From Abua to Andoni,
Opobo/Nkoro to Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, from Khana to Akuku Toru, Etche to Eleme, they converged on the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Aba Road Port Harcourt. The date was Tuesday, March 8, 2016.
They said their gathering was to have a family meeting and when the roll call was taken, not one of the Electoral Officers (EOS) of the 23 Local Government Areas of Rivers State was missing. They came in their full number. They came in their full strength with an appreciable compliment of their staff at the local government offices.
This was not the first time the premises of the INEC Office on Aba Road was hosting critical stakeholders in the electoral process in Rivers State in preparation for this week’s re-run legislative elections in the state. A meeting of all the political parties and their candidates for the elections with the management of INEC had held earlier.
Ditto for security agencies and their operations, and civil society groups in those meetings, INEC engaged with the stakeholders as the one of the helm of affairs, to acquaint them once again with the guiding rules and regulations of process and to extract from them a commitment to abide by the rules of engagement for a free, fair and credible exercise . In talking about expectations from the stakeholders, the commission was also mindful to make commitments with regard to its own expectations.
The meeting of March 8, was therefore part of the commission’s own strategy of equipping and organising itself to face the challenges of delivering its own side of the bargain to achieve a successful outcome of the March 19 outing. To underline the importance of the meeting, all offices were ordered to be closed and all officers surmounted to be part of the gathering. Little time was spared for any protocol except a brief praise, worship, and prayer session to invite the Spirit of God for direction and divine enablement for the enormous task shead.
Like a responsible head of the family who has a firm grasp of the issues confronting the group, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Elder Aniedi Ikoiwak, did not only resolve to speak the truth with his members but to render it bare and undecorated.
Indeed, he spoke like one with the conviction that only the acquaintance with the truth of how far they had deviated and thereby put themselves in much jeopardy could bring them back to the path of rectitude and redemption.
In no uncertain terms, the REC told his staff that they had strayed from their core values of independence and non-partisanship. He said it was unacceplable that division along political lines had been allowed to creep into the commission thereby weakening the commission and making it vulnerable to the intrusion and manipulation of politicians.
Elder Ikoiwak said elections will remain a mirage if INEC personnel find it difficult to distance themselves from politicians and desist from aiding and abetting them to corrupt the system, noting that it was no longer hidden that staff of the commission sometimes engage in delivering electoral materials to politicians in hotel rooms and such other unlawful places to their shame and damnation.
The INEC boss charged them to derobe themselves of all vestiges of bias and allegiance to any other interest and work as officers who are proud of their job and worthy of their engagement by the commission. He said that, beginning from the coming elections, staffers of the commission will continually be under surveillance by independent monitors whose reports will determine their fate.
He emphasized that he will not hesitate to deal decisively with any recalcitrant personnel whose conduct or misconduct compromises the responsibility of the electoral umpire, adding that sanctions will include but not hinted to, dismissal from office of such staff.
“At the end of this election, I hope nobody will come to my office and roll on the ground begging for forgiveness because I will personally see to it that any staff who engages in anything unlawful to embarrass the commission and compromise the fidelity of the electoral process is taken out of the system,” he warned.
To demonstrate the commission’s resolve to strictly adhere to its guiding rules, Elder Ikoiwak said the old practice of receiving application from intending adhoc staff had been jettisoned.
In its place, he said, requests had been made to the heads of federal institutions including the NYSC, University of Port Harcourt, Federal College of Education, Otuoke, and the Federal University. Otuoke, Bayelsa State for personnel to undertake the assignment.
He explained that even though INEC was not involved in the direct recruitment of the adhoc, staff, the commission retains the responsibility of protecting and being accountable for its materials and charged his staff to rise up to the challenge of safe keeping of the materials and ensuring that they are delivered only to those whose duty it is to handle them.
He assured the staff that everything necessary and needful was being done to enhance their effective and efficient performance and implored them to also prepare themselves to make necessary sacrifices to achieve success. The REC urged them to take no satisfaction in any other than the pride of delivering on the mandate of the commission to superintend over a free, fair and credible poll.
At the end of his address, there was total agreement and endorsement of all he had said. Ass it were, the REC did not only succeed in correctly identifying the gaps that exist within the electoral body and how to bridge them, he also succeeded in bringing the staff to making a commitment to turning a brand new leaf towards achieving the overall goal of a transparent, open, and acceptable conduct of the March 19, 2016 re-run legislative polls in Rivers State in particular.
Speaking on the development, the Rivers State Director of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, Mr Oliver Wolugbom, expressed the view that the March 19, re-run elections present INEC with a golden opportunity to redeem its badly smeared image in the state.
Mr Wolugbom said it was encouraging that INEC was talking to itself and reviewing its activities and performances in the past with a view to making amends and rededicating itself to delivering on its core mandate.
“INEC must stand its ground and take responsibility and charge over this election,” he said adding that to this end, the commission should have only its personnel as collation officers in all the 319 electoral wards in the state.
For the purpose of accountability, the NOA boss proffers that the bulk of the adhoc staff should be staffers of INEC so that the commission can have a greater grip of the activities and performance of the personnel. To achieve this objective, he said, it would not be out of place for the electoral body to empty itself into Rivers State from Surrounding states.
According to Mr Wolugbom, the more non-staffers of the commission are engaged in the exercise the greater the chances of comprise in the system, insisting that whosever is engaged must be impressed upon to do only that which is fit and proper to deliver a desirable outcome.
The NOA Director reiterated that the groundswell of misgivings against the commission has aggravated the need for it to acquit itself creditably and enjoined the electoral umpire to adequately equip and educate all its personnel to be deployed for duty.
In truth, the eventual outcome of the March 19, re-run elections in Rivers State is a shared responsibility among the stakeholders including the security agencies, civil society organizations, the political parties and their candidates and the Independent National Electoral Commission. However, it cannot be gainsaid that no one singular role or function is as vital as that of the umpire whose statutory responsibility is to coordinate all others to achieve the desired end.
It is worthy of commendation that the Resident Electoral Commissioner and his staff realise and appreciate this fact. But just being aware and appreciating the task in only the half of the job. The other and the most important part is the practical demonstration of the rhetoric. Nigerians are watching and Rivers people cannot wait for INEC to either redeem itself and shame its critics or to disappoint itself and prove the critics right and earn the damnation of condemnation of the people.
Govs To Hold Virtual Meeting On Judicial, Legislative Autonomy
The Governors of the 36 states of the federation will hold a virtual meeting today to further discuss the issue of financial autonomy to judicial and legislative arms in states.
This is contained in a statement by NGF Head of Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo on Monday in Abuja.
Bello-Barkindo said efforts were already being made in all states to either constitute State Accounts Allocation Committees (SAAC) or inaugurate them.
This, according to him, is preparatory to the granting of full autonomy to the two arms of government at the subnational level.
The Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) had since embarked on a nationwide strike on the issue.
He said the governors had been working day and night to establish modalities for the autonomy in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution.
He said that the governors would also be updated on the activities of the Presidential Steering Committee on Covid-19 by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, who headed the governors’ interface with the committee.
Bello-Barkindo said that the meeting would also review the agenda of the National Executive Council (NEC), which would take place a day after.
“Other items on the agenda include the regular update on the States’ Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability for results (SFTAS) to provide states’ status on their DLI’s and upcoming deadlines.
The meeting would also receive presentation from the Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises, regarding unlocking liquidity through sale/optimisation of state-owned redundant/sub-optimal assets,” he said.
He added that the Policy Development Facility (PDF) bridge programme would also discuss diversification and non-oil export opportunities for states in post Covid-19 era.
2023: PDP Flexes Muscle Over C’ River
Leading members of the main opposition PDP converged in Calabar, Cross River at the weekend to strategise on how to retain its grip on power in the state.
This is contained in a statement e-mailed to newsmen in Abuja, yesterday.
The Tide source reports that the PDP has been in power in Cross River since the return of democracy in the country 22 years ago but the defection of the current governor appears to mark a turning point.
Political pundits argue that the defection of the state Governor Ben Ayade from the PDP to the ruling APC may affect the fortunes of the PDP in the years ahead.
The governor’s departure is now seen as a major test for the PDP in what is now seen as a game of wits between the PDP and the APC.
Addressing the party’s chieftains, the National Chairman of the party, Mr Uche Secondus, declared that Cross River would “remain the stronghold of the PDP, in spite of Gov. Ayade’s defection.
“PDP will work to retain the confidence the people of Cross River State reposed in our party and retain its dominance in the state.
“Our party has governed since the return of party politics in 1999.
“Cross River will remain the stronghold of our party well after 2023,’’ said Secondus, flanked by other chieftains of the party, including Sen. Bukola Saraki and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State.
Secondus told PDP members in the state to remain resolute to make the party retain power in the upcoming general elections.
Also speaking, a former governor of the state, Sen. Liyel Imoke, gave assurance that no other party would take the state from the PDP, “being the dominant party in the state.
“PDP is the only party known to our people. I assure the leadership of our party that we will deliver victory in 2023,’’ he stated.
Imoke governed the state from 2007 to 2015 when he handed over to Ayade now of the APC.
Other PDP chieftains, who were present at the event included former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra, former Gov. Donald Duke of Cross River and the Chairman of the party’s Caretaker Committee, Mr Efiok Cobham.
Also present were Hon. Daniel Asuquo, Hon. Etta Mbora and Hon. Essien Ayi, all serving members of the House of Representatives among other party’s chieftains.
…Vows To Take Over Anambra
The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, says the party remains focused to take over the state in the upcoming governorship poll.
Nwobu said this in an interview with newsmen in Awka yesterday, adding that he would not be distracted by those trying to destabilise the party in the state.
He lauded the National Executive Committee of the party for organising successful ward congresses in the state.
He described the success of the exercise as a sure step to the party’s free, fair and credible primary election.
“We want to conduct our primary election, where party people will freely vote and produce a candidate that will be acceptable to Anambra people at the November 6 poll.
“This is not time for distractions. We are focused on taking over government from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
“The party has shortchanged millions of Anambra people in terms of governance.
Nwobu said he remained the valid chairman of PDP in Anambra, having emerged from a valid process that was upheld by a Federal High Court in its May 24, 2018 judgment.
He said the judgment had not been reversed by any higher court and was “unfazed by any court judgment”, which purportedly removed him.
“My leadership is still subsisting, no superior court has set that judgment aside and a court of coordinate jurisdiction cannot do that.
“Our team of legal experts is taking care of that. The decision to appeal will be advised,” the PDP chairman said.
The Tide source reports that Chief Chukwudi Umeaba at the weekend announced that he had taken over the party in the state as the Acting Chairman of the Caretaker Committee.
Umeaba, who announced the suspension of the ward congresses, said his action was predicated on the judgment of an Abuja Federal High Court.
According to him, the judgment delivered on June 9, nullified the process that produced Nwobu’s leadership.
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