peoples Democratic Party and the African Action Congress backed by the All Progressives Congress, had dissipated energies to separate claims of leading the polls before the process was suspended.

INEC at the state level has not endorsed any result from any of the LGAs

This reporter interacted with actors from all sides at the end of the committee’s work on Tuesday.

They are reportedly gripped by anxiety and already contemplating possible outcomes.

INEC is expected to announce its decision after receiving the report of its committee deployed to Port Harcourt.

It will decide whether to have fresh polls and continue with the collation exercise even though security remains a concern in Rivers, PREMIUM TIMES understands.

Speaking from Abuja Tuesday night, Mr Okoye said the members of the committee have not reported to the commission.

”All of us are still in the situation room,” he said. “We are still waiting for them.”

He restated the expectation that the committee should submit its report in 48 hours, ending today.

Asked when the commission will state its decision, he replied: “I can’t say for now until we see the members of the committee and get their report. All of us are still in the situation room.”

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