Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Rivers South East Senatorial District in the set to be concluded legislative re-run election, has expressed loss of confidence in the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Rivers State, Mr. Aniedi Ikiowak, accusing him of being a contractor to the Ministry of Education when Gov. Nyesome Wike was the minister.
Speaking to newsmen in an interview in Port Harcourt, Abe said that Ikiowak had a warm relationship with Gov. Wike as a contractor and had demonstrated bias from the manner he conducted the re-run election by manipulating and announcing the results of PHALGA despite high irregularities and suspending that of Tai LGA in order to give PDP an advantage.
“We have expressed very grave misgivings about the conduct of the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers state. First is that, more than two weeks after the elections, he went ahead to declare four seats for the PDP. Those four seats that were declared, one of them, the margin of win is less than the number of people that had not voted but he declared it for PDP and handed over a certificate of return. Again, everybody knows about the controversial ward in PHALGA, that was not taken into account, on his own, without anything, he cancelled that and declared the person he wanted to declare. I can cite several other instances. In the same PHALGA where election was cancelled and the E.O was asked to withdraw. The E.O withdrew, an assistant E.O stayed back, conducted the election, declared the winner and he was handed a certificate of return because he is PDP. But in Tai LGA, that is where the REC now became the E.O, insisting that Tai LGA has been cancelled, Tai can never come back because he had cancelled it but PHALGA that he cancelled can come back”.
Abe said because of the relationship Ikiowak had with Wike stemming from the time he was the minister of Education and considering the Resident Electoral Commissioner’s role in the rigging of the re-run election,that he (Abe) could no longer believe there is a level playing ground for all the political parties and therefore have lost confidence in the ability of Ikiowak to conduct a free, fair and credible re-run election in the state.
“This is a man that was a contractor to the Ministry of Education under Wike. After doing contract, he has come back to Rivers State and start conducting election for Gov. Wike and you expect us to participate in an election where figures are allocated and re-allocated at will. What kind of election will that be. Clearly,any impartial observer can have absolutely no confidence in a contractor REC. Nobody can be a REC and contractor at the same time to one of the parties in the election. And nobody can accept that as a free and fair contest. I don’t know if there is going to be an election and a contractor will be the REC conducting such election. I don’t think that any reasonable person will agree to participate in that kind of exercise”.
He, however, said that that did not mean that he would pull out of the election except directed by the party rather he would want the issue to be addressed.
“There is no question of me pulling out or not. It is party that contest election. So, that is something for the party to decide. But, clearly, you and I can see that a REC that can declare victory for a party that had not won cannot be trusted by a party against whom that kind of declaration was made. When your own regulation says that where the margin of win is less than the outstanding voters that election is inconclusive. But the person who is the umpire goes ahead and handover the inconclusive election to your opponent and tells you to go to Court. So, we have raised this issue at the last stakeholders meeting with INEC and we expect that the issue should be looked into so that a clear level playing field can be achieved where everybody can take part in a free and fair contest”.
He urged the security agents to investigate the accusation that Ikiowak was a contractor to Wike as they (party) were sure of their facts.
On the prosecution of Hon. Ojukaye Flag Amachree, Abe said that the state government was prosecuting him because he is a member of APC.
He said that the prosecution was a continuation of the intimidation of APC as there was no serious investigation of the police on the matter before the state government took up the prosecution.
“Today, we now have political prisoners in Rivers State. Ojukaye is a political prisoner. I’m not sure that Nigerians are aware of the dimension that the case against Ojukaye is taking in the state. This is a man who was charged with murder in a magistrate Court. And those who know what happened know that he actually went to the police station to make enquiries about some of the boys from his area that were unjustly arrested and detained in the course of the elections. He was not invited to the police station on the suspicion of any murder. But because he was in the police station asking for the release of some of the boys unjustly arrested. He was taken to the court and charged with murder”.
The former Secretary to the Rivers State Government, also stated that the then Inspector-General of Police, when he learnt of the case requested that the charge be withdrawn and thorough investigation done to enable the police determine the appropriate charge.
“The then Inspector-General of Police, when he learnt of the circumstance of the case, himself decided that that was not right and actually wrote a letter to the Court to say that that matter had not been investigated and that the matter should be withdrawn so that it could be properly investigated before the police can decide whether the facts actually merit a charge of murder or not. This was not done. Bail was refused. He was taken before the high Court”.
Abe frowned at the politicization of the case where the state arraigned Amachree for another murder that was not entirely investigated by the police, adding that such a thing had never happened in criminal prosecution in Nigeria.
“I don’t think that any Attorney-General had ever filed a murder charge against a citizen of this country without prior investigation by the police, which is the body that is statutory charged with the power to investigate allegations of a criminal nature against Nigerian citizens. Nigerians and Rivers people need to be aware the extent to which the Rivers state government can go to hound and hunt political opponents in this country. This has never happened. In all the history of abuses of Court processes in Nigeria, we have never seen this level. I believe that at this stage, ordinary Nigerians with a conscience should speak up. It is important that they do so. Today, it is Ojukaye, tomorrow; it could be me or anybody”.