Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Deputy Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Uchendu, has told the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to stop blackmailing his Arochukwu-Ohafia federal constituency by referring to it as a stronghold of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
The lawmaker who was responding to claims by INEC that the polling units where the February 25 national assembly elections did not hold in Abia North were because voters voluntarily stayed away from the polls due to their sympathy for IPOB, faulted the position of INEC.
He expressed bewilderment at INEC’s claims which he dismissed as a fabricated lie to justify an absurdity.
INEC had in its response to the processes filed by Senator Mao Ohuabunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, against the declaration of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as winner of Abia North senatorial contest, claimed that voters “willfully” abstained from the polls where election did not hold because they were sympathetic to IPOB.
Ikengaonline had reported that presidential and national assembly elections did not hold in about 100 polling units in Arochukwu Ohafia federal constituency with a voting population of over 50,000 voters.
Senator Orji Uzor Kalu who was declared winner of the Abia North senatorial poll in a controversial manner, had 3000 margin of lead ahead of the runner up.
While defending its failure to conduct election in the affected polling units, INEC claimed it was because voters in the area decided not to participate in the exercise due to their sympathy for IPOB.
But piqued by INEC’s claims, the Deputy Speaker told the electoral umpire to stop blackmailing his constituents who he said were disenfranchised by the Commission.
He said that INEC had earlier admitted and apologised for its failure to bring voting materials to the affected polling units.
Uchendu who was the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP House of Representatives candidate for Arochukwu-Ohafia federal constituency, said voters in the affected polling units thronged out en masse to vote but were disappointed by INEC.
According to him, INEC cannot substantiate its claims when the same people participated in the governorship election.
“INEC is lying. It’s only fabricating excuses to justify the broad day robbery of the mandate of the people which it supervised.
“During the governorship poll, election held peacefully in the same polling units where INEC failed to organise election during the national assembly polls.
“During the February 25 polls, the Electoral Officer in charge of Ohafia Local Government, was pleading with the people because voting materials did not arrive on time.
“Materials did not arrive until 5pm and the EO came and appealed to the people, assuring that election will hold the next day. On the next day, people trooped out again but election did not hold. INEC told the people to come out again the next day.
“But before the next day the same INEC started announcing results when election did not hold in over 87 polling units with over 50,000 registered voters.”
The Deputy Speaker insisted that the national assembly election in the constituency was inconclusive.
He wondered why voters in Isiama Ohafia Ward that hosts the INEC zonal headquarters would be disenfranchised.
Some of the wards where election did not hold in Abia North during the national assembly elections include: Isiama Ohafia with 47 polling units; Okamu Ohafia with 27 polling units; and Amaeke Abiriba with 14 polling units.
Others were Aborji Abiriba with 10 wards; Ndielu Nkporo three units; Ohaeke Ward 2 Arochukwu with three wards; Eleoha Ihechiowa Ward 08; Aro Ward 3 with 11 polling units, among others.
There were protests against the declaration of Abia North senatorial poll result when election did not hold in a number of polling units.