COLLATION and announcement of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, have been suspended in Imo state following protests that ensued at the INEC collation centre in Owerri on Monday.
Trouble started when the returning officer from Ideato South, was asked by the Imo Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Prof. Francis Ezeonu to commence the announcement of Ideato South result.
No sooner had the returning officer sat down to announce the result than the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) agent, Mr Uche Onyeagocha, and other party agents which includes Paschal Onwukaike of Democratic Alternative (DA) and Steve Asimobi of Redemption Party (RP) protested the announcement of the results from Ideato South.
This led to an argument where Onyeagocha alleged that Ideato South result favoured the candidate of Action Alliance, AA, with an outrageous figure and should not be announced.
A verbal altercation among party officials of the PDP, AA, AD and RP agents resulted in the tearing of the governorship election results sheets for Ideato South.
Onyeagocha also while rejecting the announcement of the results, claimed that the PDP and other party agents were intimidated at the Ideato South LGA collation centre and requested that the REC should cancel the result.
In the midst of the violence that ensued, Onyeagocha and the others were arrested by the security operatives present while Ezeonu and the Imo Returning Officer, RO, Prof. Francis Ezeonu were whisked away to safety.
Earlier, in the morning the Imo State, RO, Ezeonu had handed over two collation officers to security operatives over manipulation of results in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Areas of the state.
The collation officer, Ehirim Kelechi, alongside his accomplice Christian Ogbuagbu confessed to the RO that after issuing duplicates of the results to party agents, he altered the original copy, injecting more than 1,000 votes to the results.
This was discovered after the results he read out at the collation centre was disputed by party agents and the RO compared the results.
“I have been advised to note that their action constitutes electoral malpractice. I hereby hand over the case to the security agents to handle.”
Before the suspension of collation, results from 11 councils had been announced while 16 councils are still being awaited.
In a related development, INEC has declared the Benue State governorship election inconclusive due to the inability of over 120, 000 voters to participate in the election.
The Benue State Returning Officer, Prof. Sabastine Maimaiko on Monday who declared the Benue State governorship election inconclusive stated that he arrived at the decision based on statistics received across the state that 121,011 electorates were either unable to vote or election did not hold in their areas.
Making the declaration, the State RO, Maimako, however, announced that Samuel Ortom of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, scored the highest number of votes – 410,576.
He was closely followed by Emmanuel Jime of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who polled a total number of 329,022 votes.
A new date is yet to be announced for the supplementary election in the areas where elections were cancelled.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.