Olusola Fabiyi and Chukwudi Akasike
The RIVERS State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Nigeria Police of colluding with the All Progressives Congress to rig the December 10, 2016 legislative rerun in the state.
Wike specifically accused the state APC of printing fake result sheets and other election materials inside a building located at No. 12, Isiokpo Street, D-Line, Port Harcourt.
The governor, who spoke with newsmen on Sunday at the Government House in Port Harcourt, also alleged that the police had refused to charge those behind the crime to court.
But the state APC insisted that they knew nothing about the mass production of some election materials, adding that the entire incident was stage-managed by the PDP.
The police on Saturday smashed a fake election result sheet printing syndicate in the state capital.
Wike told journalists that the police had refused to arrest some members of the APC who were allegedly behind the printing of the fake result sheets few weeks to the legislative rerun election.
“Yesterday, we burst the gang that has been printing ballot papers and result sheets for elections that have been suspended. You can see why we are saying that INEC is colluding with the APC to rig the election. But INEC has been saying it is because of insecurity.
“These people (the APC members) are aware of the units where the elections will take place. Meanwhile, INEC has not told us the units where the rerun elections will be conducted. The APC had gone ahead to print sensitive materials for the senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections.
“INEC has a hidden agenda and that is to rig this election. As for security, take for example, the police. I made sure that the team had a video of the evidence before handing it over to the police. You know that police can kill evidence.
“But instead of police charging them to court, the police are saying that they have an order to release the suspects. We know that the APC will not own up to it (the crime),” the governor added.
He, however, said that the PDP in the state would resist any attempt to rig the rerun election, saying Rivers is not Edo and Ondo states.
Wike said, “The plot is to bring the fake result sheets to the polling units in agreement with security agents and push away our agents and then concoct results. That is the role INEC is playing with the Nigeria Police.
“Let the public know that the PDP will resist any attempt by INEC to rig the December 10 election. You print fake result sheets and you expect us not to resist it. They want us to fold our arms and allow them to smuggle in fake result sheets.
“If you rig the rerun election, you rig your life. Let me tell the INEC commissioner that if they like, let them bring in the Marines, INEC should not take us for a ride. We will not allow it. Do the right thing and conduct a free and fair election.”
Reacting, the state Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Chris Finebone, said the PDP had planned to plant electoral materials at the resident of the APC chieftains with a view to getting them arrested until after the rerun election.
He queried why one of the suspects would be taken to the Government House instead of a police station, adding that it was a “contrived thing.”
Finebone said, “The idea of the PDP is to plant election materials in some homes of individuals claiming they are the APC members so as to take some of our chieftains out of circulation before the rerun election. Emma Chinda they mentioned has not been in Port Harcourt for a very long time.
“Their target is to paint Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Dr. Dakuku Peterside black. For us, they should come forth and show us prove. Security agents should come up to tell us if the operation was genuine or not.”
When contacted, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Aniedi Ikoiwak, said he would not take issues with anybody, but would continue to do his job.
“I have always said that I am not taking issues with anybody. I am just here to do my work,” he stressed.
Also, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, has described Wike’s allegation as baseless.
Yakubu said that there was no iota of truth in the governor’s allegation that the commission was colluding with the APC to rig the December 10 rerun election in the state.
Rather, he said the governor should allow the Police and other security agencies do a thorough investigation into the crime with the hope of bringing the perpetrators to book.
Yakubu, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the commission remained “a responsible organisation that takes its responsibilities very seriously.”
He said, “ Governor Wike’s allegations are baseless and unfortunate. INEC is a responsible organisation that takes its responsibilities very seriously.
“The commission could not have been aware of such a criminal act. I will advise the governor to stop throwing stones at INEC at the slightest opportunity.”
Oyekanmi insisted that the Police were well equipped to handle the case and that it was too early to reach a conclusion on the matter.
He said, “Well, we believe that the Nigeria Police have competent officers who will investigate this development and bring all the culprits to book.
“It is too early for anybody to draw conclusions. We should allow the Police to complete their investigation.
“INEC wants the case thoroughly investigated and the culprits and their sponsors prosecuted.”
Reacting, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Nnamdi Omoni, said the police as a security outfit had remained professional, adding that it was not possible to arrest suspects allegedly involved in the printing of election result sheets and charge them to court the same day.
“The police have always embraced professional standards in carrying out their duty. We have not colluded or think of colluding with INEC, any person or group of persons to rig election,” he added.