AS controversies rage over the Supreme Court ruling on the 2019 Imo governorship election, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has side-stepped urge to clear the air on the issue, saying it would not be drawn into debates surrounding the propriety or otherwise of courts’ decisions.
The electoral body also asked politicians to stop tagging its officials as partisan, saying the commission operates in an environment made difficult by the same politicians.
Penultimate week, the Supreme Court annulled the election of former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, as the winner of the Imo State governorship election and affirmed Senator Hope Uzodinma, who came fourth in the election as winner after adding results from 388 polling units that were rejected by the commission.
While Ihedioha contested on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Uzodinma ran on the card of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, while berating the INEC on the Imo controversy, said the electoral commission staff were partisan, otherwise they would not have declared Ihedioha as winner in the first place.
Indeed, an INEC staff told Vanguard that the commission stands by the results it declared regarding the Imo governorship election that threw up Ihedioha as winner.
It said while it has, however, accepted the Supreme Court verdict on the polls, its position on the exercise, especially regarding the admittance of the controversial results from some 388 polling units.
From the earlier results announced by INEC, Uzodinma got 25 per cent of the votes cast in only two local councils, a far cry from the 18 required to be declared governor since Imo has 27 local councils.
Speaking on the issue, a day after the INEC office in Orlu was burnt, the INEC in a statement by its National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said it would also not be drawn into debates surrounding the propriety or otherwise of decisions of court.
‘’The commission will resist the invitation to be drawn into the debate on the propriety, correctness or otherwise of the decisions of the various Election Petitions Tribunals and the Courts as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) have clearly and comprehensively delineated the powers and areas of jurisdiction of various institutions of our democracy. Decisions of courts and tribunal are final and the rule of law dictates that all authorities and persons give effect to them,’’ he said.
Warning politicians against attacking INEC staff, he said: “Staff of the commission risked their lives, performed under delicate conditions and engaged in electoral operations aimed at protecting the integrity of the process and ensuring credible outcomes.
“The commission’s code of conduct ensures that all our staff remain non-partisan in the discharge of their official duties. This is the only way they can maintain the delicate balance between all the contending political parties and candidates in the political process.
“It is, therefore, unhelpful and counterproductive to profile senior staff of the Commission operating in any part of the country and paint them with the brush of partisanship just to score political points.’’
INEC recalled that it conducted general elections in 2019 to fill 1, 558 positions, adding that arising from the conduct of the elections, some of the Political Parties and Candidates filed Petitions before the various Election Petitions Tribunals and Courts to ventilate their grievances and all the Petitions have been determined.
“Meantime, two fire incidents were reported at INEC offices in Idemili North Local Government Area in Anambra State and Orlu Local Government Area in Imo State at the weekend.
“The commission has reported the two incidents to the police and Fire Service in the respective states and investigations are under way to determine the causes. Although, no life was lost, the extent of the damage is still being assessed.”
In Orlu, Vanguard gathered that the incident, which happened on Sunday night, affected the various offices that could have some classified documents of the commission including other office equipment.
There are claims and counter-claims over the cause of the fire. One account attributed it to bush burning. Another account linked it to politics as it happened a week after the January 25, 2020 rerun election in Orlu/Oru East/Orsu federal constituency. Political thugs were said to have disrupted the process at the Orlu INEC office.The PDP candidate, Jerry Alagboso, beat his closest rival, Eddy Iheanacho, of the APC at the rerun.
Imo INEC Public Relations Officer, PRO, Emmanuella Opara, confirmed the ugly incident and added that the source of the inferno and extent of damage have not been established.
The Head of Fire service in Imo State, Mr Japheth Okereafor said the fire “happened very late in the night’’ and that he has only one driver at Orlu fire service station.
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