Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Protesters numbering about 2000, Thursday, besieged the Umuahia headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over alleged plot to compromise Saturday’s governorship and house of assembly elections.
The protesters who carried placards with various inscriptions such as “Our Votes Must Count;” “INEC should not allow our votes to be rigged;” “We say no to rigging;” etc., vowed to vigorously resist any attempt to manipulate the polls results.
They warned INEC of the grave danger in any attempt to rig the elections, urging the electoral umpire to properly caution its officials and ad hoc staff.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Comrade Bright Nwachukwu, charged INEC to ensure that Abia votes count.
“We won’t tolerate any attempt to subvert the people’s will,” he fumed.
He further said: “On no account should we accept any electoral process that is fraudulent! We wouldn’t accept any missing election materials including ballot papers, BVAS machines, and result sheets.
“In the last election we heard that in some places results were written on duplicate sheets as INEC ad hoc staff claimed that they did not have the original copies. Such can’t be again!
“All we want is a free, fair and peaceful election. We expect a new dawn in Abia because if we miss it now our children will ask us questions.
“Let the parties allow Abians to decide who will govern them on Saturday.
“We don’t care what the government in power is planning to do. We can assure them that our eyes are open. We watch with eagle eyes.
“INEC should be allowed to do its job. Nobody will manufacturer results from anywhere again.
“We can see from the body language of some people that they are back to their familiar terrain of rigging.
“Already on the social media one of them is threatening to kill anybody that votes against PDP governorship candidate and fry his kidney. We want him prosecuted immediately.
“We also want to assure these agents of death that in as much as we are for peace, they should not forget that nobody has the monopoly of violence. Nobody is more Abian than the other.”
Addressing the protesters, the Acting Administration Secretary of INEC, Abia State, Chief Clement Oha, thanked them for their peaceful comportment and assured them that the commission would provide a level playing ground for all parties and candidates.
Oha who said that all the voting materials would be personally signed by him, revealed the electoral umpire had already taken steps to fix some of the challenges recorded in the previous elections.
The INEC boss assured Abians to have confidence in INEC for a free, fair and credible polls in the state.
Later in an interview, Head Voter Education and Publicity, Mrs Rebecca Jim, said the sensitive materials had started leaving the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN facilities where they were warehoused for the various Local Government Areas.
She explained that materials for distant LGAs were dispatched first all in a bid they get to the Super Rack Centres at various LGAs on record time.
The INEC image maker in Abia, assured that by 7:30 am, voting materials would have arrived every polling unit.
She also disclosed that INEC had already dropped some of the ad hoc staff engaged by the Commission on February 25 following the discovery that they faked their identities, and did not possess the requisite qualification for the job.