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N' ASSEMBLY POLLS: PARTIES SQUABBLE OVER ALLEGED RIGGING PLAN

By NBF News
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Three days to the rescheduled National Assembly elections, tempers rose among political parties on Tuesday as they accused one another of plans to rig the polls.

In states such as Oyo, Ekiti, Enugu, Cross River, Katsina and Ogun, the opposition alleged that since the April 2 elections were postponed, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party has been perfecting plans to manipulate the polls.

For instance in Ibadan, Oyo State, a former governor, Alhaji Lam Adesina, alleged on Tuesday that Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, had concluded arrangements to buy ballot papers from officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Adesina, a leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, also alleged that the governor had earmarked N5bn for the plot.

He said the decision to 'manipulate the wish of the masses' was taken at a midnight meeting of the governor's 'kitchen cabinet' which ended in the early hours of Tuesday.

According to him, Alao-Akala ordered all the 33 interim Local Government Area chairmen in the state to allocate N100,000 per polling booth in their respective councils during the elections.

He said, 'What they decided at the meeting, if not checked, can lead to a state of war. They have decided that they will buy ballot papers from electoral officers because of what happened on Saturday.

'The governor has directed all local government chairmen to bring N100,000 per polling both.

The former governor called on the chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, to warn his officials against selling ballot papers because the ACN was battle-ready to confront anybody or group that might want to undermine the electoral process.

But in his reaction, the governor's Special Adviser on Public Communications, Mr. Dotun Oyelade, said it was time for leaders who made wild unsubstantiated statements to be reprimanded.

He asked civil rights organisations, INEC and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties to caution Adesina on what he called wild allegations that border on the security of the state.

In Ekiti State, there was an apprehension in Ado-Ekiti, following a the war of words between former Governor Ayo Fayose of the Labour Party and the Chairman of Ado-Ekiti Local Government Area, Mr. Sunday Ibitoye.

Ibitoye had at a news conference on Tuesday accused Fayose, who is the LP senatorial candidate in Ekiti Central of disrespecting the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adejugbe, and the traditional institution in the state.

Unknown persons on Monday night sent text messages round that Fayose had at a radio programme threatened to unleash thugs on traditional chiefs in Ado-Ekiti.

The text which urged the people of the state to stop Fayose, also claimed that he was set to disgrace the Ewi.

Fayose, who denied the claims, advised Ibitoye to stop blackmailing him.

He told one of our correspondents on the telephone that he remained a leader in the state and would not disrespect anybody let alone a royal father.

The Chairman of the ACN in the state, Chief Jide Awe, had earlier accused the PDP of plotting to cause crisis ahead of the Saturday poll.

Awe alleged in a statement that the PDP went to town on Monday with a 'concocted election' result based on few ballots cast on Saturday.

But the PDP Director of Communication and Strategy in the state, Mr. Jackson Adebayo, who insisted that the party was leading during botched elections, said that the people of the state had rejected the ruling ACN.

The chairmen of the ACN and LP in Cross River State also accused the PDP of instigating actions that could cause anarchy in the state.

Speaking with our correspondent in Calabar on Tuesday, the state Chairman of the ACN, Mr. Cletus Obun, alleged that the PDP already had prepared result sheets in some areas on Saturday.

Also, the state chairman of the LP, Dr. Theo Onyuku, alleged that the PDP had tampered with the list of ad-hoc staff posted to Abi and Yakuur Local Government Areas before the election was postponed.

But chairman of the ruling party, Mr. Ekpo Okon, dismissed the allegations as frivolous and fraudulent, saying leaders of the opposition parties in the state were lazy.

In Katsina State, the ACN, was concerned about Saturday's election and the security of the voting materials that had been released to the state.

The Chairman of the party's caucus committee in the state, Bello Dankano, alleged in a letter to the Resident Electoral Commissioner, that the number of ballot papers in the state INEC office on Saturday was more than the number of registered voters.

Dankano said that INEC had a lot of explanations to give before Saturday's rescheduled polls.

There were also concerns in Ogun State that INEC was replacing its members of staff who were supervisory electoral officers with members of the PDP and the Peoples Party of Nigeria.

Investigations showed that some of the supervisory electoral officers, who were said to be staff of the University of Agriculture Abeokuta, were actually party loyalists.

The INEC REC in the state, Mr. Martins Okunfolami, confirmed that some staff of the commission were dropped. He, however, said that they were replaced by staff of the AUU and not party loyalists.

He said, 'The essence of outsourcing is part of the strategy at giving the whole process credibility. These are no supervisors. Formerly it is our staff that are returning officers that will announce results at collation centres, but now we are going to the university to recruit staff for do this. They are going to act as collation officers.'

In Enugu State, the opposition parties alleged that they had uncovered a plot by the PDP to compromise members of the National Youth Service Corps serving as INEC ad hoc staff for the rescheduled elections on Saturday.

The leaders of the parties alleged on Tuesday that the state government had instructed the 17 council chairmen in the state to hold parties for the corps members on the eve of the election.

The opposition also accused authorities of the NYSC in the state of being privy to this plot to compromise the corps members on the election eve party, where money would be extended to them.

'We reliably learnt that the state government had instructed the 17 local government chairmen to organise a party for the corps members in their various local governments on the eve of the election,' the spokesman of the People for Democratic Change, a leading opposition party in the state, Mr. Igbonekwu Ogazimorah, said.

When contacted, the State Director of NYSC, Mr. Aniefok Okpongete, denied the allegation, saying that there was no approval, either from his office or any other quarters, for corps members to attend a party on election eve.

He said, 'We trained the corps members. They are apolitical. The headquarters instructed us to make sure that the corps members are neutral. How can they compromise where there are party agents at the polling station? In fact, for someone to mention my name is what I don't understand.'

Also, the state chairman of the LP, Dr. Theo Onyuku, alleged that the PDP had tampered with the list of ad-hoc staff posted to Abi and Yakuur Local Government Areas before the election was postponed.

But chairman of the ruling party, Mr. Ekpo Okon, dismissed the allegations as frivolous and fraudulent, saying leaders of the opposition parties in the state were lazy.

In Katsina State, the ACN, was concerned about Saturday's election and the security of the voting materials that had been released to the state.

The chairman of the party's caucus committee in the state, Bello Dankano, alleged in a letter to the Resident Electoral Commissioner, that the number of ballot papers in the state INEC office on Saturday was more than the number of registered voters.

There were also concerns in Ogun State that INEC was replacing its members of staff, who are supervisory electoral officers, with members of the PDP and the Peoples Party of Nigeria.

Investigations showed that some of the supervisory electoral officers, who were said to be staff of the University of Agriculture Abeokuta, were actually party loyalists.

The REC in the state, Mr. Martins Okunfolami, confirmed that some staff of the commission were dropped. He, however, said they were not replaced by party loyalists.

He said, 'The essence of outsourcing is part of the strategy at giving the whole process credibility. These are no supervisors. Formerly, it is our staff that are returning officers that will announce results at collation centres, but now we are going to the university to recruit staff to do this. They are going to act as collation officers.'

In Enugu State, the opposition parties alleged that they had uncovered a plot by the PDP to compromise members of the National Youth Service Corps serving as INEC ad-hoc staff for the rescheduled elections on Saturday.

The leaders of the parties alleged on Tuesday that the state government had instructed the 17 council chairmen in the state to hold parties for the corps members on the eve of the election.

The spokesman of the People for Democratic Change, a leading opposition party in the state, Mr. Igbonekwu Ogazimorah, alleged that the authority of NYSC in the state were privy to the plot.

When contacted, the State Director of NYSC, Mr. Aniefok Okpongete, denied the allegation, saying that there was no approval, either from his office or any other quarters, for corps members to attend a party on election eve.