The text of a press conference held in Uyo by the Forum of All Political Parties in Akwa Ibom State, following the postponement of the 16 February 2019 elections.
Gentlemen of the Press
As you may all be aware, the general elections that were to kick off on Saturday, 16 February 2019 have been moved forward by one week. The rescheduling came as a surprise and with a huge cost to us; we were ready as a party for the elections. INEC has said the elections were postponed to get the logistics right in order to deliver a free, fair and transparent elections. In light of the explanation by INEC, we as Political Parties have accepted the cost incurred as a necessary sacrifice for the good of our democracy. Let us take the advantage of this pause on the road to thank God whose grace and protection have seen us thus far in the Akwa Ibom Project.
We want to also thank the good people of Akwa Ibom in general and members and supporters of our parties in particular who have remained loyal to the cause in the past months in spite of many challenges as we keep up the good fight to recover and redeem our dear state. We urge them to remain mobilized and ready until the job is done. We want to take note of the work of members of the security services and urge them to exercise professionalism in the discharge of their duties in the state. Permit us to place on record the support of leaders of our various Parties. Their support in the form of good counsel and contributions in material terms have helped the us to cope with many hurdles that have confronted the parties in the cause of this project. However, many challenges remain and must be addressed for us to achieve our set objectives.
INEC AND THE IMPERATIVE OF FAIR UMPIRE
We have had cause in the immediate past to call attention to the failure of the INEC leadership in the state to inspire the confidence of all parties in the political process by reason of the actions of the Commission and the utterances of its leaders. INEC has betrayed unbridled partisanship through the selection of its ad hoc staff, some of whom are drawn from the employees of the Commission, contrary to extant practices and institutional requirements. Through connivance with the state government, all the ad hoc staff of the Commission is made up of loyal members and supporters of the PDP. In addition, the Commission has acted as though it were part of the Government House in Uyo. In spite of our representations to the head office of the Commission in Abuja, nothing has been done to allay our concern that the INEC office in Akwa Ibom State is not a fair umpire and cannot deliver a free, fair and transparent election because it is partisan and in bed with the ruling PDP government in the state. This anomaly must be addressed.
Just as we warned of the partisanship of the election umpire, we had raised the alarm that the PDP and the state government stockpiled arms and recruited thugs and terrorists to be used to rig the elections. What happened on the eve of the now rescheduled 16 February 2019 elections proved beyond reasonable doubt that the alarm we raised was not unfounded. On the eve of the first scheduled sets of elections, the Police arrested more than 500 thugs in various parts of the state. Confessions by the captured criminals showed clearly that they were brought into the state from other parts of the country by PDP politicians. The thugs were arrested with sophisticated arms and ammunitions.
At this point, we want to register our appreciation to the security forces who averted a bloodbath through their quick and precision strike to neutralize the threat posed by the infiltration of the dangerous criminals into the state by leaders of the PDP.
However, our concern over security as we approach the rescheduled election is more structural. Field reports from our men on the eve of the rescheduled elections show that there were no visible deployments of security forces in the state. This smacks of sabotage. What was worse, the state Commissioner of Police actually disarmed the tactical command of the Force and redeployed them elsewhere. That kind of inadequate attention to security at a critical period like election season is an open invitation to trouble from elements such as thugs and anti-social elements who flooded the state on the eve of the elections.
1000 VOTE DEFENDERS
We want to call attention of the security agencies and members of the public in general to the open boast by the State Governor, a boast well reported in the mainstream media, that he had made provisions for ‘1000 vote defenders’ for each polling unit during the elections. Since the state has 2980 polling units, the governor would have to use ‘2,980,000 vote defenders.’ I want to ask the security agencies and the public at large to see the connection between that boast by the governor and the flooding of the state on the eve of the rescheduled elections with thugs and terrorists imported from other states in the nation. It is common knowledge that most of the polling units in the state cannot boast more than 500 people. So where was the governor going to get his ‘1000 vote defenders’ from? The answer to that query lies in the importation of thousands of thugs and terrorists into the state by the PDP government. The Udom Emmanuel administration is thus a direct threat to the sanctity of the forthcoming elections and therefore to our democracy. Given the immunity enjoyed by the governor until he leaves office, we call for immediate arrest and prosecution of all those who work with him to endanger the state with industrial scale importation of nearly three million thugs and terrorists deceitfully spoken of as ‘vote defenders.’
We demand a thorough investigation of those thugs with the purpose of determining who brought them into the state. We also demand that the criminals and their sponsors should be promptly prosecuted in accordance with the extant laws of the land.
NEED TO BEEF UP SECURITY
Given the unprecedented security threat in the immediate build-up to and during the first scheduled elections, the need to enhance security to avert a bloodbath in the state and guarantee free and fair elections cannot be overstated. We are therefore calling on the National Security Adviser, the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the DSS to take a peculiar look at Akwa Ibom State, and accordingly beef up security in the state with more police personnel, more DSS operatives and more armed forces personnel. The level of threat in Akwa Ibom State, given the number of thugs arrested on the eve of the first scheduled elections, shows that we cannot make too much provision for security in the state.
EFCC AND CASH SEIZURE
We received report that during the week leading to the first scheduled elections, the EFCC intercepted a cash haul of N1.3 billion moved from the state government accounts at Heritage Bank, intended to be used to bribe INEC officials and for vote buying in some parts of the state. We call on the EFCC to clear the air on this report.
VOTE BUYING BY STATE GOVERNMENT
As reported under the EFCC cash seizure above, the State Government is using state funds to indulge heavily in the criminal practice of vote buying at N10,000 per voter in all the 2,980 polling units in the state. In addition to the general vote buying, the State Government is busy mopping up PVCs in opposition strongholds through mindless financial inducement of voters to part with their voter’s cards at the rate of N50,000 per card. We are hereby calling on all Akwa Ibom people not to sell their PVCs. The PVCs represent your power to change a government that has not helped you in any way and replace it with a government that will support your business, invest in your child’s education with bursary award and develop your communities. We also want to call on the security forces to go after the criminals who are disenfranchising innocent voters by taking away their PVCs through a trick of a financial inducement. Gentlemen of the Press, before we end this conference let me thank you too for your professionalism in reporting the events and issues that shape this election process. Your job is not yet done. We therefore look up to you for continuing show of professionalism in your work as members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm. Again, we thank all stakeholders in the Akwa Ibom Project. Let’s continue to work together until the set task of rescuing our dear state from crass ineptitude is achieved.
Long live Forum of All Political Parties!!
Long live Akwa Abasi Ibom State!!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!!
Association of Registered Political Parties in Akwa Ibom State