NYSC DG Visits Family Of Slain Corps Member
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmud Yakubu vowed yesterday that the commission will not return to continue the Rivers State National and State Assemblies rerun elections until it is sure of a conducive environment for the polls.
He said INEC was no longer ready to expose voters, its officials, observers and media personnel to danger unless there was guaranty of safety.
Yakubu, however, stated that the commission would conduct fresh elections in areas where voting was disrupted in the violence-marred Rivers States polls of March 19, even as it also said it would uphold the declarations and returns made in the federal and state constituencies where the exercise had been concluded.
The commission’s boss said, while it has undertaken an audit of its personnel deployed as polling officers and for other related duties, INEC acknowledges the fact that there were challenges in its operational efficiency, “especially as it concerns the production and customization of the result sheets used for the conduct of the elections.”
Yakubu’s position on the Rivers State rerun election was contained in a statement by the commission’s Director, Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi. Following its suspension of the rerun elections, the electoral commission had held a meeting on Wednesday with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) for Rivers State, it’s supervisors and monitors who were in the state.
The statement made available on Weekend noted: “While the commission is committed to conducting free, fair and credible elections, it hereby reiterates its resolve not to return to Rivers State (or anywhere else where there was breakdown of law and order in the cause of conducting elections) until there is a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of credible elections.
“As a responsible organization, it (INEC) will not expose its stakeholders, especially voters, its officials, observers, media personnel to any danger; and even where dates have been fixed and published, it will not hesitate to, again, suspend the exercise where there is a clear danger or credible threat of a breakdown of law and order”.
INEC reassured that all materials used for the conduct of the elections which were not destroyed by hoodlums were safe and are being kept in secure custody.
“The commission condemns in no uncertain terms all those who have been spewing hate speeches and making incendiary statements, which no doubt exacerbated an already tense situation. It will like to again commiserate with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the family, friends and colleagues of Samuel Dumebi Okonta, the Corps member who unfortunately lost his life in this patriotic service as a poll officer. May his soul rest in peace”, the electoral body added.
On the conclusion of the election, INEC said it “will, at a date to be decided, conduct fresh elections, starting with accreditation and voting in all Local Government Areas, Constituencies, Registration Areas and Polling Units where the exercise was disrupted before voting was concluded on Saturday 19th March, 2016.
“Even so, the commission said this would only be after due consultation with parties involved, and subject to the advice of the security agencies and guarantees by the political parties, candidates and their supporters”.
With regards to results already declared, INEC restated its earlier decision “to uphold the declarations and returns made in the Federal and State Constituencies where the exercise had been concluded.
“Similarly, the Commission will conclude and make returns in constituencies where it is satisfied that voting and collation were done in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and our Guidelines”, the commission added.
Although INEC said it acknowledged “that there were some challenges in its operational efficiency, especially as it concerns the production and customization of the result sheets used for the conduct of the election”, it insisted that no fake result sheet was used, just as it dismissed allegations by PDP and APC.
“The Commission wishes to emphatically state that there were no fake result sheets or any fake materials used in the conduct of the elections,” Osaze-Uzzi said.
INEC added that at the time of its suspension of the election, “the elections had been concluded in some constituencies with declaration of results and returns of winners by the respective returning officers.
“Results declared and/or returns made under duress or by unauthorized persons; collation had been concluded but no declaration or return made. Voting had been concluded and collation was on-going but yet to be concluded; no voting concluded but collation yet to commence; no voting at all or voting commenced but was disrupted before conclusion”, it further noted.
NYSC DG Visits Family Of Slain Corps Member
Meanwhile, the Director General of the National Youth Service Corps has assured that the family of it late Corps member, Okonta Dumebi Samuel, who was killed by unknown gunmen in Rivers state will not be abandoned.
The director-general Brigadier General Johnson Olawumi gave the assurance during a condolence visit he paid to the deceased’s family and the palace of the paramount ruler of Illah town in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State, the Ogbelani of Illah, Obi Akazue Gbemudu II.
Olawumi told them that the NYSC was already working with INEC and the Rivers state government to ensure that Dumebi is given a befitting burial, and to provide support for the bereaved family.
The Director-General said the NYSC had always made the protection of Corps members a top priority, not only during elections, but also throughout the service year, adding that the death of Dumebi, therefore, came to the scheme as a rude shock.
Paying tribute to the deceased, Olawumi noted that he died while contributing towards fostering a credible electoral process and to the development of his fatherland.
He further noted that the Corps member had successfully completed his election duty, submitted his results to INEC and was returning to his base when he was murdered.
The DG said steps were being taken in collaboration with relevant security agencies to hunt down the killers and make them face the full wrath of the law.
He used the occasion to restate his appeal to political leaders, traditional rulers and other opinion leaders to always protect corps members posted to their communities.
Olawumi praised the people of Illah town for the warm reception accorded him and his entourage despite their grief.
He prayed God to grant the deceased eternal rest and give his family and community the fortitude to bear the loss.
Responding at the deceased’s residence, a family elder and community chief, Ogbenyi Maduka Chikwenye, said the family had put in so much hope in the deceased having toiled to train him to the level he had attained.
He said, having served in the first batch of corps members in 1973, he knew what the nation had been doing to protect corps members, even as he thanked the DG for showing concern for the family in their moment of grief.
The paramount ruler, Obi Akazue Gbemudu II, later mandated one of the chiefs Ogbuenyi Chukwurah to respond the DG’s remarks on behalf of the community.
Chief Chukwura, while thanked the Director-General for his visit.