The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has suspended the Rivers State Constituency III Bye-election in the state.
In a statement made by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Obo Effanga, the electoral umpire, the decision was necessary following the “widespread violence” that characterized the exercise.
The statement reads in part, “As a result of this widespread and wanton disruption of the electoral process as reported from the field by the Supervisory 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 elections forthwith.”
INEC noted that all its staff alongside all recruited ad-hoc staff had reported to their duty posts with materials well ahead of time. The election is said to have been peaceful in all the 142 polling units where the elections were to be conducted.
Midway into the elections, hoodlums, accompanied by heavily armed security personnel in uniform stormed the various polling units and registrations areas involved, causing disruption of voting activities. INEC also said that the hoodlums destroyed and carted off election materials, including smart card readers and ballot boxes.
The Commissioner also alleged that many of its electoral officers were manhandled and injured while a few others were held hostage.
Meanwhile in a swift reaction to this development, the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, said that the he consistency with which the police interfered with the electoral process in the state was a declaration of war on the people.
Wike, made this statement, in a state-wide broadcast on Sunday, insisting that the armed thugs were working for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state and calling on Rivers state citizens not to succumb to the antics of the police, lest they become slaves in their fatherland.
“The consistent sabotage of the electoral process by the police amounts to a declaration of war against the people of Rivers State and their solemn rights to freely and fairly choose their leaders and representatives.
Instead of providing security for voters and INEC officials, the police brazenly colluded with political thugs of the APC to subvert the democratic process and denied the people of Port Harcourt Constituency 3 their rights to free, fair and credible elections.”
Senator Ahmed Makarfi, a Former National Caretaker Committee Chairman and Presidential hopeful on the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has also condemned the disruption of the bye-elections. Speaking to journalists on Sunday, Makarfi called on the President to bring the culprits to book.
“I have said it when I went to commission a project in Rivers that, one Governor that has been under the continuous siege, intimidation and harassment by the Federal Government is Governor Wike of Rivers State. It is uncalled for and this must stop.
“The Saturday election in Taraba went fine, but in Rivers, look at the disruption with the connivance of the security agencies involved. And we all know who in the Federal Government is responsible for this crisis in Rivers State,” he said.