A witness for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said allegations of rigging and the hijack of electoral materials in the Rivers governorship election were false.
An Electoral Officer (EO), Mr Ebikoru Tebekaemi, gave evidence in support of INEC at the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja.
The tribunal is considering a petition filed by the APC candidate, Dr Dakuku Peterside, challenging the return of Governor Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner.
INEC counsel Mr Onyechi Ikpeazu said the commission would call witnesses to prove its claim before the tribunal.
Ikpeazu led Tebekaemi, who supervised the election at Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, in evidence before the tribunal.
Tebekaemi, an electoral officer at the election, said the election was duly conducted in 15 of 17 wards in the local government area he monitored.
“My lords, it was only at wards 12 and 13, which are Rumuigbo and Rumokuta, that election did not take place. I was also not aware that people were seen at a football pitch thumb-printing ballot papers in favour of Governor Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),’’ he said.
According to him, sufficient electoral materials were distributed across Obio/Akpor and other parts of the state.
He tendered as exhibits a copy of the election result sheets of Obio/Akpor.
Tebekaemi denied irregularities when asked by the counsel to the petitioners, Chief Akin Olujimi, (SAN) if he was aware of rigging and snatching of electoral materials by armed thugs.
The witness told the tribunal that from his records, 304,745 voters were accredited at the local government area, adding that 40,481 were accredited by the Card Reader Machines.
Tebekaemi’s statement contradicted evidence by two senior INEC officials, who told the tribunal that the election was marred by violence and that all over the state less than 300,000 were accredited.
INEC’s Deputy Director on Information Communication Technology (ICT), who also heads its Data Management Unit, Mrs. Abimbola Oladunjoye, said only 293,072 voters were accredited all over the state.
Head of INEC Election Monitoring Unit Charles Okoye described the election as sheer terrorism. Giving testimony under subpoena, he said no elections took place in the state.
“The election we observed was warfare. It is also militant terrorism and a sham. It was a kangaroo election and a mockery of democracy.
“The election was characterised by largescale violence and disruption of polls in many places. There were snatching of materials, nonstop shooting, allocation of figures and all forms of impunity.
[quote_center]“All these happened on April 11. What happened on that day could not have passed as an election and my observations are in that report which I signed with members of my monitoring team,” he said.[/quote_center]
When he was asked by counsel to the PDP, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) if it was true that lack of electoral materials marred the governorship poll, Tebekaemi said he could only give evidence with regard to Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, which was under his control.
“But I can confirm that sufficient electoral materials were distributed across Obio/Akpor and other parts of Rivers State during the governorship election,” the witness added.
The Justice Suleiman Ambrosa-led tribunal adjourned till today to enable INEC produce more witnesses.
The petitioners closed their case on Wednesday after they calling 58 witnesses, who testified that the election was marred by violence and widespread irregularities?