Apathy, Violence Trail Akwa Ibom Council Polls

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Uncertainty, confusion, violence, frustration, apathy, non-supply of election materials marred the conduct of the local government election held Saturday by Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC).

It was gathered that, while few areas received materials for the election, thousands of electorate were denied the opportunity of voting candidates of their choice because of lack of election materials.

Majority of Akwa Ibom people stayed indoors due to restriction of movement announced in a broadcast by the State Governor, Udom Emmanuel on Friday.

Though the order took place from 12 a.m. Friday to 4 p.m. Saturday, some thugs and politicians still moved about some villages without observing the movement restriction order.

On Friday night, it was the timely intervention of security operatives that saved the headquarters of AKISIEC along Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo from being burnt down as dozens of political thugs invaded the premises to monitor the release of the sensitive materials.

Heavy shoot-out ensued in some local government offices of the AKISIEC when hoodlums attempted to hijack the election materials just as fake policemen reportedly had a field day in securing the hijack of materials.

In Mbo LGA, particularly in Ebughu Ward 1 and 2, hoodlums were said to have hijacked election materials. Some youths were said to have blown off some ballots with gunfire.

At Udung Uko, thugs hijacked all the ballot boxes while youths were said to be attacking passers-by and setting ablaze many vehicles in the process.

As at 12 a.m. sensitive election materials were yet to arrive in Urue Offiong/Oruko, Ikot Abasi and many other local government areas, particularly those that are APC strongholds.

In Esit Eket, thugs loyal to a political stalwart also hijacked election materials, while youths of another faction regrouped and launched an attack to recover the materials.

Voting has started in Ibiono Ibom, Eastern Obolo. But in Ini LGA, fake police were said to be going about hijacking election materials.

Reacting to theconduct of the election, Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) who is also a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, described the election as a farce.

Ekere, who waited for voting materials to arrive his voting unit for the elections as at 2.30 p.m. told newsmen that he was not surprised local government elections were not held in the state as planned.

He said what happened in his ward was replicated in all wards across the state, stressing that the state government, PDP and AKISIEC had already concluded plans not to conduct the local government elections in Akwa Ibom State.

“The entire process is a farce as there is no material for election even in my ward. Democracy is having people to have their way, especially in local government which is the grassroots.

“Looking at my village there are no materials on ground and the people have been waiting since 8 a.m. Saturday” he declared.

He questioned why AKISIEC went to some local government areas to release incomplete or half of the materials for the election, positing that it was glaring that states electoral commissions could not conduct free and fair council polls.

The APC chieftain said he would support the constitutional amendment to allow INEC to conduct both the national and local government elections across the states of the federation while also expressing reservations over plans for state police.

“I have always said that the National Assembly should hand over the conduct of LG elections to INEC because the State Governors are not capable of conducting free and fair elections.

“You can imagine that in a state where the Governor is PDP, PDP will win all the elections and likewise APC and even APGA. I am sure you all have seen that as at 2.30 pm no material has been issued to my unit and I doubt if they will do so.

“Already, the PDP government which is controlling the election has written the result. You should also hear that some PDP members were arrested by the DSS while thumb printing ballot papers on Friday, a day before the elections.

“So, I and the membership of the APC in the state reject the process of this election. It is not acceptable to us. Elections especially at the local level should be done in a transparent manner to deepen democracy.

“The entire process showed that the PDP led Akwa Ibom state government was not ready for the elections. Akwa Ibom people have rejected the PDP and it is this fear that has made them not to allow elections to take place in the state.

“This is also why I am opposed to state police because the Governors will abuse it by using it against their political opponents. So things like this are better handled by the Federal Government” he maintained.

Noting that there was no other state that opposition is as strong as Akwa Ibom State, he said the handling of the local government elections in the state showed that the Akwa Ibom people have rejected PDP hence the planned disenfranchisement of the electorate.

“Majority of Akwa Ibom people have rejected PDP and they are aware. That is why they don’t to put election on ground for people to vote.

“They have already computed the results and even in my ward that AKISIEC did not bring election materials, the results will be announced”, he said.

Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to President on National Assembly (Senate), said the local government election was the worst ever conducted election in the state.

Enang said PDP and AKISIEC knew APC were the majority party in the state which is why they did not bring election materials for the people to vote so as not to lose the elections.

Also speaking to newsmen, an Observer group in the election, the Coalition of Civil Society said their observation revealed that there was no local government elections in Akwa Ibom state.

The Head of the Group, Mr Alli Abacha, said their visit to all the polling units across the state revealed that there were no voting materials at the polling units.

However, Mr Ini Ememobong, the State Publicity Secretary of PDP, described the election as free and fair.

Ememobong said that APC did not prepare for the local government election as they did not even go on campaigns to canvass for votes.

He said that late arrival of election materials to some polling units was in exceptional cases and not applicable to APC strongholds alone.

DSP Bala Elkana, the PPRO, said there was no fatality since the election started, saying the police were on election grounds to ensure the peaceful conduct of the elections.