Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has declared that the major challenges that characterised the 2019 General Elections would have been averted if President Muhammadu Buhari had assented to the amended Electoral Act.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the Political Team from the British High Commission at the Government House, Port-Harcourt on Tuesday, Governor Wike said that the amended Electoral Act will legitimise the card reader and strengthen the process of result collation.
He said: "If the President had assented to the amended Electoral Act, we wouldn't have had the kind of problem we had.
"That means that there must be card reader in the Electoral Process. In that case, it makes it difficult for security agencies who want to commit electoral fraud to succeed ".
The Governor said that with the card reader given legal teeth, it would play a key role in the results that would emerge and discourage violence.
"With the card reader, results that don't tally with accredited figures in the device will not be accepted. Since the card reader is not in the law, it creates the loopholes for them to manipulate.
"They created the room where some security agencies tried to force Returning Officers to sign result sheets. Remember in Rivers State, the Army took over the INEC Headquarters. The essence of that was to see that the Returning Officers were hijacked for fraudulent purposes.
"But if the card reader was legitimised in the Electoral Act, it would not have been possible, because the only acceptable result would be the one that tallies with the Card Reader. I have always said to Mr President that in the interest of the country, let us do the right thing. Let us not politicise everything ", he said
While saying that the amended Electoral Act when signed into law will restore confidence in the Electoral System, Governor Wike called for the de-militarization of the nation's democracy.
He said: "We should reduce the militarisation during elections. It is unfortunate that instead of Police, the Army takes over our elections, with flimsy excuses.
"What happened in Rivers State is an eye-opener. Bringing in the Army every time is not the solution. The police should be allowed to do their job. INEC should be truly independent.
"In the case of Rivers State, we must commend INEC for being assertive. If they were not assertive, I don't know where we would have been".
Governor Wike urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to be truly Independent, adding that the appointment of INEC leadership should not completely be in the hands of the Federal Government as suggested by the Uwais report.
The Governor said that the issues of security should not be politicised as is the case. He noted that politicisation of security has led to insecurity in all states of the Federation.
He said that Rivers State has suffered the politicisation of security as the Nigerian Army clamped down on the State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency at its training site at the NYSC Camp, even though the Agency was modeled after that of Lagos State. He noted that the Rivers State Government will go ahead with the Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency and urged the British Government to provide technical support.
Governor Wike stated that State Police is key to tackling insecurity across the country.
"But before the implementation of State Police, the revenue sharing formula of the country must be reviewed. The Federal Government should have less resources because they have lesser responsibilities ", he said.
Governor Wike reiterated that oil bunkering is fueled by the connivance and participation of security agencies.
"Security agencies are involved in oil bunkering. That is why you see so many security agents struggling to be posted to the Niger Delta. Oil bunkering has negatively affected our security and environment", he said.
In his remarks, the Deputy Head of Political Section/First Secretary, British High Commission, Stuart Gardner congratulated Governor Wike on his well deserved victory, noting that the British Government was interested in his views on the 2019 General Elections.
He regretted that the last elections were marred by violence and said that steps must be taken to stem the tide of violence during the 2023 Elections.