Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Barely 48 hours after a protest erupted at the Umuahia office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, women in Bende, Saturday, blocked the Uzuakoli/ Isuikwuato Road to protest what they called “criminal rigging” of the results of the February 25, presidential and national assembly elections.
The protesters mainly women and youths, accused INEC of colluding with anti-democratic forces to subvert the will of the people and announce doctored results.
The protesters who claimed that what INEC announced as the outcome of the election was not a true reflection of their votes, called for outright cancellation of the polls particularly the Bende federal constituency contest which they claimed was won by the Labour Party candidate, Chief Frank Chinasa.
The protesters carried placards with various inscriptions such as: “We can’t be disenfranchised, our votes matter;” “We need another election that will be free and fair;” “INEC refused to upload our results;” etc.
They expressed disappointment over the failure of INEC to keep to its promises of transmitting election results electronically using the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS.
The protesters who claimed that the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, won by landslide in Bende, cried foul over the number of votes ascribed to him by INEC.
They called on INEC not to allow the robbery of the people’s mandate, insisting that the Labour Party candidates should be given their rightful votes.
Ikengaonline had reported that Ben Kalu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was announced winner of the Bende federal constituency poll by INEC, after polling 10,020 votes.
Chinasa, according to INEC, scored 6,818 votes to come second, while Nnenna Ukaeje of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, came third with 3,930 votes.
But the protesters alleged that the result announced by INEC was doctored and did not reflect the will of the people.
Speaking during the peaceful protest, Spokesperson of the protesters, Mrs Chinechetam Mbah, claimed that the failure of INEC to transmit results of the election from the various polling units contrary to the commission’s earlier promise, was a deliberate ploy to manipulate the outcome of the elections.
According to her, INEC deliberately delayed the arrival of voting materials in most polling units in the stronghold of Labour Party to disenfranchise its supporters.
“The whole electoral process was faulty; Materials couldn’t get to all the polling units on time; and some of the BVAS were faulty and could not provide optimal performances,” she lamented.
“Results were not uploaded immediately after the votes were counted. They claimed there were network issues and they left with both the results and duplicates and uploaded results we suspect to be fake after 24 hours.
“INEC did not provide logistics and Transportation for all the polling units and so some polling units in different wards were disenfranchised,” she added.
Adding her voice, another protester, Mrs Grace Nnamdi from Uzuakoli Ward A, alleged that INEC took results with BVAS away without announcing winners at the polling units.
“There was no ward collation of results. There was over-voting in a lot of areas,” she alleged.
Similarly, Nkeiruka Obilor, and Nneoma Jonas, from Lodu Ward 005, said they voted for Labour Party candidates but INEC subverted the will of the people by awarding victory to other candidates.
They claimed that collation of results was done manually and without the agents of other parties.
Adding his voice, Mr Chibuisi Ukaegbu said INEC had dampened their morale from participating in future elections.
“They changed our results. It’s better they did not hold any election at all, and in the future they should not bother asking us to vote because it’s just a waste of time. Votes don’t yet count in Nigeria.”
In the same vein, Collins Okezie lamented that despite their insistence that INEC officials should upload their results immediately, the commission refused, “only to come up with strange results we don’t know where they were cooked.”
He demanded a fresh election to restore public confidence in INEC and Nigeria’s electoral process.
“A flawed system will generate distrust and increase the propensity of violence in an otherwise peaceful constituency, which will produce a ripple effect of further economic recession,” he added
There have been clamour across the country for a cancellation of the polls over alleged irregularities.
Local and foreign observers including the US and the EU have also queried the credibility of the polls.