Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Nigerian Government Vows to Sanction Culprits of Rivers Rerun Violence
By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Terhemba Daka, Kanayo Umeh (Abuja), Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt) and Nnamdi Akpan (Abakaliki)
Nigerian Guardian  
23 March 2016   |   12:54 am

Outrage at the death of a corps member, Okonta Samuel, during last weekend rerun elections in Rivers State, the Federal Government has vowed to deal with the perpetrators of violence in the election.

The Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, who blamed the violence on politicians who refused to play by the rules, described the crisis as a display of primitive political culture.

The minister attributed the death of the corps member to the inordinate ambition of politicians, making it clear that under this era of change, this impunity would never be celebrated.

During a condolence visit by the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu to the headquarters of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Abuja over the death of the corps member, he said: “As leaders we must conduct ourselves very well, holding life as very sacred. We want to assure Nigerians that under this administration of change impunity will never be celebrated; actors of the wicked act in Rivers must be brought to book.”

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to set up an investigative panel of inquiry to unravel the causes of the violence that characterised the Saturday rerun State and National Assembly elections in Rivers State.

Besides,the caucus of PDP in the House of Representatives yesterday alleged that the INEC was facilitating a plot to manipulate the results of the rerun election.

This is coming in the wake of Governor Nyesom Wike’s declaration that INEC lacked the power to cancel election results that have been collated, alleging that it was part of APC’s desperation to rig the polls in preparation for a grand plot to take over the State House of Assembly in order to pave way for his eventual impeachment.

Briefing journalists at the PDP national secretariat in Abuja, the national chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff said: “Whilst we join well-meaning Nigerians to condemn the cases of violence which reportedly characterised the process in some areas, we enjoin the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to immediately constitute a panel to carry out a dispassionate investigation of the circumstances with a view to unraveling the truth and bringing the culprits to book.

“The PDP also condemns the reported roles played by some officers ‘ and members of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who are said to have in some cases acted beyond their expected role of maintenance of law and order and taken over the responsibility of INEC in the actual conduct of the rerun election.”

Sheriff noted that the Armed Forces acted in flagrant disobedience of a court order, adding that this was a matter that required an urgent investigation and appropriate sanction.

Sheriff expressed surprise that INEC having collated and declared results on ground in many wards and constituencies, allegedly yielded to pressure and instruction from above to suspend the much-awaited declaration of final results and return of the winners, who were already known to the electorate.

“We stress that the Electoral Act 2010 (as Amended) and applicable regulations do not support the suspension of the declaration of results after collation has been completed. We therefore demand the declaration of all results already collated and the return of the winners of the elections,” he stated.

Also addressing journalists, the PDP caucus said what the electoral umpire had done by withholding the results of the election was alien to the electoral law and the Nigerian constitution.

The Minority Leader of the House, Leo Ogor, who spoke on behalf of the caucus, said that the election had been conducted and concluded, and results collated and announced at the polling booths.

He said that since INEC did not declare the election inconclusive, his party did not understand the basis for withholding the results of the polls, saying that the caucus was troubledby the commission’s decision to suspend action on the election.

He observed:“The conduct and actions of the INEC show not just incompetence but a regression from the gains of the reformed electoral system as championed by President Goodluck Jonathan, which enabled the APC to win the 2015 elections.”

But INEC maintained that no further action would be taken concerning the rerun state and national elections until it finishes the assessment of personnel and materials deployed for the conduct of the polls.

Also yesterday, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase said that the political class and not the police should be blamedfor the violence that marked the rerun election .

Fielding questions from journalists in Abakaliki during his one-day working visit to Ebonyi State police command, he exonerated the Nigeria police, maintaining that what the police did was to ensure a conducive environment that allowed law-abiding citizens to cast their votes.

He dismissed allegations in some quarters that the police favoured the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) in the exercise.
His words: “It is not the police that ignite violence; it is the political class that ignites violence. All we do is to ensure we secure a conducive environment that can allow law-abiding citizens to cast their votes in any election. The situation in Rivers has nothing to do with the police; it has something to do with the political class.”

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