The several months of battle for the conclusion of the outstanding elections in Rivers State will end today, as voters across 1,840 polling units in the 23 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the State, will come out to vote for candidates of their choice.

Violence and electoral fraud marred the March 19 rerun election, such that the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) withheld the result of some LGAs while the result of seven of Local Government Councils was cancelled out rightly.

Areas where most of the election will hold include Andoni, Akuku-Torlu, Bonny, Etche, Ikwerre, Khana and Gokana.

About 10,294 INEC staff have been deployed including three returning officers for three senatorial districts, eight returning officers, 222 registration areas and 231 supervisory presiding officers.

The election will take place across 21 constituencies and 10 state constituencies - Rivers East, Rivers West and Rivers South East senatorial districts. 

The eight federal constituencies are Akuk-tolu, Asari- tolu,  Degema/Bonny, Okrika/Ogu/Bolo, Etche/Omuma, Ikwerre/Emohua, Khana/Gokana, Eleme/Tia/Oyigbo and Opopo/Nkoro/Andoni .

The state constituencies are Eleme, Gokana, Asari-Tolu 1, Asari-Tolu 2, Andoni, Khana 2, Etche 2, Ikwerre, Bonny and Degema. 

Election had been concluded in some constituencies with the declaration of results and return of winners by the respective returning officers. In some areas collation had been concluded but no declaration or return was made.

One of the areas in serious contention is Tia Local Government Area where INEC allotted 34,000 votes to the APC. The commission until the Tuesday judgement delivered by Justice Muhammad Liman where he directed that there should be a rerun election in the area, INEC had insisted the election had been concluded.

The battle for the soul of Rivers State politics had been between Governor Nyesom Wike and his ex-political soul mate and Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi. 
While Amaechi pitched its tent with the APC, Wike stayed put in the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) the platform on which he rose to power in 2015 as governor of the state.

Today’s election is a straight fight between Amaechi and Wike and the political turf  will once again provide a platform for them to prove their worth on who calls the shot in Rivers State political space.

The date for the rerun election had been shifted severally because of what INEC described as unfriendly and hostile environment for the conduct of the election. But the announcement of December 10, 2016 as date for the completion of the rerun election had heightened political tension in the state as residents as well as stakeholders in the conduct of the election - despite the assurance given by the police that it would provide round the clock security - are having misgivings over their safety during and after the election.

The police said it would deploy about 25,000 of its personnel to ensure a hitch free poll.  As at Wednesday, hundreds of police personnel drafted from different formations across the country had arrived Port Harcourt.

One of the measures adopted to ensure that the election is devoid of violence is the restriction of movement 24 hours to the election. Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Francis Odesanya, during a stakeholders meeting in Port Harcourt said there would be restriction of movement all over the state from 12.00am to 8.00pm today.

He also said police personnel attached to personalities in the State had been withdrawn and movement of personalities within the areas they would not cast votes would be restricted. He warned that no police personnel would be allowed to carry arms within the election venue.

Marine craft, gunboats and other weaponry sections of the Force have also been deployed to the state for the election.

Despite the assurances that it will be a peaceful exercise, members of the National Youths Service Corps, (NYSC) who are engaged by INEC as adhoc staff for the election said they would not participate.

Director-General of the NYSC,  Brigadier-General Suleiman Kazaure, while sensitizing corps members who volunteered to partake, on security and safety,  before, during and after elections, also said the NYSC would not take it lightly if any corps member was harmed.

Kazaure, who spoke through the Director, Corps Welfare and Health Services, Mrs.  Abosede Okaku, harped on the safety of the Corps members and said the life of every NYSC member on national assignment was very important, warning that every step would be taken to ensure their safety.

He reminded the corps members that none of them was forced to accept the job, while warning them to shun every form of electoral malpractice and secure their lives first before any other thing, “if you are in obvious danger.”

The DG told them: “Put your uniform and your ID cards, so that we will know who is an impersonator. If you find out that there is danger secure yourself first before any other thing.

“On election day, do not mingle with anybody you do not know, you would be drugged or killed. Get your own food, get water that will carry you for 24 hours.

“Abide by the rules of the election. Do not be drunk before and after the election. Display a high level of patriotism and integrity. Be cautious and polite and neutral and be very firm,” he said.

The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Elder Aniedi Ikoiwak, appealed to the corps members who had volunteered not to change their mind.

Political actors in the state had engaged themselves in a war of words over today’s election.
Both parties have campaigned across the state to convince citizens to vote for their candidates. Some of their campaign slogans have been dotted with hate speeches - a development that overheated the polity and sent jitters down the spine of the electorate.

The Inspector General of  Police, Ibrahim Idris was in Port Harcourt on Thursday to address the police personnel deployed to the state on the need to maintain neutrality throughout the period.

Source:Daily Trust


Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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