The Independent National Electoral Commission has cancelled Saturday/Sunday’s Bayelsa State governorship election in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area — one of the states’s eight LGAs and declared the entire Bayelsa state Governorship election inconclusive.
INEC said the decision was taken because of violence, the abduction of electoral officials and ballot box snatching.
The electoral agency believed what happened in Southern Ijaw was a negation of global best practices in election conduct and that it was necessary to cancel the election there to enthrone credibility in the process.
INEC at a news conference while reeling out the results in the seven local governments so far released, had said Southern Ijaw has 120, 827 votes which is being awaited, adding therefore that it cannot return a winner for the election.
Resident Electoral Commissioner Barritor Kpagir has said INEC had rescheduled the election for Sunday to afford the people to enable them exercise their rights.
The Sunday election, however, started late because of the peculiarity of the riverine area and the challenge of securing electoral officials and materials which eventually arrived late.
He, however, noted that the rescheduled election was substantially marred by violence, ballot snatching and holding of electoral officials’ hostage.
The INEC team, however, failed to give a date when a new election would be conducted and they refused to entertain questions from journalists.
The supplementary election will be conducted in due date.
Southern Ijaw local government has the largest voting strength in Bayelsa State by the 2015 registration figures. The LGA is divided into two districts; Oporoma District and Kolu- Ama District, made up of about 176 towns and villages (see list of towns and villages below). It is the biggest LGA with 17 wards and 425 polling units.
INEC had already concluded the release of the results in seven of the state’s eight local governments.
The election in Southern Ijaw had been rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday due to the violence purportedly perpetrated by ex-militants in Bayelsa and their counterparts in Delta and Rivers states, which led to the reported death of about five people.
Earlier in the evening on Sunday, there were also reports that ex-militants had disrupted the election in Amassoma ward of Ijaw South Local Government Area.
The militants carrying firearms were said to have chased away the voters and INEC officials conducting the exercise in the area.
Widespread protests by women in Southern Ijaw and on the streets of Yenagoa, the state, said to have been organized by the Peoples Democratic party, PDP, had greeted the postponement and conduct of the election from Saturday to Sunday, as claims that the All Progressives Congress, APC, in collaboration with the military and a faction of the ex-militants community in Bayelsa, were engaged in multiple thumb-printing and massive rigging of the election, in several strategic locations, including the homes of a former top aide to late Governor DSP Alameiyeseigha and a former Senator and newly sworn-in Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
PDP lawmakers in the House of Representatives, led by Minority Leader Leo Ogor, had equally lent their strong voice to the debacle, insisting that there was a conspiracy by the APC and the Joint Task Force (JTF) to rig the election in Southern Ijaw, even as they had demanded that fresh elections must be conducted in an atmosphere of peace and security where the electorate will be free to make their choice and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to step into the crisis immediately to save democracy, a legacy, it said, is the inheritance of the APC from the PDP.
The law enforcement agencies had also banned all forms of protests and demonstrations in the state but this did not stop incumbent governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, and thousands of his supporters from protesting the election situation in Southern Ijaw.
Governor Dickson, himself, in an earlier in live radio programme, had called on INEC to declare him winner, noting that he had won fair and square.
“We have won the election. I and my party have won this election fair and square. The right thing for INEC to do is to declare me the winner of this election” he said. Commissioner of enquiry to look at the management of the elections with specific reference to violations of human dignity.
The PDP national leadership, speaking in the same vein, commended INEC over its decision to conduct the fresh election, but this is against the backdrop of comments by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, who claimed that INEC’s decision was informed by “the courage of the people in fearlessly curtailing APC’s rigging machinery, which led to the cancellation of the fabricated elections in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.”
Metuh had earlier warned INEC not to declare any results from the area, citing the complicity between the military, some Ex-militants and APC in a massive operation to rig the election and present bogus results to the election body as figures returned from Southern Ijaw, after the Sunday re-scheduled polls.
Metuh had lamented that: “At the head of this illegal military operation is one Capt. Louis, who led the hijacking of elections in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, the largest in the state. Military personnel have seized ballot materials, including result sheets, in Igbomatoru, Peremabiri, ward 3, ward 6, ward 8, ward 12, ward 13 and ward 15, which they took to Ologbobiri in military gunboats, where massive thumb-printing is going on in favour of the APC.
“In Ward 7 Ekowe, the military hijacked and destroyed voting materials. During this operation, the ruthless personnel manhandled NYSC members serving as ad hoc electoral officers, some of whom were thrown into the water and would have drowned if not for well meaning Nigerians who rescued them.
“The PDP, therefore, states that the political development in Southern Ijaw is the worst in Nigeria’s electoral history and is no different from the military coup of December 31, 1983. Furthermore, we are aware that the on-going operation is intended to inflate figures in favour of the APC and cancel PDP’s obvious victory in this election. We, therefore, expect that INEC should not announce any cooked-up result coming from Southern Ijaw, which does not reflect the wishes and aspiration of the people.”
However, the All Progressives Congress, APC, has reacted swiftly to the cancellation of the election in Southern Ijaw LGA, describing it as an attempt by INEC to deny the party of victory in the governorship elections.
Governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC, Chief Timipre Sylva, stated categorically that he has rejected the results completely and will seek legal means to ensure that he gets justice in the matter.
“We reject the decision of INEC completely. Why did they single out only the violence in Southern Ijaw as reason to cancel the election when there was violence in other areas like Ekeremor and people even died, yet elections were not cancelled in those areas. In any case, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of the state has no powers to cancel an election which has already taken place. The decision of the REC is an arbitrary decision. Only the returning officers have powers to cancel the elections. All the relevant forms, including form EC8A have been filled and we have all the forms.
“As far we are concerned, there is no cancelation. We have all the forms relevant to this. We will go to court to contest this decision. As far as we are concerned, this is a clear rape of democracy”, Chief Sylva said.
Also commenting on the elections, the newly elected Minister of State (Agriculture and Rural Development) and former Senator and Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, who also doubles as the director general of the APC campaign, had earlier challenged the canvassed cancellation of the election in Southern Ijaw, insisting that the polls should be allowed to proceed.
Lokpobiri said: “That election must hold; all we need is peace and a non-violent exercise that will allow the will of the people to prevail as they file out to elect their governor. Our disappointment, however, has been the violence orchestrated by people who feel threatened that their time is up and would want to hold on to power at all cost.
“I am sure the whole world is aware of how my residence at Ekeremor was attacked by thugs who wielded dangerous arms and ammunitions. But for my insistence that no one should retaliate, the situation would have been that of bloodbath. But do we need to kill ourselves because we want to govern the people? I had to ensure extreme caution and mounted pressure on my people not retaliate, but allow the security agencies to curtail the invaders, there would have been bloodbath.”
Unsubstantiated results from the controversial Southern Ijaw election, monitored on social media, had indicated that the All Progressive Congress, APC had scored 78,123 while the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP had scored 13, 250 votes
However, eye witness reports had claimed that the alleged attempt to get this result to the INEC collation centre in Yenagoa had been thwarted, when some unidentified, gun wielding persons stormed the premises of the collation centre in a hilux vehicle and opened random fire, which had caused pandemonium as INEC officials and those in the entre had scampered for cover in the melee.
The vehicle had then reportedly sped off before its occupants could be apprehended by law enforcement officers, but the action had sufficiently disorganized their activities and left the electoral body with no other option, than to cancel the elections since the result from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area was no longer forth coming.
The Bayelsa governorship election would have been concluded and Timipre Sylva of the All Progressive Congress, APC would have been declared winner, if that result had successfully reached the INEC collation centre in Yenagoa.
As it stands now, Governor Seriake Dickson, who had already won six out of the seven declared LGA’s and was already coasting home to victory, with over 33, 000, votes difference, before the cancellation, lives to fight another day, as both the PDP and APC, await the new date when the re-scheduled Southern Ijaw LGA supplementary election will be announced by INEC.
LIST OF TOWNS AND VILLAGES IN SOUTHERN IJAW LGA
- Egberime 1
- Egberime 11
- Hopin Point
- Kamboira Boria
- North Point
- Rituagbene Saugagbene