Feb. 23: INEC confirms irregularities in Imo polls

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Imo State has admitted that the presidential and national assembly elections in the state were fraught with irregularities and expressed regret over the challenges that almost marred the polls.

Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC of the state, Prof. Francis Ezeonu made the commission’s position known in the state, yesterday at the Imo INEC Interactive Meeting with Stakeholders in Owerri, the state capital.

Disclosing that there were a few hitches that impeded the timely deployment of materials on the Election Day to some areas, Prof. Ezeonu stressed that the meeting created a forum for the commission to review what happened on the Feb. 23 elections across the state.

He alleged that there were deliberate efforts to frustrate the use of Registration Area Centres (RACs); in some places as the commission’s water tanks were carted away soon after delivery.

He said, “Wires used in reticulating electricity at the centres were removed and taken away. In a few places the community members disrupted activities at the RAC centres. “

“Out in the field, there were too much turmoil, we battled with thugs for INEC materials, corps members were hijacked and returning officers harassed and intimidated and in a few places forced to declare results that were obviously concocted under duress.

“Some other staff were obviously compromised. The maxim was either to play along or be battered.

“Our materials were destroyed and our office at Isaiala Mbano burnt down by irate mob. At Isiala Mbano alone where the office was burnt, we lost 204 Smart Card Readers and over 600 ballot boxes among others.

“In Ohaji-Egbema we lost more than 30 Smart Card Readers. Our ballot boxes and other electoral materials were destroyed with impunity. This obviously is not our idea of an election. I regret that the election did not turn out as good as we planned.

“The most painful was that highly respected members of the society, who were supposed to demonstrate leadership allowed emotion and muscle to displace reason.

“For me, it is not a palatable experience. I had earlier warned that in this journey each one of us had a role to play.

“As the Resident Electoral Commissioner, I take responsibility for all the shortcomings during the last election and I pledge to make amends. However, there are issues for which I cannot be held liable.

“The experiences of the last election have sent shock waves, so much so that some ad hoc staff have given notices that they would not wish to participate in the next election. Even corps members are are threatening to withdraw.

“The way things are going, we may come to a stage where no person will be willing to officiate during elections. The situation is that bad, but we can all work together to change it”, he added.

Stakeholders comprising members of the civil society, party agents; party chieftains among others expressed their dissatisfaction with the conduct of the last election.

The Secretary of Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC, Mrs. Ijeoma Onwubuariri urged INEC to consider the option of using electronic voting to curb the noticed challenges.

Credits: Nigerian Pilot