Rivers PDP Supporters Occupy INEC Office In Port Harcourt
…APC, INEC Up To Something – Sydney Gbara
…Demand Arrest, Prosecution Of Tonye Cole
…Petition Rivers CP
The Rivers State head office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) located along Aba Road in Port Harcourt, has been taken over by supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who are on Day 2 of a peaceful protest to demand for inclusion of inspection of true and certified copies of electoral materials used for the March 18 Governorship and State Assembly elections.
The protest which triggered a violent eruption amid sporadic shootings by suspected supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC), resulted in the killing of a PDP supporter (name withheld).
Irked by the tragic killing of one of their own, the aggrieved PDP protesters returned to the INEC office on Tuesday morning, vowing to sustain the protest till ‘justice is done’.
Speaking to National Network reporter on Tuesday, State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Hon. Sydney Tambari Gbara defended the peaceful protest as a lawful exercise which is common in a democratic dispensation
He explained: “We came here yesterday (Monday) on a peaceful protest to demand that we want to be joined in inspection of electoral materials with other political parties.
We were here when suddenly the Guber candidate of APC, Pastor Tonye Cole came with armed thugs, and they started shooting sporadically, trying to chase us away.
At the end of the shooting, one of our members was shot and as I speak with you, he has been confirmed dead.
“We are angry and agitated. The family of the man killed is not happy. They have been thrown into mourning.
I wonder why in a democratic dispensation such as ours, people will be allowed into INEC office with arms to shoot unarmed civilians on a peaceful protest”.
The PDP Publicity Secretary vowed that the ‘Occupy INEC Office’ would continue until their demands are met.
First and foremost in their demand is immediate arrest and prosecution of Rivers APC governorship candidate, Pastor Tonye Cole for murder.
Hon. Gbara is also calling on the Rivers State Police Commissioner as well as Inspector General of Police to commence a high powered investigation on what happened at the INEC office on Monday, April 3, 2023.
“We are provoked and would continue to occupy the INEC office until justice is done, even if it will take us another one month. Police should harken to our demand and arrest Tonye Cole and charge him to court for murder”, he insisted.
The visibly angry PDP Publicity Secretary also accused the Police and INEC of alleged complicity in the unfortunate turn of event.
According to him, the PDP ‘smelt a rat’ because INEC and APC were ‘up to something’, which necessitated the resolve of the PDP to storm the INEC office demanding to be allowed to witness the inspection of the electoral materials.
“We had it on good authority that INEC and Tonye Cole were up to something sinister. They were trying to tamper with the announced results.
And that is why we insisted that we must be there to witness what is going on”, he said, stressing that the Electoral Act allows every political party the right to inspect electoral materials.
The PDP Publicity Secretary further lambasted the electoral umpire for failing to address the protesters more than 24 hours of occupation of their premises.
However in apparent response to the unfortunate debacle, INEC in Rivers State issued a statement on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, stating that issuance of certified true copies and access for inspection of election materials are governed by procedures and processes.
The statement said the steps include payment of requisite fees, making copies/photocopies of relevant documents and certification by aughorized official of the Commission.
“The Commission has received nearly fifty (50) of these applications since the conclusion of the Presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and State Assembly elections Rivers State and a good number of these applications have been processed in accordance with the date of receipt of such applications and payment of certification fees. This process is still on-going.
“The Commission have also advised all applicants to visit our Local Government offices where these documents are domiciled for inspection while we work out modalities for inspection of other documents domiciled at the State office in accordance with available spaces but they insisted that the huge volumes of documents like ballot papers be brought to the state office.
They are once again reminded to avail themselves of this opportunity at our Local Government offices to inspect these materials as earlier advised.
“The Management of INEC Rivers State therefore wishes to assure all applicants and the general Public that the Commission is committed to discharging its constitutional and lawful duties without preferences or bias, and do request the co-operation and understanding of all Parties and the general public to enable us serve you better”, INEC noted in the statement that was signed by Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers State, Dr. Johnson Alalibo Sinikiem.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state has formerly petitioned the Rivers State Commissioner of Police over the incident.
The petition which was signed by the Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Edison Ehie called on the CP to investigate the matter and ensure the culprits are brought to book.