Senior officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deployed from the headquarters in Abuja grilled local staff in Rivers State on Monday in efforts to investigate reports of disruptions and violence that necessitated the suspension of Saturday’s elections in the oil-rich state.
The officials who constituted what the commission called ‘Fact-Finding Committee” were led by a national commissioner, Anthonia Okoosi-Simbine.
They arrived at Port Harcourt on Monday, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
According to our source, the committee started their work “around 1 p.m.” and finished some minutes past 9 p.m.
The source said the committee work was without the presence of officers in the state office, including the Resident Electoral Commission, REC, Obo Effanga.
“The REC is not even here at all,” said the source, speaking from the Aba Road Port Harcourt office of the commission where the commission sat for their work.
The source explained that electoral officers from local government areas were being called in “one after the other” for questioning.
“It has not ended,” the source said referring to the investigation. “The remaining officers will be called in tomorrow. It continues tomorrow and a statement will be issued.”
The spokesperson for the commission, Festus Okoye, a national commissioner, had announced the suspension of all electoral processes in Rivers State on Sunday evening from Abuja.
Mr Okoye cited reports of widespread disruptions and violence in “substantial number of polling units and collation centres” from “our officials in the field.”
Our source said it was the state office that had taken the decision to report the incidents of violence affecting elections to the Abuja headquarters following reports from local areas.
Before the suspension, voting had ended in the state.
The governorship candidate of the African Action Congress, Biokpomabo Awara who is the main challenger of the Peoples Democratic Party’s Governor Nyesom Wike said the collation exercise had ended in seven LGAs and that he was leading with 289,773 votes against the incumbent’s 76,633 votes.
He said the suspension was to help Mr Wike gain some “respite” and “frustrate my victory”.
Mr Wike, though not stating definite figures, also claimed victory already.
But none of these claims is accepted by the state office of the commission. In fact, the decision to report to the Abuja head office followed an insistence on not accepting any result from the LGAs due to reports of violence and disruptions.