The Rivers State governorship election held on April 11, 2015 was a sham and mockery of democracy, the Independent National Electoral Commission told the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Abuja on Friday.
The electoral body, which conducts governorship and state houses of assembly elections through its Resident Electoral Commissioners in various states, dismissed the poll held in Rivers State on April 11 as a “kangaroo” exercise, with shootings and allocation of figures as well as “all kinds of impunity” taking place on the day of the poll.
INEC is the first respondent to the petition filed before the tribunal by the All Progressives Congress and its candidate in the governorship election, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who are seeking the nullification of the election on the grounds that it was marred by violence, irregularities and electoral malpractices.
INEC’s representative, Charles Okoye, who heads the Election and Party Monitoring Department of the commission in Rivers State, appeared before the Justice Mohammed Ambrosa-led tribunal on Friday on subpoena, testifying that the election was conducted in an atmosphere of warfare and “militant terrorism.”
The witness, who said he monitored the April 11 election alongside three national commissioners of INEC, with his monitoring teams in 19 out of the 23 local government areas of the state, also told the tribunal that the poll was characterised by large scale violence and disruption of polls.
He said, “During the monitoring exercise, what we observed was that the election was a warfare. It was a militant terrorism and also a sham, a kangaro election. It is a mockery of democracy. The election was characterised by large scale violence and disruption of polls.
“There was snatching of election materials, shooting and allocation of figures and all kinds of impunity happened at the election.”
The subpoena which compelled the witness to appear before the tribunal was obtained by the petitioners.
Okoye, who was led in evidence by the petitioners’ lawyer, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), said apart from sending various teams to 19 local government areas of the state, he, along with three national commissioners of the commission, visited eight LGA’s on the day of the election.
The report of the monitoring exercise, which Okoye said was co-signed by him and the three other national commissioners, was tendered and admitted by the tribunal as Exhibit A2.
The counsel for the respondents comprising INEC, Wike and PDP, said they would object to the report at the stage of final addresses because it was not front-loaded with the petition.
Okoye debunked allegation by INEC’s lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), during cross-examination that the report of the monitoring exercise was his private document.
“If it is my private document, it will not be certified by INEC. The report was passed to the national headquaters,” Okoye further said.