Prosecute the villains
•All those found to have attacked electoral officials should be arraigned expeditiously
It is not certain if Nigerians could learn the correct lessons before the 2019 General Elections. The February 25 polls conducted to fill the vacant seats in the Etche/Omuma federal constituency and the Rivers State House of Assembly Constituency 2 indicate that nothing has really changed in attitude, mentality and conduct of our political elite. Hell was let loose as thugs had a free rein, scaring away the electorate, snatching ballot boxes and other electoral materials and generally disrupting voting, despite the deployment of thousands of security agents to the 161 polling units.
The most unfortunate development was the injuries inflicted on innocent electoral officials. As the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC)for the state, Aniedi Ikoiwak, lamented, “over 25 INEC staff members are in hospital today because the people of Rivers State decided to either kill or wound them. They were all beaten up because they went to those villages to conduct an election. Let the people of Rivers State tell us the offence of any of them. What did they do? They were bringing materials for the election; they decided to descend on them, beat them up, collect their personal belongings and run away.”
The barbaric conduct of these people during the outing was quite shameful. The officials only heeded the clarion call of their fatherland. In the December 10, 2016 rerun legislative election, many people were killed, including police personnel who were beheaded. Soldiers, too, have been, routinely attacked, abducted or killed in the area. We find the conduct of the thugs and the politicians who hired them distasteful and unacceptable. It is however heartening that the only electoral official abducted in the election has been released.
Why would thugs be unleashed on innocent election officials? How would future elections be conducted in the state when parents start warning their children and wards to avoid the battle field? We call on the security agents and the prosecuting authorities to start applying the law fully in respect of those who breach electoral laws. The Rivers State political scene is notorious for maiming and killing innocent persons.
In 2007, Human Rights Watch reported that elections did not really take place in the state. Figures were awarded as against results properly collated after voting. The report said: “in recent years, Etche has earned a degree of unwelcome notoriety due to allegations of corruption, thuggery and murder levelled against its current chairman.”
Incidentally, all the participants agree that the February poll failed the crucible test of credibility. The All Progressives Congress (APC) state chairman, Dr. Davies Ikanya, and the party’s candidate in the 2015 governorship election, Dr Dakuku Peterside, rejected the result declared, pointing out that it was collated at the instance of Governor Nyesom Wike and in Port-Harcourt as against the legal prescription of the constituency headquarters. The REC partly corroborated this by accepting that the results were declared in the state capital, only adding that the collation was done in Okehi, the local government headquarters. The electoral commission did not deny that Governor Wike stormed the commission’s centre of operations. Neither did the governor who insisted he had to do so to ensure that the results were declared as collated.
All those found to have infracted the laws in the December 10, 2016 and February 25, 2017 elections in Rivers State should be made to face the law. If they are diligently prosecuted without being offered partisan cover, others would realise the need to shun such illegality in future. The 104-page police probe panel report should be fully given effect, as well as the INEC administrative panel report. Murder is a capital offence under the statutes and all found to have killed for political reasons should be made to face the music.
Enough, indeed, is enough.