• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

I have lost confidence in Rivers REC, says Abe 

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Magnus Abe, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Rivers South East Senatorial District in the yet-to-be concluded legislative rerun elections, may be planning to boycott the rerun, going by his recent declaration of loss of confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Rivers State, Aniedi Ikiowak.

The Ogoni born politician on Monday accused the REC of being ‘too close’ to Governor Nyesom Wike, which he claims may not play well for his chances at the impending rerun.

He alleged that Ikoiwak was a contractor to the Ministry of Education when Nyesome Wike, incumbent Rivers governor was Minister of State for Education.

The INEC is yet to fix a date for concluding the rerun elections in some constituencies in the state, following strong security challenges in the March 19 rerun.

 Abe, who is seeking to return to the senate he once served, alleged in Port Harcourt on Monday that Ikiowak has a warm relationship with Governor Wike as a contractor, and had demonstrated bias from the manner he conducted the rerun election by allegedly manipulating and announcing the results of Port Harcourt Municipal Government (PHALGA), despite alleged high irregularities, and suspending the results of Tai LGA in order to allegedly give PDP an advantage.

“We have expressed very grave misgivings about the conduct of the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers State. First, is that, more than two weeks after the elections, he went ahead to declare four seats for the PDP. Those four seats that were declared, one of them, the margin of win is less than the number of people that had not voted, but he declared it for PDP and handed over a Certificate of Return,” alleged Abe.

 According to him, “everybody knows about the controversial ward in PHALGA that was not taken into account, on his own, without anything; he cancelled that and declared the person he wanted to declare. I can cite several other instances. In the same PHALGA, where election was cancelled and the E.O [Electoral Officer] was asked to withdraw, the E.O withdrew, an assistant E.O stayed back, conducted the election, declared the winner, and he was handed a Certificate of Return because he is PDP. But in Tai LGA, that is where the REC now became the E.O, insisting that Tai LGA has been cancelled, Tai can never come back because he had cancelled it, but PHALGA that he cancelled can come back.”

Abe, who is said to face opposition from his Ogoni base following alleged poor representation of the senatorial district during his first stint at the Senate (2011 – 2015), alleged that because of the relationship Ikiowak has with Wike, stemming from the time the latter was Minister of State for Education, and considering the REC’s role in the alleged rigging of the rerun election, that he (Abe) can no longer believe there is a level-playing ground for all the political parties; and therefore, has lost confidence in the ability of Ikiowak to conduct a free, fair and credible rerun election in the state.

Abe alleged that “any impartial observer could have absolutely no confidence in a contractor REC. Nobody can be a REC and contractor at the same time to one of the parties in the election. And nobody can accept that as a free and fair contest. I don’t know if there is going to be an election, and a contractor will be the REC conducting such election. I don’t think that any reasonable person will agree to participate in that kind of exercise.”

He however, said that that did not mean that he would pull out of the election, except directed by the party; rather he would want the issue to be addressed.

“There is no question of me pulling out or not. It is party that contest election. So, that is something for the party to decide. But, clearly, you and I can see that a REC that can declare victory for a party that had not won, cannot be trusted by a party against whom that kind of declaration was made,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the prosecution of Ojukaye Flag Amachree, a former chairman of Akuku Toru Local Government Area, Abe alleged that the state government was prosecuting him because he is a member of the APC; adding that the prosecution was a continuation of alleged intimidation of the APC.

“Today, we now have political prisoners in Rivers State. Ojukaye is a political prisoner. I’m not sure that Nigerians are aware of the dimension that the case against Ojukaye is taking in the state. This is a man who was charged with murder in a Magistrate Court. And those who know what happened know that he actually went to the Police station to make enquiries about some of the boys from his area that were unjustly arrested and detained in the course of the elections. He was not invited to the police station on the suspicion of any murder. But because he was in the Police station, asking for the release of some of the boys unjustly arrested, he was taken to court and charged with murder,” claimed Abe.

The former Secretary to the Rivers State Government alleged that the then Inspector-General of Police, when he learnt of the case, requested that the charge be withdrawn and thorough investigation done to enable the Police determine the appropriate charge.