INEC set to resume collation of Rivers election results Wednesday, Bauchi Tuesday
By Steve Oko
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has said it would resume the collation of the suspended Rivers elections results on Wednesday March 20.
Similarly, the electoral umpire said it would resume collation of suspended results of Tafawa Belewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State on Tuesday, March 19.
Governorship candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP were leading in both states before the INEC announced suspension of collation after the process was interrupted by thugs and some overzealous security agents.
INEC has therefore, cancelled its rescheduled election for Bauchi on March 23, explaining that final result of the poll would be declared after the collation of the outstanding LGA on Tuesday.
This position was contained in two separate statements issued Friday night by INEC.
According to the statements signed by INEC National Commissioner, Festus Okoye, the commission took the decision after studying the reports of its investigative panels on Rivers and Bauchi elections.
In the statement, INEC lampooned the Nigerian Army for the alleged role played by some of its soldiers in the disruption of the electoral processes in Rivers State.
INEC expressed deep regrets over the ugly development which it said was a dent on its image, while vowing to ensure the conclusion of the process very soon.
The electoral umpire also announced the change of the Collation Officer for Tafawa Balewa LGA who reportedly withdrew due to threats to her life.
INEC appealed for calm in the affected states assuring that the results of the polls would be declared at the end of the collation at the rescheduled dates.
The statement read in part : “On the 12 day of March 2019 the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) considered a report submitted by the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Bauchi State on the disruption of the Collation process at the Tafawa Balewa Collation Centre which led to the cancelation of results for the entire Local Government.
“The Commission found that there are issues that need further investigation and set up a Committee for that purpose.
“The findings of the Committee are as follows: The Governorship and State Assembly Elections were held on the 9th March 2019 in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area and the votes scored by candidates were announced at the Polling Units and collated at the 11 Registration Areas of the Local Government. Halfway into the Local Government collation, armed gangs attacked the collation centre and destroyed the Local Government Result Sheet (EC8C) and some collated results from the Registration Areas.
“The results of 7 out of 11 Registration Areas for Governorship and 6 out of 11 for State Assembly elections were affected. INEC guidelines provide that where violent disruption affects collation in this manner, results should be regenerated from duplicate copies on a replacement result sheet.
“The Collation Officer, under pressure from Party Agents who could not wait for the arrival of a replacement result sheet, decided to collate the result on an available RA result sheet instead of the replacement LGA result sheet. When the result was presented at the State Governorship Collation Centre, the Returning Officer rejected the regenerated result because it was on a wrong result sheet.
“The Investigation Committee established that the result in Polling Units and Registration Areas are available and in safe custody. The Investigation Committee also established that the number of cancelled votes for the 4 Polling Units in Ningi Local Government Area which was recorded as 25,330 in form EC40G (1) was incorrect.
“The actual figure is 2,533. Consequently, the Commission has taken the following decisions: Approved the resumption and conclusion of the collation of results of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area in relation to the Governorship election as the duplicate and original Registration Area results are available. Approved the resumption, conclusion and announcement of the result of the Tafawa Balewa State Constituency.
“The appointment of a new Collation/Returning Officer for Tafawa Balewa Local Government to continue and conclude the collation process in place of the original Collation Officer who withdrew from the exercise citing threats to her life and those of her family members.
“The Collation process for Tafawa Balewa Local Government will resume on Tuesday, 19th March 2019. The Commission directed that the error in the total number of cancelled votes in four polling units in Ningi Local Government Area should be corrected from 25,330 to 2,533. The Commission appeals to all stakeholders for continuous support and understanding”.
Shedding more light on the stalemated Rivers elections, INEC said; “On the 10th of March 2019, the Commission suspended all electoral processes in Rivers State having determined that there was widespread disruption of collation of results of the elections conducted on the 9th day of March 2019. Subsequently, the Commission set up a Fact-Finding Committee to assess the situation and report back within 48 hours.
“The Commission met on the 15th day of March 2019 and considered the report of the Committee and established the following: That the Governorship and State Assembly elections took place in most of the polling units and results were announced. That the results from 17 Local Governments out of 23 are available and are in the Commission’s custody.
“That the Declaration and Returns for 21 State Constituencies out of 32 were made prior to the suspension. That collation centres were invaded by some soldiers and armed gangs resulting in the intimidation and unlawful arrest of election officials thereby disrupting the collation process.
“Consequent upon the foregoing, the Commission: Expresses its displeasure with the role played by some soldiers and armed gangs in Rivers State disrupting the collation process and attempting to subvert the will of the people. Is committed to expeditious completion of the collation process where results of the elections have been announced.
“Will engage the security agencies at national level and the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee at the State level to demand neutrality and professionalism of security personnel in order to secure a peaceful environment for the completion of the elections.
“Will also engage with key stakeholders in Rivers State with a view to ensuring a smooth and peaceful completion of the process. Will issue detailed timelines and activities for the completion of the election on Wednesday March 20th, 2019”.
INEC warned that anyone caught disrupting or attempting to disrupt the electoral process would be dealt with according to the law.
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