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INEC Suspends Rivers Bye-Election



Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has suspended the bye-election into Port Harcourt 3 Constituency seat in the Rivers State House of Assembly following the widespread violence that greeted the exercise. The commission’s resident electoral commissioner in the state, Obo Effanga, announced the suspension last night while briefing newsmen at their office in Port Harcourt. In his statement, the commissioner narrated the reasons why the election had to be postponed. “The election started peacefully in all the units with all the INEC personnel with all necessary materials reporting to their duty post well ahead of time. “However, midway into the election, miscreants and hoodlums accompanied by heavily armed security personnel in uniform stormed the various polling units and registration areas, disrupting voting activities, destroying and carting away election materials including smart card readers and ballot boxes. In addition, many election officials were manhandled, injured and held hostage.

“As a result of this widespread and wanton disruption of the electoral process as reported from the filed by supervising presiding officers and supervisors from the commission, and also, having reviewed the situation, the commission, in accordance with the provisions of Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) has decided to suspend the election forthwith.”
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that INEC abruptly stopped the collation of results and moved collated results to its office along Aba Road in Port Harcourt following security reports that suspected political thugs were planning to attack the collation centre, located inside Saint Andrew’s State School, Diobu. It was also revealed that the election in Ward 10 and Ward 18, which are the strong bases of former chairman of Port City local government area, Chief Azubike Nmerukini, and former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara, were worst hit by the violence. The candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the bye-election, Chimeka Nmerukini is the son of Chief Nmerukini. Although no life was lost, hoodlum took advantage of the violent atmosphere to attack and rob innocent residents of the state of their cash, phones and other valuables. Meanwhile, the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, has accused the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the violence during the bye-election in Port Harcourt 3 Constituency.

Publicity secretary of APC in the state, Senibo Chris Finebone, in a statement issued last night, described the development as very unfortunate. “The Rivers State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) notes with sadness how the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) resorted to large-scale violence across the units and wards of Port Harcourt Local Government Area Constituency 3 during the bye-election in the area today. “It is unfortunate that what should be a mere state constituency bye-election witnessed unprecedented voter intimidation, harassment, vote-buying and shooting activated by the PDP in line with their usual character of rigging elections through killing and maiming of APC members.

“However, it is encouraging that the people of the constituency stood their ground and resisted the intimidation by PDP leaders in the area. It signifies that PDP will no more have its way as was the case in the past years. “The talk that the APC state chairman, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, was engaged in any form of activity in the constituency during the election is mere facade created to mask the evil machinations of the PDP during the bye-election.