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PROTESTS TRAIL ADOPTION OF OLD REGISTER FOR DELTA RE-RUN POLLS

By NBF News
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Uduaghan group backs INEC
INSISTENCE by the Independence National Electoral Commission [INEC] to conduct the governorship re-run polls in Delta State on January 6, 2011 and with the old voters' register has triggered protest from more stakeholders in the planned exercise.

Among those who have freshly expressed their opposition to the January 6 date and use of old register were the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Peoples Liberation Front (PSF) and Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) as well as the former president of the National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers (NUPENG) Chief Frank Kokori.

According to them, forging ahead with the current plan by INEC is an invitation to violence in Delta State.

But the Emmanuel Uduaghan Campaign Organisation (UCO) has faulted call for a new voters' register to be used in the re-run election, arguing that using new register for the polls will be illegal.

The ACN said INEC's decision to go ahead with the gubernatorial re-run on January 6, without addressing the serious concerns raised in many quarters and which could affect the proper conduct of the election, is the clearest indication yet that INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega is fast losing control of the commission.

In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, ACN wondered how INEC under Jega can expect to conduct free, fair and credible elections next year, if it cannot even handle a rerun in only one state.

It said 'INEC's nonchalant attitude in the face of huge challenges confronting the Delta re-run is a worrisome throwback to the days of the discredited Prof. Maurice Iwu, and a reminder to Nigerians that the hopes they have placed in Jega to organise successful polls in 2011 may have been misplaced after all.'

The party further said: ''A key requirement for any election to be free and fair is that there must be a credible voters' register. This is lacking in Delta, as confirmed by the Court of Appeal, which nullified Emmanuel Uduaghan's election. Yet, INEC insists on going ahead with the re-run. What voters' register does it want to use?

''Let's even agree that INEC is relying on the old, discredited register, why has INEC not displayed it for all the parties to make their claims and objections? On what basis, therefore, is INEC insisting on proceeding with the re-run on Jan. 6th? Can you build any edifice on a quicksand?''

The party also wondered why INEC is not concerned that sticking to the Jan. 6th will amount to a contempt of court, 'considering the order of a Federal High Court in Asaba on December 17th, 2010, in the case between Ovie Omo-Agege and the real running mate of the deceased RPN gubernatorial candidate.

''The court ordered the 1st and 2nd respondents, that is INEC and the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Delta State not to deny the applicants, that is Nkem Madezia and the Republican Party of Nigeria their rights as bonafide members of the party, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice. (the case was then adjourned to Jan. 11, 2011.)

ACN continued: ''Jega should ask for a copy of the court order if he has not yet seen it. It does not require an interpretation by a SAN to know that the re-run cannot hold until after the 11th of January.'

Also, leader of PSF and NDPVF Asari-Dokubo demanded that a fresh and credible voters' registration must be used to conduct the rerun election and that on no account must the ' judicially discredited voters register' be used.

He also demanded that the January 6, 2010 re-run election date

which is already being contested by some of the major political

parties and organizations in Delta State be shifted and a new date

that meets the requirements of the Electoral Act and all other

relevant laws as well as imbues confidence of the electorate and all political parties be announced. He said February is clearly within the 90 days requirement as ordered by the judicial pronouncements of the Court of Appeal.

Asari Dokubo who issued a statement yesterday signed by his spokesman, Rex Anighoro, after the Asaba office of the INEC was picketed by thousands of protesters allegedly belonging to the Great Ogboru camp – seeking shift of the election date - said 'it is extremely preposterous that the INEC is condemned irrevocably to continue the Maurice Iwu macabre dance.'

In his protest, Kokori said for INEC to 'stubbornly' stick to the old register which he alleged is both fraudulent and discredited for the governorship re-run, it confirms that there is element of truth in the rumour that members of the commission have been bribed in the state.

He said: 'Tell your boss here in Delta that speculation is rife that some millions running into billions of naira have exchange hands between his office and a governorship candidate in the state. I don't want to believe that INEC of today could be settled. Please do the right thing and prove those people wrong. Deltans, United Nations, United States of America, European Union, Africa Union and others want free and fair election in Nigeria.'

Kokori who spoke in Asaba on Wednesday during a protest march on the INEC office to demand either a fresh voters registration or a display of the old register for at least ten days before the governorship re-run election warned that millions of Deltans will be disenfranchised if the Commission insists on using the old voters register which was used in the controversial April 14, 2007 election.

Kokori, a top member of the main opposition Democratic People's Party (DPP) had in company of thousands of his supporters engaged on the protest march in Asaba,  the Delta State capital, paralyzing both vehicular and human movement at commission's Office along NTA Road and environs.

However, the Uduaghan campaign group, quoting former Senate Chief Whip, Roland Owie, said he was shocked that a number of people have called on INEC to prepare a new voter register before the re – run election can be conducted.

The UCO Director of Publicity, Dr. Festus Okunbor said when a re-run election is ordered, what it means is that the condition precedent to what happened in the year of the election continues, that is why no new candidates are admitted to run in a re – run.

Owie had said: 'It is assumed by law that elections are being conducted at the point when the election formally held before the count ruled, so to even use new voters' register is illegal. What is legal is the old voters' register, which was used in the 2007 elections.'

Having quoted Owie's argument extensively because of what he noted was its illuminative essence, Okunbor maintained that the call that the January 6th date be shifted is highly fraudulent and deceptive.

The Uduaghan Campaign Organization image maker said: 'We again call on INEC not to be swayed by such blackmail from rabble rousers. Their aim is to con, bamboozle and cry wolf where there is none. Rather, we call on our opponents to go out and prepare for the elections just as INEC is also getting set to perform its duty of organizing and conducting the election.'

Okunbor said that the PDP governorship re-run campaign committee and its candidate, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan are fully set, and ready for the elections.