INEC declares Bayelsa Guber Poll Inconclusive: APC Protests

Amidst increased tension in some parts of Bayelsa State, the Independent National Electoral Commission on Monday cancelled the governorship election in the volatile Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state.

INEC subsequently declared the governorship poll inconclusive.

The cancellation of the election in the area came barely three hours after a group, believed to be the supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party, protested outside the premises of the collation centre in Yenagoa.

It was gathered that the group was aggrieved over an alleged attempt to rig the governorship election in Southern Ijaw LGA.

The state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Baritor Kpagih, who announced the cancellation of the election in the area, told newsmen and observers, who had waited for hours at the collation centre, that a date for a fresh election in the council would soon be announced.

Southern Ijaw Local Government Area has 120,827 registered voters, the highest in the eight council areas of the state.

Kpagih said there were reports that the poll in the area was “substantially” marred by violence, ballot box snatching and hostage taking of electoral officers.

The state REC’s pronouncement came immediately after the state Returning Officer, Prof. Kpazia Akpagu, told newsmen and election observers that he would not be able to take a final decision on the exercise until the result of the Southern Ijaw election was received.

“We have yet to receive results from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area. They (Southern Ijaw LGA) have 120,827 registered voters. As a result of this, I, as the Returning Officer, cannot return on this election until the results of this local government (Southern Ijaw) are received,” he said.

The REC stated that he was, on behalf of INEC, cancelling the election in order to protect the integrity of the election process.

Akpagu added, “You will recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission conducted governorship election in Bayelsa State on the December 5, 2015. The commission announced that the poll should be discontinued in some local government areas, including Southern Ijaw LGA of the state.

“As of today, December 7, 2015, the results of the election in all local government areas, except Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, have been collated.

“Reports on the election conducted in Southern Ijaw LGA on December 6, 2015, revealed that the election was substantially marred by violence, ballot snatching and hostage taking of electoral officers.

“These include reports from political parties, observers, both local and foreign, among others. These fall short of international acceptable standard for credible elections.

“Consequently, the commission has decided, in the interest of the integrity of the process, to cancel the governorship election in Southern Ijaw LGA. A new date for Southern Ijaw governorship election will be announced in due course.”

Before the announcement, the state REC and some top security officers had held what was tagged ‘a security meeting’ at the INEC office in the state capital over the situation in Southern Ijaw.

INEC had earlier announced the results of the election in Nembe and Ogbia LG areas, leaving the PDP candidate, Seriake Dickson, with 105,748 votes while his closest rival, Timipre Sylva, got a total of 72,594 votes.

But the results from seven local government areas which were declared, were not enough to declare the incumbent governor the winner of the election due to the cancellation of the election in Southern Ijaw, which has 120,827 registered voters.

Before the announcement of the cancellation of the result of the election in Southern Ijaw, there was an increased tension in some parts of Bayelsa, especially in Southern Ijaw, where militant groups reportedly clashed over snatched ballot boxes.

Some of the ‘snatched ballot boxes’ were brought to INEC office and the collation centres by suspected militants, who claimed they were able to stop security operatives from tampering with them.

The tension in the area had forced the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Department of Training and Development, Hashimu Argungu, to announce the immediate ban on all forms of procession, rallies or demonstration in the state.

In an interview with newsmen outside the collation centre, Argungu said that Nigeria remained bigger than any individuals, no matter how highly placed.

He stated that contrary to reports, no person was killed during the election in Bayelsa State.

Meanwhile, Sylva has rejected the cancellation of the election in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state.

At a news conference on Monday in Yenagoa, the former governor said the INEC decided to cancel the poll because he won by a large margin that made him the winner of the election.

While accusing INEC of bias, Sylva said if the commission must cancel the election in Southern Ijaw, where he claimed that he won roundly on flimsy excuses, the commission must also cancel the poll in Ekeremor, Nembe, Sagbama and other places.

He said, “We had an election two days ago. In Ekeremor, there were widespread shootings; they beat up people; the minister’s house was under siege for a long time. It took a team of security operatives to repel the assailants, yet election was held in Ekeremor.

“When APC protested, the protest was waived aside; our protest died like a candle in the wind.

“In Sagbama, we did not see election materials. As I speak, one of the chieftains of our party is lying critically ill. The APC protested vehemently, nobody heard our protest.

“In Nembe, where the APC won, they quickly cancelled two wards, 8 and 9. We protested and our protest was rejected.

“The election ab initio was set up for the PDP to win. In Southern Ijaw, we have a good showing there, and the election is cancelled.

“When the REC saw that the APC was leading, he cancelled it. This is very unacceptable to our party. If they want us to accept it, they must cancel the elections in Ekeremor, Sagbama, part of Ogbia and Nembe.”

Sylva maintained that the REC had no power to cancel election that had taken place, stressing that it was only the Returning Officer that had the power to announce a cancellation.

Sylva said the APC was going to collate all results in SILGA and head for court.

Also, the national leadership of the PDP has alleged that voters in Bayelsa State rejected an alleged plan by the APC to rig the state’s governorship election.

It therefore commended the courage of the people of the state in “fearlessly curtailing APC’s rigging machinery.”

The party said the action of the voters led to the cancellation of the election result in Southern Ijaw LGA of the state.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh, stated this in a statement in Abuja on Monday.

Metuh said, “But for the bravery of Bayelsans in standing up for their votes against harassment by the military and other security forces working for the APC, their will as a people would have been completely subverted in the election.”

He said the PDP was proud of the actions and concerted efforts of its members in resisting the alleged rigging and impunity.

The PDP stated, “We condemn in the strongest possible term the wanton confiscation and transfer of voting materials by security operatives directly to the APC agents for outright allocation of votes.

“For the purposes of the rescheduled Southern Ijaw election, we wish to make it abundantly clear that we are ready, willing and able to defend the choice of the people.

“Never again will this leadership of the PDP allow our party candidates to be manipulated out of any election at any level.’’

The state agent of the APC, Mr. Dennis Otiotio, told journalists that INEC in the state had shown bias against his party.

Otiotio alleged that the election in Yenagoa, Sagbama and Ekeremor was marred by violence and hijacking of election materials, adding that the Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, was nearly killed by political thugs.

He added, “The violence in Yenagoa was fierce as some persons hijacked materials and wrote results; they accepted the results. In Nembe Ward 8 and 9, there was no election, yet they accepted the results.’’

An agent of the PDP in the state, Fred Agbedi, said his party was ready to wait for the next date of the election in Southern Ijaw.

Agbedi said, “For supporters of the PDP and Southern Ijaw people, our duty, as a party and our candidate and governor of Bayelsa State, is to ensure that there is peaceful atmosphere, where everybody is given the opportunity to cast his or her votes without intimidation and deprivation, and that is what the governor of my state and the leader of the party stands for.’’

As of Monday evening, the atmosphere in Yenagoa was still tense as people gathered in groups to know the outcome of the election, especially in the highly-volatile Southern Ijaw LGA.


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