Tension, Anxiety Mark Abia Rescheduled Election
IT was a case of mixed scenarios in the conduct of the rescheduled governorship elections in Abia State, with most areas recording huge successes with the card readers, thugs taking over polling centres amidst tension and general apathy.
Despite the low turn out of voters yesterday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) scored a huge point with the comparative success with the card readers. Almost all the polling units noted that they had fewer complaints with the card readers.
At Oloko Ward in Ikwuano Council, the Card Reader that denied the Minster of State for Defence, retired Colonel Austin Akobundu, accreditation during the governorship election on April 11, cleared him for voting yesterday but still denied seven out of the 122 that reported for accreditation by 12: 30pm. The Minister commended INEC for improving the functionality of the Card Reader and charged that a permanent solution be found in that regard.
However, a common complain was the absence of incident forms despite the success of the Card Reader. At the Industrial Ward II Unit 15, in Aba North, where the card reader failed repeatedly, local election observers harped on the absence of incident forms. A worried INEC staff from Abuja merely noted, “Jega strictly said he wanted card readers. And it is unlikely that those whose cards were rejected by the card readers will not have a chance to vote.”
It was gathered that most of the disruptions occurred in Abia North and Abia South regarded as strong holds of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, (APGA).
The election, which was planned to hold in nine councils failed to hold in Umunneochi Council in Abia North District, following conflicting reports. On the trail of reports of a hijack of materials initially sent to the area, gun shots the previous evening and heavy presence of soldiers, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Professor Selina Oko, explained that “there was also no Form EC 40 G on the Council, which would show proof of the areas where election did not hold previously or was inconclusive to cause a re-run.” According to her, no election was supposed to hold in Umunneochi, hence its inclusion among the nine councils where the fresh elections would hold was done in error.
The eight councils where elections were held are, Aba North, Aba South, Ikwuano, Ohafia, Osisioma, Ugwunagbo, Umuahia North and Umuahia South councils with about 164, 993 registered voters.
Activities in most polling units were slow. While INEC ad hoc staff reported at their posts as early as 8 am, voters reportedly started trickling in for accreditation from 9 o’clock. Despite the apathy, there were reports of late takeoff of accreditation in many areas due to late arrival of materials.