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Cross River rerun: INEC confirms kidnap, release of presiding officer

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Uyo, on Monday, ordered INEC to allow the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate, Mr Nsima Ekere, to inspect all election materials used during the March 9 Governorship Election.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has confirmed the abduction of the Supervisory Presiding Officer (SPO) in riverine Afafanyi/Igonigoni Ward of Cross River and hijack of election materials by unknown gone.

The violent incident, according to INEC hampered the conduct of the rerun poll in 8 units of the ward with 5,616 voters, resulting in the cancellation of the election in the ward.

A statement issued by INEC at about 9 pm says the kidnapped SPO has however been released but not with electoral materials that included sensitive and nonsensitive materials. The lost items listed include 9 smart card readers, 5616 ballot papers, result sheets, etc.

INEC is conducting the scheduled court-ordered rerun poll in Yankkur/Abi Federal Constituency and Abi State constituency of Cross River State held across 25 out of 33 Units where the rerun election is slated.

The statement said no life was lost in the incident, except that a policeman sustained the injury during the attack.

The Supervisory National Commissioner in charge of Cross Rivers, Rivers and Delta States, Mohammad Lecky, according to had also reported the incident to the State commissioner of police, Nkereuwem A. Akpan, who also monitored the exercise in Abi.

The commission disclosed that all its staff that were deployed in the area have returned safely to their basis.

Preliminary report suggests that poor network in the riverine communities hampered effective use of the Smart card reader as well as difficulties in controlling the large turnout of voters.

Reports from Essien Udim, LGA of Akwa Ibom State was not entirely different as the commission regretted cases of abduction of INEC ad-hoc staff by desperate politicians to private homes.

The report by the commission read: “When the Commission had thought that lessons would have been learnt from what led to the nullification of the 2019 Elections, the same acts of brigandage were on full display, as the abduction of poll officials were reported.

“These reports were corroborated by video clips on social media showing corps members and other officials who were abducted to private premises outside their PUs.

“They were further confirmed by the INEC Monitoring and Compliance Team of the rank of Directors of the Commission, who were assigned to various wards.

“Disruptions were reported in Ukana West (Ward 11), Units 5, 8, and 9 as well as Ikpe Annang (Ward 5), Unit 12. Some of the abducted poll officials have been rescued by the police while efforts are being made to ensure the safe release of others.

“Nigerians will recall that these rerun elections were ordered by the Appeal Court on account of what it described as “acts of unparalleled thuggery, intimidation, ballot-box snatching, abduction … and other acts of hooliganism that pervaded the entire Essien Udim LGA,” during the 2019 Elections.

“Again, these acts have been repeated in today’s re-run exercise. As at the time of this report, collation is ongoing in most wards that were not affected by violence and disruptions that were witnessed in these reported wards. Collation process is ongoing and the rerun elections would be concluded”.

The commission has vowed not to reward impunity and violence.

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