As the Rivers State re-run elections into the Federal and State legislatures fixed for December 10 approaches, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had warned the state governor, Nyesom Wike and other political actors to stop making reckless statements that could instigate violence in the state ahead of the poll.
The warning was contained in a statement made available to news men in Abuja by the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi.
It lamented that it had observed that ahead of the next Saturday’s re-run polls, political actors in state including the state governor have been talking tough and making allegations against one another and the electoral commission.
While reiterating its determination to conclude the elections in Rivers State in a free, fair, and transparent manner, the Commission stated that the recent Edo and Ondo governorship elections “can be replicated if all stakeholders play by the rules.”
The Commission assured that it would remain impartial and committed to conducting credible, fair and transparent elections.
According to the statement, “the Commission hereby restates its determination to conclude the elections in Rivers State in a free, fair, and transparent manner on the said Saturday, 10th December 2016.
“The recent Edo and Ondo governorship elections eloquently speak of the feat that can be achieved if all stakeholders do the needful.
“However, the Commission condemns, in very strong terms, the relentless false allegations, provocative and dangerous comments being made by some political actors, especially the Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike against the Commission, all of which are capable of inciting people to commit violent acts that could derail the election.
“We appeal to stakeholders to henceforth refrain from making pronouncements that could either overheat the state or instigate their followers to violence.
“We also appeal to all the political parties and their supporters to abide by all the extant laws governing the electoral process
“We wish to reassure all Nigerians that the Commission will remain impartial and committed to conducting credible, fair and transparent elections at all times.”
It will be recalled, however, that INEC, in obedience to court orders resulting from disputes over the 2015 general elections, conducted re-run elections in Rivers State on March 19, 2016, to fill various seats in the national and Rivers State House of Assembly.
The outbreak of violence, which culminated in the death of a member of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), forced the Commission to suspend the exercise.
It also recalled that at the time the rerun elections were suspended, voting had ended in certain constituencies with the winners declared; been concluded in some areas but collation of results had not been completed while, certain unauthorized persons had put the Commission’s officials under duress to declare results at some locations, while balloting did not take place at all in others.
It pointed that in an effort to conclude the elections, the Commission held a Stakeholders’ Forum in Abuja on June 30, 2016, where it was agreed that the elections be held on July 30, 2016.
“However, following persistent inflammatory comments by political actors in the state, an arson attack on the Commission’s office at Khana Local Government Area on 22nd July 2016 by unknown persons and credible security reports, it became impossible to hold the elections as planned
“After months of wide consultations with stakeholders aimed at creating a conducive atmosphere, the Commission announced on 3rd November 2016 that the elections would hold on Saturday, 10th December 2016,” it stated.