David Amusa, Port Harcourt
The Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) has formally announced that the Local Government Council elections will hold on Saturday June 16, 2018.
In a press statement issued in Port Harcourt and made available to newsmen, the Chairman and chief Electoral Commissioner, Hon. Justice C.I. Uriri (Rtd), stated that voting will start at 8am and end at 2pm.
The statement reads in part; “ Pursuant to section 39 (1) of the Rivers state Electoral Commission Law No 2 of 2018, the public should take notice that the Rivers state Local Government Council election holds on Saturday the 16th day of June, 2018 in the 4,442 polling units of the 319 wards of the 23 Local Government areas of Rivers state”.
In a similar development, the commission has commended the International Foundation for Electoral Systems(IFES) for establishing Election Support Centre (ESC), which has begun training of staff for the operation of the centre during the forthcoming council polls on Saturday.
The centre is to monitor the elections in the field and provide a near real time periodic report on the progress of key elections activity areas.
Also, it is to monitor compliance, maintain surveillance, identify incidents, deliver timely and relevant remedy to threats and incidents as well as coordinate active interaction of field teams for efficient conduct of the elections. Furthermore, it will enable the commission to be fully updated on the progress of the elections in the field.
Speaking at the trainings workshop for participants of the centre that will be deployed on the day of the election, the commissioner of Public Affairs and Civic Education, RSIEC, Reverend Innocent Karibo, said the centre will be very vital to the success of the local Government elections.
He commended IFES for introducing and helping to establish the centre in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, which is the first of its kind in the state.
The commissioner commended the participants at the training and charged them to show diligence and commitment in the training exercise, noting that their positive attitude will help in the realization of the centre.
In his own speech, the Capacity Building Manager, Seray Jah, urged the participants to take the training serious as the skill acquired in the training will be very beneficial to smooth conduct of the elections.
He said IFES has been operating in 108 countries across the world with its headquarters in Virginia, United States of America.
The manager further said the Foundation started operation in Nigeria in 1998 and since then it has been rendering support to INEC and SIECs across the nation.
“We have been in partnership with SIECs around the country and we have been providing similar support “, he said.
Our correspondent reports that the participants who were drawn from RSIEC, media organizations and Local government areas will work as Communication officers and data clerks at the centre.
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has stated that the State Government has intelligence that a faction All Progressives Congress (APC ) is arming political thugs to disrupt the council polls in the state.
In a state broadcast, the governor said that the APC faction plans to disrupt the elections in Abua/Odual, Akuku Toru, Asari Toru, Degema, Emohua, Ikwerre, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Opobo and TaiLocal Government Areas.
He said: “The arrowheads of this satanic plot, the State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, the former Commissioner of Agriculture, Mr. Emmanuel Chinda and the current Nigeria’s Ambassador to Netherlands, Ambassador Oji N. Ngofa are recruiting and arming political thugs with guns to be deployed on the eve of the election to create an atmosphere of insecurity create in these and other local government areas and scare voters to shun the polling stations.
“Mr. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree is a double murder suspect who has refused to submit himself to trial. Yet, this fugitive to justice recently emerged as a factional State chairman of his party against a court order and is now emboldened by the protection he is getting from the Police and the Federal Government to engage in subversive activities against the interest and people of Rivers State.
” In the light of the these dangerous threats from Ojukaye and co-travellers therefore, I wish to call on the security agencies, especially the Nigerian Police to live up to their primary responsibility of providing adequate security for the election and deal decisively with those who may attempt to disturb the peace, order and security of the State before, during and after the election.”
He said that the State Government has received concrete assurances from the heads of all the security agencies that they have put adequate measures to secure the peace and ensure orderly conduct of the election .
He noted that the Rivers State Government shall hold the security agencies professionally accountable should insecurity be experienced in the State in the course of the elections .
He said: “Community leaders and members of the public should be on the watch out and report suspicious characters and movements in their localities and neighbourhoods to the law enforcement agencies for immediate action.
“Also, the security agencies have definite instructions to strictly enforce the restrictions on human and vehicular movement on Election Day and arrest any person or group of persons that violate this order. All those who have no official business with conducting the election should therefore stay away from the polling units after casting their votes or risk arrest and prosecution.”
The governor stated that there is no legal stopping the conduct of the June 16, 2018 Local Government Elections.
He said: “As things stand now, we have no other choice but to conduct the local government election and allow democracy to settle and thrive once again at the grassroots and drive the development of our communities”.
Governor Wike added: ” I can confirm to you that the election will take place as scheduled in all the 4442 units, 319 wards and 23 local government areas of the State as there is no legal obstacle significant enough to warrant otherwise.
” Let me therefore appeal to all registered voters to turn out in their numbers to vote for the candidates of their choice. This is a civic responsibility you must exercise in order to rekindle the touch of democracy, good governance and accountability in the local government system.
” I am very pleased with the information that 67 out of the 68 registered political parties have fielded candidates for the elections and are therefore participating”.
He expressed happiness with the assurances from RVSIEC that it is ready to conduct free, fair and credible elections come Saturday June 16, 2018.
“For us, this is an irreducible minimum and we demand nothing less as Government will hold the Commission strictly accountable for any acts or omissions that compromise the integrity of both the process and the elections”, he said
The governor explained the reason behind the delay in the conduct of the Rivers State Local Government Elections.
“After three years of legal vacillation it is now clear that the subject matter or fundamental interest of the claimants in that case has practically been wasted by effluxion of time and whatever remedies derivable by the parties, if any, can only be nominal.
” While the legal challenge continues, the people of Rivers State are denied their rights to freely elect officers to run the Councils democratically. However, as things stand now, we have no other choice but to conduct the local government election and allow democracy to settle and thrive once again at the grassroots and drive the development of our communities”, he said .