Rivers Rerun: PDP Alleges Arrest, Detention of 21 INEC Ad-hoc Staff
Commission denies knowledge of incident
Party crying wolf, says APC Police decline comment
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State has alleged that the the Special Joint Investigation Panel on the Rivers Rerun election set up by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has arrested and detained 21 ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who took part in the legislative re-run election in the state and served in areas where candidates of the party won.
The party said the INEC ad-hoc staff were arrested Wednesday night and detained at the State Criminal Investigation Department in Port Harcourt.
A statement issued yesterday on behalf of the state Chairman of the PDP, Felix Obuah, by his media adviser, Jerry Needam, said those arrested were transferred to Abuja yesterday afternoon and that they were being forced to confess receiving money from the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, the PDP, and its candidates to influence the victory of the party in the re-run election in the state.
Obuah said according to the source at the state CID, more arrests would be made and those arrested would be transferred to Abuja and paraded during a press conference that would be organised by the Police High Command, in conjunction with the top leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“This latest development undoubtedly, is a confirmation of the fact that the police committee led by its chairman, Mr. Damain Okoro, that arrived the state on January 11, 2017, is on a mission of witch-hunt against the state governor, Wike, the PDP leadership and candidates of the party, who emerged victorious in the December 10, re-run election in Rivers State,” he said.
He emphasised: “Although, the police authorities have actually made no pretence about their biased role on issues surrounding the exercise in the state, with the premature sack of six of their men attached to the governor, and their refusal to question the conduct of Mr. Akin Fakorede during the election, but of much concern is what these activities portend for our democracy and the image of the Police and other security forces who swore oath of allegiance of neutrality and to defend, protect and respect the provisions of the constitution of Nigeria and rights of all citizens, and who are maintained by tax payers’ money, not only those of the APC, but all Nigerians.
“It is unfortunate that the police under the current Inspector General of Police, have so abused their constitutional responsibilities and have now turned into a security arm of a political party, the APC.
He said the party had expected the police to be more professional, objective, apolitical, and uphold the tenets of the constitution and regulations as contained in the Electoral Act, relating to the role of security agencies in an election.
“Regrettably, the police in the case of Rivers State have become a tool of witch-hunt by the federal government and certain Rivers politicians of the APC,” he said.
He called on well-meaning Nigerians “to rise against this ugly trend and abuse of responsibility by the Police high command and the APC leadership in trying to silence the opposition by wrongly indicting innocent citizens, the Rivers State government and leaders of the PDP in the state”.
But the INEC in the state has said while it was aware that the police investigation team had sought and obtained the permission of the commission to interview its ad-hoc staff, it had no knowledge of their arrest and detention.
The state Resident Electoral Commission (REC) of INEC, Aniedi Ikoiwak, also said he was not aware the ad-hoc staff were through with their testimonies before the panel or if they were transferred to Abuja.
The police have also refused to comment on the allegations.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Nnamdi Omoni (DSP), told THISDAY that he was not competent to react to the allegations as it was targeted at the Force Headquarters.
“I cannot comment on the allegation. That is clearly outside my jurisdiction since it has to do with the Force headquarters,” he said.
Also reacting to the allegations, the state chapter of APC said the PDP was only crying wolf as it should have no business as to whom the police interrogates to get at the truth of what happened during the rerun.
The state Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Chris Finebone, said in a statement yesterday, “The APC notes with shock that Rivers PDP is accusing the Nigeria Police of becoming the security arm of APC. This is a joke taken too far by every decent standard in politics.
“We recall that in the same press statement PDP accused the Nigeria Police of arresting 21 ad-hoc staff of the Independent INEC, who took part in the legislative re-run election in the state.
While the APC will not attempt to speak for the Nigeria Police, we wish to state that the PDP is simply crying wolf and this is typical of them and therefore not surprising to many. We do not see why the PDP should be too worried that ad-hoc staff of INEC or indeed anybody is invited by the Nigeria Police to assist it on any issue.
How that becomes a source of worry for the PDP is baffling to us. Could it be a confirmation of our long-held suspicion that PDP smuggled their members into the INEC ad-hoc staff list in order to do their bidding? Or could the investigation of the ad-hoc staff possibly lead to the unravelling of possible extent and dimensions of compromise of INEC officials by Gov. Nyesom Wike and the PDP hence the apprehension and false alarm?”
He said the PDP was jittery because the INEC ad-hoc staff could make confessions that would indict the party.