Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has disclosed that over 70 incidents of deliberate obstruction of the electoral process were recorded in the Saturday 10th December, 2016 Rivers Federal and State Constituency re-run elections.
He described as unprecedented the scale of negative utterances, hate speech and violence witnessed in the Rivers re-run elections and disclosed that the Commission was instituting an administrative inquiry as part of a comprehensive review of the re-run elections.
Professor Yakubu made the disclosure today in a statement at the opening of a two-day Capacity Development Workshop for members of the INEC Press Corps, entitled: “Repositioning The Media for Effective Coverage of Electoral Processes” at the Rockview Hotel Royale, Abuja.
He lamented that despite the Commission’s engagements with stakeholders, election duty personnel were harassed, abducted and physically assaulted. He said: “on election eve, thugs disrupted the delivery of election materials to the Registration Area Centres (RACs), a situation that prevented early deployment to the Polling Units on Election Day”.
The INEC Chairman added: “indeed in many instances, we had to deploy directly from the Local Government Areas to Polling Units contrary to our plans. Amidst heavy shooting by political thugs, vehicles transporting materials and personnel to Polling Units were hijacked. Voter Registers, ballot papers, result sheets and Smart Card Readers were brazenly snatched at gun point”.
He sympathized with the family of the murdered DSP, Alkali Mohammed, his orderly and the family of all those who lost their lives in the violence that he said has “unfortunately become synonymous with electioneering and elections in Rivers state”. Professor Yakubu assured that INEC would continue to work with the security agencies as they investigate all violations of the Nations laws before, during and after the December 10th Rerun elections in Rivers state.
The INEC Chairman pointed out that the Commission was aware of infractions by some INEC staff ranging from absence from duty posts to partisanship in discharge of their duties as well as allegations of bribery in some areas. He assured that the in the course of its investigation, INEC would appropriately sanction any INEC staff found to have disobeyed clear rules and regulations.
Professor Yakubu reaffirmed INEC’s commitment to being a fair and unbiased umpire. He appealed to perpetrators of electoral violence to regard politics and competition for office as monumental responsibilities that call for civil candour not aggression and bloodletting.
He called on the participants at the workshop to continue to be fair and balanced in their reportage of the Commission’s activities and policies. He urged them to avoid carrying news items that would overheat the polity.
National Commissioner, Professor Anthonia Okoosi Simbine, in her remarks, said the role of the media in nursing our nascent democracy could not be over emphasized.
She said, the Commission had observed that the narrative in the media about its activities has been less than accurate and has not been a true reflection of the situation. She stressed that it was only fair that the Commission’s side of the story be heard especially in times of controversy.
She implored the participants to take advantage of the opportunities put forward by the workshop to learn deeply the workings of the Commission so that they could improve on their reportage of the Commission’s activities.