The All Progressives Congress, APC, has withdrawn its participation in at least one local government area in the ongoing local elections in Akwa Ibom State.
There have been reports of violence and ballot-snatching across the state in the election which is meant to produce council chairmen and councilors in the 31 local government areas in the state.
“In view of the widespread violence and irregularities in the ongoing Local Government elections in Etinan LGA, we the executive members of the APC are left with no choice than to withdraw forthwith from this ongoing sham elections,” says a statement issued around 2:30 pm by the party leaders in Etinan Local Government Area.
The state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is from the local government area.
The statement, signed by the APC leader in the area, Sunny Jackson; the Vice Chairman of APC in area, Idorenyin Thompson; and the party’s chairmanship candidate in the local government election, Esther Etuk, said that the local election commission did not provide voters’ registers for the area as required by law and that accreditation of voters didn’t take place.
“Where very limited materials are issued at all, well-armed thugs of the cowardly PDP government in Akwa Ibom State are going around, shooting, stabbing and snatching empty ballot boxes at gunpoint.
“Consequently, we protest vehemently against this brutal and bloody attack on our supporters and on our democracy and therefore unanimously pull out from this fake elections with immediate effect,” the statement said.
In a nearby Nsit Ibom Local Government Area, a chieftain of APC, Sam Ewang, told PREMIUM TIMES that elections in the area had been cancelled over alleged nonavailability of sensitive electoral materials.
“This morning, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Nsit Ibom received the election materials, alongside the AKISIEC man who brought them. When they inspected it the sensitive materials like the result sheets were not there for the 76 units and the 10 wards in the area,” Mr. Ewang said. “So, the DPO returned the materials and the man who brought them.”
Mr. Ewang, a former military administrator of Rivers State, said the electoral officer for the area confirmed to him that the sensitive materials were not released to them from the AKISIEC headquarters in Uyo.
“The DPO, the SSS, and the Electoral Officer for the area have all confirmed that the elections in Nsit Ibom have been canceled. We have this on record,” he said.
There were reports that the election materials in all the wards in Ibesikpo-Asutan Local Government Area were carted away at gunpoint by thugs said to be loyal to the PDP, leaving the APC members and supporters with no other option than to return to their homes.
In Uyo, the state capital, the electoral officers did not show up in most of the polling units.
There were no electoral officers and no voting activity as at 2 pm at Unit 003, Ward 10, Uyo Local Government Area, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Udeme Ekot, a lawyer, said he had to go back to his house when he realised that election was not going to take place in the unit. He said there was no election in other units around the ward.
Mr. Ekot said that the electoral commission refused to send voting materials to areas that they knew were the strongholds of the APC.
“Those other places they sent materials to, maybe it’s just for the camera, where you could have a state or a national lawmaker that is a PDP member,” he said.
“What has happened is a shame. Governor Udom Emmanuel has perfected the act of rigging in the state, we have never seen a thing like this,” he said.
At Nsit Ubium, the election went on peacefully in most of the units visited by journalists.
The Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Onofiok Luke, who is from the area, cast his vote at his Itreto Ward and afterward thanked the people, AKISIEC, and the security agencies for the “peaceful” election.
“In Nsit Ubium, we insisted on a free, fair, credible and fast election, we didn’t go shouting in the media, but we did what we had to do,” Mr. Luke said.
“As a party, we went out campaigning from ward to ward, village to village, family to family and from door to door. We are a grassroots people, and that’s why we’ve always returned to the people. We’ve remained with them since after the 2015 general elections.
“We have been assisting the students, our women, the youth and the elderly, the low-income earners and the farmers. When the people needed us the most, we were there for them.
“When they needed us during the recession, we were there for them. This is why they have supported us. The people have been our own ‘federal might’. When the people are with you, no ‘federal might’ can prevail,” the speaker said.