Groups Want C’River, Benue RECs Removed
Written by Taiwo Adediran on April 6, 2015
Opposition political parties in Cross River State operating under the aegis of the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) have jointly called on the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Dr. Sylvester Okay Ezeani, and the Commission’s Head of Operations, Mr. Chris Okereke.
According to the groups, both officials of INEC should be removed from the state before the April 11 governorship and state House of Assembly elections so as to ensure that the elections are credible.
The IPAC/CNPP made the call at a press conference they jointly addressed in Calabar on Sunday to press home their demand.
In a test of the press conference read by the state chairman of IPAC, Goddie Akpama, the political groups said: “Gentlemen of the press, political parties in Cross River State through IPAC and CNPP wish to use this medium to express disappointment in INEC’s role perpetuated by the activities of the REC, Dr. Sylvester Ezeani and Head of Operation of INEC, Mr. Okereke in the last election in the state in manipulating the last elections through hoarding of results sheets, announcing inconclusive results in favour of PDP across the state, distributing fake and incomplete materials to the field, divulging information/names of ad-hoc staffs of INEC prior to election to PDP, extortion etc!
“We here and now demand the immediate removal/deployment of the above mentioned persons before the next election.
“We hold and believe strongly that with the above persons in INEC, Cross River State Election will/ shall not be free, fair and credible.”
The groups who said they have credible evidence that the duo compromised the presidential and National Assembly elections, urged the national secretariat of INEC to send their officials to Cross River State to verify their claims against the REC and the Head of Operations.
“We appeal on Professor Attahiru Jega to please save democracy by immediately setting up a verification team to Cross River State to hear/see our evidence against these two PDP members in INEC clothing.
“Political parties, through IPAC demand their immediate deployment from the state,” Akpama said.
On further course of action to be taken to get the REC and the Head of Operation removed from the state, Akpama said: “We will engage on a peaceful protest to Abuja as we hold strongly that governorship election will not be credible with Ezeani and Okereke. Prevention is better than cure.
“Governorship and state House of Assembly elections are elections that concern the direct representative of the people at the grassroots and its credibility must be a priority; the coming election is of great concern to Cross Riverians and should be free from the highest bidder syndrome. Ezeani and Okereke should go to save democracy in the state.”
However, Ezeani said he was not surprised that such allegation was coming from the same group of persons who have done everything, from the outset, to tarnish his image.
Reacting to the allegations, Ezeani said that “It is the same set of people that said I am a card – carrying member of the PDP; they said I am the governor’s in-law; the same people said I have a straight path to the governor.
“When I heard Akpama, I said he has come again. He believes I am one of those people they can intimidate. I have never met the governor alone before except when I and my officials paid a courtesy visit to him in his office to show him how the card reader works. All what they are saying is fallacy.”
The REC advised that those peddling the allegations against him and INEC officials in the state should “remember that there is live outside politics. Politics is not forever. We will still meet on the road. We should be able to meet on the road and greet ourselves.”
He said: “Those accusations are baseless because it is impossible to change results that have been announced from the polling units. Once the result is announced, it is sent straight into the INEC data base, even the media gets the results before INEC, so how can be changed?”
The REC said the INEC in the state was prepared to conduct free, fair , and credible governorship poll in the state.
Ezeani said INEC in the state remains focus and cannot be distracted by the antic of politicians.
He stated that from close observation, politicians are the real impediment to having problem-free elections in the country.
Ezeani said he was prepared to meet with any team that would be sent from INEC national headquarters to investigate the allegations levelled against the officials of the commission in the state by working closely for the smooth transition and implementation of the ongoing projects of infrastructural development initiated by the incumbent government.
“That is one of the ways we Nigerians can say to the world that our democracy has outgrown primordial considerations and petty partisan considerations,” the legal luminary and rights activists concluded.
Also, a civil society organisation, Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency (CSJET), has called on INEC to transfer its REC in Benue State.
This, according to the group, would ensure the sanctity and integrity of the April 11 governorship election and House of Representatives.
CSJET in a letter addressed to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, which was signed by the organisations Executive Secretary, Ola Oluwasanmi, said: “The centre is calling for the removal or at least the reposting of Prof. Istifanus Dafwang, from Benue State, for alleged compromise.”
Oluwasanmi accused the REC of compromising the electoral law during the presidential and National Assembly elections.
“The REC connived with certain political bigwigs in Benue State to rig the elections,” he said.
Oluwasanmi in the letter particularly referred to election into the Benue North-east senatorial district, where he claimed the REC connived with the All Progressives Congress (APC ) candidate, Sen. Barnabas Gemade to cancel certain results from the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP ), strongholds to give the APC an upper hand.
“When Prof. Dafwang came, he did not hide his intention, which was to ensure that the opposition wins in Benue. He said it himself that he was an opposition person. If not what do you adduce from a statement that anywhere he conducts elections, the opposition wins?” he queried.
Oluwasanmi however appealed to the INEC’s national headquarters to investigate the matter with a view to maintaining its standard.