The Saturday, February 23 Presidential and National Assembly Elections in Akwa Ibom State can be said to have been generally peaceful with a few exceptions.
A tour around the Oron Road and Aka Road environs in the early hours of D-Day showed a number of anxious voters at various polling centres who obviously couldn’t wait to exercise their civic duties.
Similarly, a tour around several units in Ika Local Government Area, Essien Udim and some parts of Etim Ekpo showed that all was well.
One significant feature which seemed to be common in the units visited was the late commencement of the exercise.
In Etim Ekpo Ward 3, Unit 3, for instance; elections had not commenced as at 10:07am, and the result sheets were conspicuously missing.
At Achan Ika Ward 3, Unit 5; materials were just arriving the Unit at 10:18am, with the Senior Presiding Officer (SPO) knowing nothing about the voting strength of the Unit. The SPO, Christian Nnamdi (a corps member), merely gaffed when asked on the number and completeness of the election materials at his disposal. But the member representing Ika/Etim Ekpo in the State House of Assembly, Hon. Gabriel Tobby, saved the day by assuring journalists that the Ward’s election materials had arrived and been dispatched to respective Units.
At Etim Ekpo Ward 5, a violent scene greeted journalists as the polling units had no resemblance of a voting arena by 10:00am. The RAC centre was chaotic, tense and violent. Gunshots were fired, matchets were unsheathed and daggers drawn.
Notably, the Ward is the home of the Retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ekpoudom.
After much ado, the election materials were driven to the Uruk Ata Ikot Ebo Police Station where protests from various angles rang in the air.
Speaking with Platinum.ng, one of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s aides, Hon. Abasieno Udodong said that the materials for the election had arrived but was intercepted and hijacked by DIG Ekpoudom who arrived shortly with the Police. He mentioned that the Police practically dragged the former Ward councillor, Uduot Jack into their vehicle, alongside corps members at Ekpoudom’s directive. “The materials have been hijacked by Ekpoudom”, he said.
He posited that the elections in the Ward should be postponed up until there is adequate security to conduct it. “The people in the Ward are ready to use their PVCs and make sure we vote right. Whatever Party that wins, we’re Ok with it” he said.
Confirming Udodong’s story is one of the Corps members who disclosed that they were done arranging the election materials at the Ratification Centre when some unknown persons approached them to confirm the materials. Upon confirming, they demanded for the result sheets and started being lousy. “Before we knew what was happening, they pushed the SPO to the ground and started beating us seriously. They brought out guns, matchets and daggers and started shooting. We tried to run but they said they will shoot us if we try to run” she narrated.
“They forced us into the vehicle, and jammed together all the materials we took time to arrange, and drove us roughly down here (the Police station)” she continued.
“They tried to force us to conduct the elections but we refused out of fear and called the office (INEC), so they sent soldiers”.
“When the soldiers came, they allayed our fears and asked us to start accreditation but as we stepped out and saw them fighting with one of the soldiers, we went back in again”, she concluded.
Another issue which sparked controversy and led to the beating of the former Etim Ekpo Ward Councillor, Hon. Uduot Jack was the absence of the collation form.
Speaking with newsmen, Hon. Uduot Jack explained how he was brutalised “I don’t remember when someone slapped me but I was slapped today. My wallet containing my PVC is gone including the N30, 000 I kept in my pocket. The Local Government REC has said that the Ward returning officer is in charge of that document. They normally go to the Local Government office and pick it. By then, they must have finished election but they (APC) said it was with me…it is in his office”, he lamented.
Responding to questions from journalists, the Ward returning Officer, Mr. Ishmeal Nworgu, admitted that he was in custody of the document. He noted that the officials were yet to meet him at his office to get the collation form and that the form was not meant to be attached with sensitive materials, adding that the results were to be collated at his office.
This reply was countered by the Party Agents who said they were not aware of such directive.
When asked if the materials will not be tampered with before it gets to the collation centre, Mr Nworgu replied in the affirmative, adding that it was not new to the Party Agents. But the Party Agents maintained that Nworgu was incorrect.
When asked if they would still conduct the elections, another Corps member said, “We spent over 4 hours separating and arranging the materials and they’ve scattered it. It is already past 12 (noon) now. Where do we start from by this time? And they can’t expect us to conduct elections in this environment. Our safety matters a lot”.
As at the time newsmen departed the scene at about 1pm, the election materials were packed up in a bus in the Uruk Ata Ikot Ebo Police Station and elections were yet to have commenced.
At Itu Local Government Area and the home Ward of the Commissioner for Housing and Special Duties, Hon. Akan Okon (Ward 4, Unit 4); the atmosphere was what one would describe as the fairest. Voters were being assisted (where necessary) to exercise their franchise, and the environment was calm and friendly.
The Commissioner who expressed delight at the steady progress of the exercise noted that though the materials arrived at 10:15am, and the card reader failed to function, the INEC officials took charge of the situation and ensured that voting was ongoing. He confirmed that the two-hour extension for polling Units who started the exercise late, would be observed at the Unit.
At Ibiono Ibom Ward 2, Unit 11; voting had concluded as at 2:10pm and the votes were being counted. When asked of the next voting Unit, a member of the crowd had said: “That is Senator Ita Enang’s Unit. They’ve cancelled the election there because he took the election materials to his house”.
Senator Ita Enang who arrived the scene almost immediately had nothing to say on the issue. He repeatedly said: “I don’t want to say anything now” and drove off.
At the home Ward of the Senator representing Uyo Federal Constituency, Obong Bassey Albert, Ibiono Ibom Ward 1, Unit 5; elections had been concluded too at 2:45pm and was about being sorted.
In all, a voting Unit which stood out and should be awarded the best for the season is that of Ikot Andem Itam where voters were provided with seats under a shade to sit and wait patiently for their turns. This made the scene quiet, organised and homely.
We can only hope that the March 9 Governorship elections harbours a better record across board than what happened today.