IMO BOILS OVER GUBER ELECTION STALEMATE
Riot broke out yesterday evening at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office, Port-Harcourt Road, Owerri, Imo State over the stalemated governorship poll results. They literally laid a siege on the INEC office and prevented free movement in and out of the office. The youths urged INEC to declare the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate winner of the election.
Problem started when people suspected to be supporters of the candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Rochas Okorocha prevented some vehicles from entering the INEC office.
The youths vandalised vehicles including a Hilux pick-up with the presidency number plate, two Toyota Corrolla cars marked JE 318 AAA and JE 316 AAA respectively.
Daily Sun learnt that the wife of Chief Arthur Nzeribe, a prominent politician in the state was seen in one of the vehicles. It took the effort of soldiers to spirit her out of the grip of the mob who were bent on lynching her.
Occupants of the other vehicles were also thoroughly beaten and were about being lynched before they were rescued by soldiers.
Result sheets and ballot papers, it was alleged were found in the vehicles.
According to the irate youths, the vehicles were carrying fake results and ballot papers. But a soldier who spoke to Daily Sun said their anger was a misplaced aggression. According to him, the vehicles were carrying results from Delta State. Meanwhile, the wounded occupants were still in the custody of soldiers as at press time (5:48p.m) yesterday. Also, soldiers had been able to bring the situation under control.
The governorship candidates of APGA and PDP, Owelle Okorocha and Gov. Ikedi Ohakim were running neck and neck before the state returning officer, Prof. Enoch Akobundu announced that the election was inclusive.
The audience at the INEC headquarters, Owerri were shocked when the returning officer from Mbaitiolu, Mr Frank said that he had no result from the area but later acknowledged that he signed results brought out by one of the party agents.
It was gathered that government officials and appointees had abandoned their official cars for fear of harassment or intimidation of angry youths. At the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters, Owerri, security was beefed up as youths numbering over 5000 converged at a few metres to the commission's office demanding the release of the remaining results.
The youths who sat on the ground facing the armed Soldiers and Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) were hell bent not to leave area until their demands were meant. It was learnt that crisis erupted in the area when the angry youths suspected some vehicles trying to enter the INEC headquarters as they accused the occupants of trying to smuggle some electoral results into the office.
As a result of the tension in the state capital, Daily Sun observed that residents, especially civil servants had started rushing to Ekeukwu Owerri Market to buy food stuffs and stockpile them at their homes in case if there is a breakdown of law and order following the political logjam. Both Rochas and Ohakim were believed to have relocated to Abuja. However, the leadership the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-east geo-political zone has accused the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Imo State, Professor Celina Okoh , the collation officers as well as security agencies of bias in dealing with electoral matters.
Addressing journalists yesterday at the state PDP Secretariat Okigwe Road, Vice Chairman South East zone, Chief Olisa Metu alleged that both INEC and Security agencies including the Army and the police allowed other political parties to import thugs into the state to harass and intimidate PDP supporters. Metu accused the REC, Prof Okoh of forcing the presiding officer from Mbaitoli, Mr Frank Mathias to annouce that there was no result from the area but turned around to deny the PO who was innocent of the whole deal. According to him, Imo people voted massively for the PDP.
He boasted that the security agencies including President Goodluck Jonathan would not be able to handle the crisis if election is not conducted in the state within 24 hours. He further accused INEC of foot-dragging of fixing a new date for elections in areas declared inclusive. The LGAS include Ohaji / Egbema, Oguta and Ngor-Okpala. Reacting, the APGA director of publicity, Mrs Chioma Ogoke debunked the allegations describing PDP views as voice of a drowning person. He alleged that the PDP had engaged in thuggery and bribing of voters.
Ogoke who said that APGA's victory was the peoples mandate as the party had not been involved in any election violence and a such had not shared money to any electorate. A group of election monitoring observers who were billed to address the media yesterday left for their hotels disappointed as they alleged that the state government had not pay them their agreed allowances.