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Abia North rerun: INEC bars SSG, commissioners, TC chairmen, others from result collation centres

… Violators to be arrested

From Chuks Onuoha, Umuahia and Taiwo Amodu, Abuja
AHEAD of Saturday rerun election, the In­dependent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Abia State chapter, in collaboration with security agencies, has barred government officials, transition com­mittee chairmen of local government areas and others who do not have any business at result collation centres locat­ed at local government headquarters.
Violators will be ar­rested and prosecuted.
INEC Resident Elec­toral Commissioner for Abia, Sylvester Eziani gave this warning yes­terday at a meeting with political party leaders and security agencies in the state.
Those who attended the meeting are: Com­mander of the Army Barracks at Ohafia, di­rector of the Department of State Security (DSS), commissioner of police, director of prisons, as­sistant comptroller of customs, commandant of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and lead­ers of political parties, among others
The REC was prompt­ed to speak when rep­resentatives of political parties at the meeting raised the issue of transi­tion committee chairmen being involved in the election.
He stated that the tran­sition committee chair­man were barred from the local government on election day, emphasis­ing: “if a landlord had given his house to some­one to use for one day, he has no business trying to control the tenant on how to use the house.”
The INEC official said since transition chair­men had given out their local governments for use for the election, they have no authority to in­terfere on who should be allowed in or not or come close to the place.
He also told govern­ment officials, includ­ing the governor, deputy governor, commission­ers, advisers to the gov­ernor, speaker and mem­bers of the House of Assembly to steer clear of the result collation centres. He said govern­ment officials from the senatorial zones, who will exercise their fran­chise should vote and go home.
The REC said Sat­urday is not a working day and so, those who are neither representing parties nor agents of the candidates have no busi­ness being there.
With this clear warn­ing, security agencies present at the meeting agreed that violators to the rule would be arrest­ed and made to face the full wrath of the law.
In a related develop­ment, INEC in Abuja has said that rules guid­ing movement at poll­ing booths and collation centres on election days have not changed.
INEC rules bar gov­ernment officials from being at result coalition centres. These include president, vice president, governors, deputy gov­ernor, minsters, com­missioners, local gov­ernment chairmen and councillors, advisers to governors/presidents and secretary to state government, among oth­ers.
Speaking with Daily Sun in a telephone in­terview, INEC Deputy Director, Publicity and Voters’ Education, Nick Dazang, enunciated spe­cific people be allowed around collation centres.
“We haven’t reviewed the laws guiding move­ment around collation centres. What we frown against is people trying to intimidate INEC of­ficials. How do we en­sure transparency when we keep people away? We allow accredited re­porters, party agents and party officials, INEC officials, and security agents to secure the en­vironment.”
Daily Sun gathered that ahead of the pre­dictably tension-soaked election, political activi­ties in Abia North have heightened with political parties and candidates fine-tuning their strate­gies for victory at the poll.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri had, last year, sacked Sena­tor Mao Ohuabunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election.
Ohuabunwa was de­clared winner of the election which was con­ducted by INEC in April 11, 2015 and the tribu­nal, which sat in Umua­hia, upheld the election, but eminent business man and former gover­nor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, candi­date of the Progressives People Alliance (PPA) challenged the outcome of the exercise.
In Kalu’s appeal, Justice I.G. Mbaba noted that the senato­rial poll, which pro­duced Ohuabunwa, was marred by high level ir­regularities and that the results were mutilated.
The judges ruled that it was better for a fresh election which would be transparent and credible to be held because, ac­cording to him, the pre­vious poll was marred by fraud and results mu­tilated.
The judgment of the Appeal Court was re­ceived with jubilation in many quarters with prominent politicians in the state describing it as “victory for democ­racy.”
The call for a re­run came as a relief to many who felt there was proved evidence that the mandate of the peo­ple was subverted in that election. Four political parties are fielding can­didates for the election.
They are All Progres­sives Congress (APC) with Nnenna Nma Lan­caster-Okoro as candi­date; Peoples Demo­cratic Party (PDP), Hon Mao Ohuanunwa; All Progressives Grand Al­liance (APGA), Chief David Ogba Onuoha and Kalu.

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