Irregularities Marred Anambra Council Poll, As Observers Call For Cancellation

By Okechukwu Onuegbu

At last, Anambra state has broken the jinx of non-conducting council areas election for over 15 years. The last poll, it would be recalled, was held in 1998, although various administrations including the outgoing government of Mr. Peter Obi made fruitless efforts to organize the poll sequel to an alleged counter court injunction.

Later, it claimed to have discharged the so-called court injunctions and fixed 17th October as date for the poll. However, Acting Chairman of the state Independent Electoral Commission (ANSIEC), Hon. Sylvester Okonkwo subsequently announced December 14 as its new date, saying it was closer to gubernatorial poll conducted on 16th, 17th and 30th November.

Unfortunately, the grass-root election was rescheduled to December 14th and 28 in vain, but the story changed positively on Saturday, 11th January, 2013, as Anambrarians of voting age, finally went and exercise their franchise in all the 326 electoral wards in the state.

And it was marred with irregularities, lots of intrigues and complains from all the 22 participated political parties candidates and aspirants.

For-instance, prior to the poll, Orient Daily reported that the placards bearing contestants of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and their respective supporters stormed Dr. Alex Ekwueme's square, venue of the party's flagged-off campaign on Monday 23 December, 2013 and later embarked on peacefully demonstration to APGA's state secretariat and government House, both in Awka, the state capital, on the following day (24th).

The aggrieved APGA chairmanship and councillorship aspirants drawn from Awka North and South, Dunukofia, Njikoka, Orumba North and South, Onitsha North and South and Ihiala local government areas, claimed to be 'the authentic' candidates whose names were allegedly replaced with “unknown persons who lost at primary” by the party's National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, Women Leader, Mrs. Edith Nwokedi, erstwhile Deputy Governor of the state, Okey Udeh and self-styled traditional prime minister of Awka, Chief Austin Ndigwe .

According to our correspondent who monitored last Saturday's election at Njikoka, Orumba North and South local government areas, eligible voters came out en-masse to vote in all the 11 polling units at Ndikeliownu, Orumba North, but refused to as a result of non supply of result sheets.

Orient Daily observed that ANSIEC officials arrived the units between 10 through 12 pm with both sensitive and non-sensitive materials and security apparatus but could not present the result sheets, thereby prompting electorates to shun them even after it was brought in around 5pm.

Speaking to team of reporters, at Ndikelionwu town hall, unit 002, Hon Lawrence Anyaeche, candidate of PDP in the council area, accused the Supervisory Presiding Officer of gross misconduct and masterminding the act in connivance with the state government in order to ensure his failure.

Also, same issue reportedly occurred at Umunze ward 3; Amuda and Oganiru units while a policewoman, Segt Rose Etang singlehandedly brought the voting materials to Igwebuike-unit 003, Umunze with neither presiding officer nor Ansiec officials until 4.55 pm.

As a result of this, angry mobs (voters) in the presence of armed Nigerian Police nearly battered one Mr. Dominic Uka who paraded as a Supervisory Presiding Officer of Umunze ward 3 with neither ID card nor tag to substantiate his claim.

The councillorship candidates of Accord, PDP and Labour Parties, Hon. George Chukwunenye, Ausca Aniebo, Iwuafor Ikemdinachi who spoke to the press at Orumba South local government secretariat, Umunze, alleged that Ansiec officials sent to most of the polling units were APGA carrying members and siblings.

It was also further discovered that names of Presiding officers pasted at a wall in the local government secretariat were substituted with unknown names. This generated war of tongues therein as Transition Committee Chairman of Orumba South, Hon. Okereke Cyprian (APGA) and the Member representing Orumba north and South constituency in the federal house of representative, Hon. Ben Nwankwo who is a PDP member accused each their political parties of distorting the election processes.

Also, opposition, PDP and LP party agents at Ogbunka ward 1 and 2, Owerri-Ezuakala and Enugu-Umuonya were denied access to the polling booths.

Similarly, our correspondents reported that voting did not at all the 11 polling booths in Ndikelionwu, Orumba North local government area as at 5pm, because electorates, who turned out en-masse to vote, refused to do so due to non-availability of result sheets.

Reacting to the complains, Mr. Barnabas Ogugua, the Electoral Officer in Orumba South, refuted the claims with wave of hands noting that he painstakingly distributed those materials to all wards and polling units and urged the press to visit other council areas because according to him, there is nothing wrong in the area.

On arrival to Ajalla 019, Umunze ward 1 at 3.02 Pm, the electorates including the Deputy Governor of Anambra state, Mr. Emeka Sibudu and his wife were seen seated, discussing, perhaps, awaiting announcement of result.

When inquired from Mr. Sibudu, he said he voted at 10a.m with his family and they were waiting for counting and declaration of result but noted that APGA would win the poll due to Governor Obi's giant strides in the state since inception of his administration.

Similarly, at Ajalli ward 2, chairmanship candidate of APGA, Hon Okey Enekwe and Hon Nwajagu Patrick, a-councillorship candidate among others queued and voted in booth 003, Amagu square at 11.46 a.m.

However, ANSIEC Chairman, Hon Sylvester Okonkwo on Sunday, announced that the ruling party, All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), won all the chairmanship seats conducted in 20 local government areas in the state.

Hon. Okonkwo said that the poll was not conducted in Nnewi North even as he noted that the poll had been slated to hold next Saturday, adding that APGA also pulled 304 councilors, while PDP got 11, PPA and UPP respectively secured 1councilor each.

He charged the aggrieved to go to court, inciting Governor Obi's case whose victory was restored in the court after 3 years.

Meanwhile coalition of accredited election observers in Nigeria who observed the poll throughout 21 council areas, has called for total cancellation of the election, describing it as sham, bundle of irregularities and electoral robbery even as they claimed that sensitive and non-sensitive materials were delayed, denied and distorted, adding that the electoral umpire did not distribute result sheets at most of the polling units.

In a-6 page communiqué signed and issued by 29 Ansiec accredited observers, voters were disallowed to exercise franchise sequel to late arrival of voting materials in almost the polling units, especially at Obodo Ezi 1 and 2, Doris Inn 1 and 2, ward 6 Awka, and there was absent of result sheets at Nibo, Mbaukwu, Amawbia and Okpuno towns, both in Awka South local government area.

They further alleged that Ansiec staff and poll officials compromised election processes, masterminded gross misconduct and massive rigging in favour of APGA amidst the armed security personnel.

Similarly, the observers said it was worst election ever witnessed in Nigeria, called for outright cancellation, recommended fresh poll, training and retraining of Ansiec staff and its ad-hoc workers with a view to avert future occurrences.

The communiqué was signed by Patriotic Women Foundation, International Noble Initiative Club, African Christian Care Trust Organization, Building Peace for Democracy, Justice and Peace Organisation, Centre for Strategic Conflicts Management, and World Youth Peace Mission.

Others include Peace and Good Governance Alliance, West African Youth Peace Mission, Credible Election Network, Network of Civil Society Organization among others, and read by Mr. James Funsho, coordinator, Organization for Human Development.

Despite this, the elected local government area officials had been swear-in on Monday, 13th January, 2014.

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