FG, NYSC rise against killings in Rivers; UK, US condemn violence

P-HARCOURT—THE National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, has threatened to review its collaboration with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC on conduct of polls, following recurring deaths of corps members on election duties. This came as the Federal Government, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, condemned the killings in Rivers State. During the 2011 presidential election, 11 corps members were killed in Bauchi State and about 150 others had their limbs hacked off in Kaduna State by people protesting the outcome of the polls. Last weekend, another corps member, Samuel Okonta, was killed by gunmen in Rivers State and some went missing during the federal and state legislature re-run polls in the state. The NYSC Director General, Brig-Gen. Johnson Olawumi, who vowed that the scheme would not relent until the killers of Okonta were brought to justice, said NYSC had set up a committee to look into the killing of Okonta, adding that the committee would determine whether or not the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU it signed with the INEC on participation of corps members in electoral process would be reviewed. Olawumi spoke when the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung and INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu, paid a condolence visit to the NYSC in Abuja, over the death of Okonta. Late Samuel Late Samuel Okonta, a corps member killed in Rivers “I want to use this avenue to call on the Rivers State government and community leaders to do everything humanly possible to bring those who killed this young, innocent man to book. We shall work with relevant agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous act are fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law,” he said. Perpetrators will not go unpunished – FG Meanwhile, the Federal Government assured that the perpetrators of the electoral violence in Rivers would be fished out and punished. Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, who blamed the violence on politicians, who refused to play the game according to the rules, described the crisis as a display of primitive political culture. The minister, who attributed the death of Okonta to the inordinate ambition of politicians, said “under the administration of change, this impunity will never be celebrated.” Dalung said: “I want to use this opportunity to appeal to Nigerian politicians that in playing the game, officials for the match and spectators are not players. I observed that each time we play this our political game, our tentacles and anger are extended to wrong persons…. It is very terrible that we cannot conduct ordinary election without conflict and crisis.” Earlier in his remarks, the INEC chairman, conveyed the electoral commission’s ‘sincere condolence’ to NYSC over Okonta, saying “the other corps member, who could not be accounted for, has been found alive, hale and hearty but we understand she was traumatized and unconscious.” UK, US condemn violence, irregularities Also, the United Kingdom and United States embassies in Nigeria, yesterday, condemned the violence and irregularities that hallmarked the polls and indicted supporters of the major political parties for the ugly incidents. Disturbed by the irregularities, violence and reported attacks on electoral officials during the elections, the two embassies, in separate statements in Abuja, said the development was totally condemnable and unacceptable. Major parties must encourage their supporters to be peaceful – UK Specifically, the British High Commission in Nigeria, in a statement by its Spokesperson, Joe Abuku, said the UK government was disappointed by reports of violence, in particular against electoral officials and the INEC. “UK observers in Rivers State saw irregularities around the voting and noted the low turn-out of voters at polling units which was in part a consequence of fear of violence. The British High Commission urges the leadership of both major political parties to encourage their supporters in Rivers to behave peacefully and call on those still dissatisfied to pursue resolution of their grievances through the courts in accordance with the rule of law,” it added. On its part, the US embassy said: “We condemn the use of violence and disruptions of the democratic process. We call upon the leadership of Nigeria’s political parties to urge their supporters to conduct themselves peacefully throughout the electoral process. We call on those dissatisfied to pursue a resolution of their grievances peacefully in accordance with the rule of law.” APC candidates flay Wike, seek cancellation of polls Candidates of the APC in Rivers East senatorial district, yesterday, lashed the state government, saying Governor Nyesom Wike’s style of governance was putting the state in bad light. Senatorial candidate of the party in the district, Andrew Uchendu, said as leaders in the state, they would not keep quiet when things were going wrong. Flanked by Maureen Tamuno, candidate of the party for Okrika, Ogubolo Federal Constituency, Mr Ogbona Nwonke contesting for the Etche Omuma federal constituency seat and other candidates of the party in the senatorial district, they alleged that some adhoc staff of the INEC, who were not authorised went ahead to declare results in areas where elections had been allegedly suspended. Wike, PDP urge INEC to release collated results However, Governor Wike, the PDP and the party’s Reps Caucus have called on the Electoral Commission, to declare results of the rerun elections that had so far been collated. The governor, who spoke, yesterday, when the Federated Correspondents Chapel of Nigerian Union of Journalists, in Rivers State paid him a courtesy visit at the Government House, Port Harcourt, said it was shocking that the electoral body was still holding back several results already collated and announced at the various collation centres. Continuing, the governor said the commission lacked powers to cancel results that had been announced at the various local government collation centres. The national leadership of the PDP, spoke in like manner. Addressing a press conference in Abuja, yesterday afternoon, the National Chairman of the Party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, also called for the immediate constitution of a panel to carry out a dispassionate investigation of the circumstances that led to the violence during the rerun with a view to unraveling the truth and bringing the culprits to book. Senator Sheriff condemned the role played by some members of the Armed forces who were supposed to provide security during the elections. The statement read in part: “The PDP is also appalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission, after results had been collated and declared on the ground in many Wards and Constituencies, yielded to the pressure and instruction of a highly placed politician in Rivers State to suspend the much-awaited declaration of final results and return of the winners, who are already well known to the electorate. We stress that the Electoral Act 2010 (as Amended) and applicable regulations do not support the suspension of the declaration of results after collation has been completed. We, therefore, demand for the declaration of all results already collated and the return of the winners of the elections. Wike lauds Buhari over non-interference Meantime, Governor Wike, yesterday evening, lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for distancing himself from the rerun elections in the state, saying he did not interfere with the exercise. Wike, who spoke in Government House, Port Harcourt while addressing PDP party faithful, said Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Amaechi came into the state noisily and left quietly after results showed he could not deliver his candidates. “No Army is stronger than the people. No police is stronger than our people. How many times will they cancel elections for the APC? Those who were overzealous during the rerun elections did so without the knowledge of the president.” INEC summons REC, other officials Meantime, INEC has summoned its Rivers Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Mr. Aniedi Ikoiwak and other officials involved in the exercise. The commission will today meet with all the affected officials with a view to determining what exactly transpired and, thereafter, take informed position on the Rivers electoral logjam. Vanguard checks revealed that all the concerned officials have relocated to Abuja and are set to brief the INEC Chairman and other national officers of the commission. Director, Voter Education and Publicity at the commission, Oluwole Osaze-Uzi, in a telephone chat, said the commission would not be quick to make any pronouncement without being appropriately briefed by its personnel. “We are meeting with some of our stakeholders tomorrow (today). We will meet with the REC and all those (INEC officials) who participated in the polls. It is after then that the commission would make its position known,” he said. INEC had suspended all further actions concerning the court ordered re-run elections in the Rivers State National Assembly and State House of Assembly seats held on Saturday, 19th March 2016. The Commission had premised its action on the widespread reports of attacks leading to fatalities, kidnappings, ballot box snatching, diversion of officials and materials amongst others. Ikoiwak expressed dissatisfaction with the conduct of politicians in the state during the elections. He disclosed that auditing of the materials and personnel used for the election were on, adding that the commission awaits directives from its national body for the next line of action.

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