The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has condemned what it described as the role played by some soldiers and armed gangs in Rivers State which it said led to the disruption of the electoral process.
In a statement dated March 15, the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the action was an attempt to subvert the will of the people.
According to the statement, this was part of the submissions made after the Commission set up a fact-finding committee to assess the situation in the state.
Following reports of widespread violence and other forms of intimidation in the state, collation of results and other activities for the governorship and state assembly elections were suspended on March 10.
In the run up to the elections, Governor Wike had consistently accused the army in Rivers State of bias and being used to interfere in the state’s politics and ultimately influence the outcome of the 2019 General Elections in the state.
At a time, the governor alleged that soldiers from 6 Division, Nigerian Army, trailed him in Port Harcourt while on his way to see some people, with the intention of assassinating him.
“Yesterday, I was shocked when I left here to go and see some political leaders, soldiers were following me. Anybody who knows me would know that I have never gone out with any soldier but the soldiers were following me,” said Wike.
The allegation by Governor Wike was, however, dismissed by the army. In a statement, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Aminu Iliyasu described the claim as “lies and cheap blackmail against the 6 Division, Nigerian Army”.
While the collation of the March 9 Governorship and House of Assembly elections was underway, soldiers and policemen clashed at the INEC Collation Centre in the Rivers State capital, an incident that ultimately hampered the collation exercise, in addition to other infractions recorded at various polling units. This prompted INEC to suspend the electoral processes in the state.
However, following the conclusion of its investigation, INEC said it had already concluded collation of results of the governorship election from 17 of the state’s 23 LGAs.
For the House of Assembly elections, it said returns had been made for 21 of the 32 state seats in the exercise.
According to Okoye, the rest would now be concluded on a date to be announced on March 20.