Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, one of the big oil and gas states in Nigeria, has started to press for the need of President Muhammadu Buhari to reconsider his stance on the amended Electoral Act.
The outspoken Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor again wrestled former Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the ground in the 2019 elections as he did in 2015, is of the view that the major challenges that characterised this year’s polls would have been averted if President Buhari had assented to the amended Act.
Wike who was speaking during a courtesy visit by a Political Team from the British High Commission at the Government House, Port Harcourt, said the amended Act will legitimise the card reader and strengthen the process of result collation.
He argued, ‘’if the President had assented to the amended Act, we wouldn’t have had the kind of problem we had. That means that there must be card reader in the electoral process. In that case, it makes it difficult for security agencies who want to commit electoral fraud to succeed.’’
Continuing, he said, ‘’with the card reader given a legal teeth, it would play a key role in the results that would emerge and discourage violence. With the card reader, results that don’t tally with accredited figures in the device will not be accepted. Since the card reader is not in the law, it creates the loopholes for them to manipulate.
‘’They created the room where some security agencies tried to force returning officers to sign result sheets. In Rivers, the Army took over the INEC headquarters. The essence of that was to see that the returning officers were hijacked for fraudulent purposes.
‘’But if the card reader was legitimised in the Electoral Act, it would not have been possible, because the only acceptable result would be the one that tallies with the card reader. I have always said to Mr President that in the interest of the country, let us do the right thing. Let us not politicise everything.’’
Pressing on, Wike said the amended Act when signed into law will restore confidence in the electoral system, adding ‘’we should reduce the militarisation during elections. It is unfortunate that instead of Police, the Army takes over our elections, with flimsy excuses.
‘’What happened in Rivers was an eye-opener. Bringing in the Army every time is not the solution. The police should be allowed to do their job. INEC should be truly independent. In the case of Rivers, we must commend INEC for being assertive. If they were not assertive, I don’t know where we would have been.’’
According to him, the appointment of INEC leadership should not completely be in the hands of the Federal Government as suggested by the Uwais report, and that issues of security should not be politicised as is the case. He noted that politicisation of security has led to insecurity in all states of the federation.
‘’Rivers has suffered the politicisation of security as the Nigerian Army clamped down on the state Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency at its training site at the NYSC Camp, even though the agency was modeled after that of Lagos State’’, he said, noting that the state government will go ahead with the agency and accordingly urged the British Government to provide technical support.
‘’State Police is key to tackling insecurity across the country. But before its implementation, the revenue sharing formula of the country must be reviewed. The Federal Government should have less revenue because they have lesser responsibilities.
‘’Oil bunkering is fueled by the connivance and participation of security agencies. Security agencies are involved in oil bunkering. That is why you see so many security agents struggling to be posted to the Niger Delta. Oil bunkering has negatively affected our security and environment’’, Governor Wike said.
Deputy Head of Political Section/First Secretary, British High Commission, Stuart Gardner in his remarks, congratulated Wike on his well deserved victory, noting that the British Government was interested in his views on the 2019 general elections.
He however, regretted that the last elections were marred by violence and called for steps be taken urgently to stem the tide of violence during the 2023 elections.