Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
All is yet to be heard about the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Abia State, South-East Nigeria, following a startling revelation by the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in charge of the state, Professor Ike Uzochukwu, that he was forcefully abducted by officials of the Department of State Services, DSS; and the Police.
The REC who made the revelation in a report he wrote about the polls, said he was yet to be told his offence.
Professor Uzochukwu who also said that his security details were withdrawn and his Police orderly detained, raised alarm over his safety, claiming that his “life is in grave danger.”
Signals that all might not be well, first emerged on Sunday February 26, when newsmen, party agents, Returning Officers and other stakeholders who had gathered for collation of the poll results could not sight the REC at the INEC collation centre at the Commission’s headquarters, Ogurube Layout, Umuahia.
Inquiry on the REC’s whereabouts were fruitless as INEC officials remained evasive over the issue.
The confusion lingered till about 5:00pm when suddenly the Administrative Secretary, Clement Oha who said he was deployed newly to Abia, claimed he had been asked to take over following the absence of the REC.
Meanwhile, the REC who opened up in a report he made public yesterday, narrated how he was abducted and detained by security agencies for an offence yet to be disclosed to him.
Professor Uzochukwu who accused the Administrative Secretary of usurping the powers of his office, said that the results of the presidential and national assembly elections were collated in his (REC’s) absence.
He further queried the credibility of some of the results declared, saying that some of the candidates returned in the elections might not be the true winners as the collation of results did not tally with the New Electoral Act and INEC guidelines.
The report made available to Ikengaonline read : “The duty post of the REC was the incident room. I was there throughout Saturday, 25th February 2023 and up until around 2am on Sunday, 26th February 2023.
“On Sunday, 26th February 2023, before the elections ended, about 13:00pm, I was abducted and placed under forceful detention and false imprisonment by the Abia State Department of State Services (DSS) and Police.
“I was forced out of my hotel room while I was preparing to return back to the INEC State Office (having worked throughout Saturday, 25th February 2023 till about 5am of Sunday, 26th February 2023) by the officials of Abia State Department of State Services and Abia State Police.
“I was kept in their respective custodies without warrant of arrest, with my Personal Assistant (PA).
“The DSS and Police details attached to me were also withdrawn from me and the Police details detained.
“Having being released on bail by the Abia State Police on Tuesday, 28th February 2023 at about 5pm, I quickly sent an email to the Chairman of the Commission (INEC) expressing surprise at the DSS and Police actions against me.
“I am yet to be informed of my offence. I have been deprived of vital information contained in my personal laptop, official files and other personal items, all still being held by the Abia State Police.
“I had to leave for the hospital on Thursday, 2nd March 2023 for check-up due to the trauma and unhealthy environment I was subjected to both at the Abia State DSS and Police.
“My life is in grave danger as I now move without any security detail.”
The REC called for a review of some of the national assembly elections doubting their credibility.
“Since my abduction and hence absence, election results announced in some zones may not have met the minimum requirements as stipulated by the Electoral Act, 2022.
“Some declared winner(s) may not be genuine winner(s) in some of those elections.
“I hereby request for the review of the results in consonance with section 65 of the Electoral Act 2022, which empowers Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to review the result(s) declared by the Returning Officer (RO) within one week after, if the declaration declared by a Returning Officer is contrary to the provisions of the law, regulations and guidelines, and manual for the elections.
“The collations and returning of winners were done in my absence (Resident Electoral Commissioner) while the Administrative Secretary usurped and assumed my position.
Professor Uzochukwu accused senior INEC staff of sabotaging the directives by the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu on the payment of Corp members engaged by the commission for election duties.
“I had the express directive of INEC, communicated directly to me by the National Commissioner overseeing Abia State (Barr Festus Okoye), to pay NYSC corpers deployed for this election duties in cash for all items such as training allowances, feeding allowance etc.
“This directive was sabotaged by some INEC staff (Administrative Secretary, HODs of Finance and Operations).
“Thank you for granting me this opportunity (audi alteram partem), which is essential for justice, fairness, firmness and transparency. Let peace prevail in this process,” the REC submitted in the report.
When contacted for his reaction, Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Abia State, Geoffrey Ogbonna, said he would find out.
In his response, DSS Director in charge of Abia State, Friday Onuche, said the allegation was unfounded.
“Nothing like that happened. Will any abducted person have time to write all those rubbish? What kind of abduction is that?
“It’s unfounded. Do we abduct? Are we kidnappers? For what? Which political party do we belong to? Do you think we will do such a thing?
“All the security agencies have their role cut out for them in terms of election security. We protect personnel of INEC and materials. Why should we now abduct the people we are to protect? I’m not sure that’s what he meant.”