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Low turnout, late distribution of materials mar Abia council polls

By News Express on 21/12/2016

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Ballot box.
Ballot box.

The local government election in Abia State got off to a smooth start Wednesday but was characterised by voter apathy and complaints of malpractices by the opposition.

While the exercise took off smoothly in many local governments and polling units, it was a different kettle of fish in others.

Reports said that voting commenced on time in Osisioma and ended on time too. It was learnt that the exercise started by around 8:30 a.m. and ended before 4 p.m.

In Umuahia North, at Afugiri Ward 1 & 2 located inside Williams Memorial Grammar School in Ohuhu area, materials arrived at about 10:30 a.m. with a handful of voters on hand, waiting to cast their ballots.

A former Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Lucky Akabuike, who was sighted at the polling unit, expressed happiness that that the issue of council elections in Abia was “real,” adding that he was not expecting any violence as the polling progressed.

“The election is real and the stakeholders are here. This is naturally a peaceful area. The ward is happy that any moment from now, it will produce the executive chairman of Umuahia North local government area,” Akabuike said.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairmanship candidate in the election, Chidiebere Nwachukwu, is from the area.

Nwachukwu told newsmen that he was confident of victory given his untiring efforts in mobilizing the people of the entire local government to vote for him. He also said he was not expecting any trouble in the course of the exercise.

“The local government election is worth doing. Bringing power to the people, to the grassroots, is a good thing, the governor has tried to do it. Over 10 years now, it has not been done but thank God it is being done now. Here in my ward, I don’t envisage any trouble because my people love me and they are fully behind me,” he said.

But it was a different ball game in Ogbodiukwu ward in Umuahia South Local Government Area, comprising five polling units which is considered to be a stronghold of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

As at 12 noon, there were no electoral officers, neither were materials for the election delivered to the polling units, leaving candidates and voters in apparent anxiety.

Joyce Nwabuisi, an APGA Councillorship candidate for Ogbodiukwu, lamented that the ruling party, PDP, was “playing pranks.”

Nwabuisi said that reports she was receiving from her agents at the Apunmiri Ubakala headquarters of Umuahia South, the distribution point of election materials for the elections was not heart-warming.

“Some of my men that are there are reporting to me that everything is not moving fine as they were being harassed by Mobile Policemen.” I doubt if the election is going to take place since up to this time (12:05 p.m.) the electoral materials are yet to arrive,” she said.

The Deputy Chairmanship of APGA in Umuahia South, Chief Sunday Onyebuchi Emekaobum, was equally apprehensive that the election was being skewed off schedule.

“Like everybody knows that today is Election Day which the government arranged and all of us were prepared. We did our homework, we did our sensitisations like every other party did. Now, it is 12.10 p.m., we have not seen the electoral officials and their materials. It is quite unfortunate because I believe the governor himself knows about this,” Emekaobum said.

He said his men on ground said they have not seen any signal. “My fear is that, may be, PDP has ulterior motive,” he added.

Emekaobum said that his party will react appropriately on the outcome of the polling as he called on the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC) to “do the needful.”

He maintained that ABSIEC started the process in which the candidates and the parties played their roles, “so they should do what they are supposed to make sure that the election holds.” He advised the electorate to exercise patience.

When News Express visited the Umuahia South headquarters as at 1 p.m., a detachment of military personnel was seen blocking the entrance to the area with their marked Hilux van while the electoral officers were massed outside the premises, even as distribution of the materials was yet to commence.

In Isiala Ngwa North, voting was in progress in Umunka Amapu Ntigha Ward 8, though there was no presence of security personnel in the polling unit.

The chairmanship candidate for the area, Chief Ginger Onwusibe, after casting his vote, urged the voters to be peaceful and orderly. He said the exercise has been smooth in the area.

In Bende local government, APGA youths were said to have staged a protest against holding the election, alleging that the Transition Committee Chairman, Pastor Dike, and the PDP chairmanship candidate, Chief Gabriel Elendu, stormed the council headquarters by 1 a.m. and carted away the election materials.

But Elendu denied the charge, saying that materials were yet to arrive the area as at 3 p.m.

In Abiriba, APGA youths also tried to stop the election on the account the materials arrived behind schedule. They said that due to their protest, the materials were taken to the police station for custody but the lawmaker representing Ohafia South, Chief Mandela Obasi, countered the allegation, saying that polling had taken place.

On the allegation that PDP was conniving with ABSIEC to starve APGA strongholds of election materials, the Publicity Secretary of PDP, Sir Don Ubani, said that PDP was not part of the organisers of the election.

“There is a body statutorily charged with the conduct of the election and PDP is not part of it,” Ubani said.

Chairman of ABSIEC, Justice Igbozuruike Akomas (rtd), said, in reaction to calls for cancellation of the exercise on grounds of late arrival or non-distribution of materials, that the commission printed and distributed enough materials.

He advised those canvassing for annulment of the exercise to approach the courts to seek redress as he would not oblige them. “For me, I will not cancel the election,” he was quoted as saying.

Source News Express

Posted 21/12/2016 8:19:19 PM





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