The collation and declaration of results for the governorship election in Abia State has been stalled by the Peoples Democratic Party, which rejected the cancellation of the governorship results in three local government areas of Abia State.
Governor Theodore Orji, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, Minister of State for Defence, Col Austin Akobundu, and some executives of the PDP in the state stormed the INEC office in Umuahia – venue of the collation exercise for the election – to demand the reversal of the decision.
The state Returning Officer and Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, had cancelled results of Isiala-Ngwa North, Osisioma and Obimgwa Local Government Areas, citing widespread electoral malpractices, violence, ballot box snatching and reports of independent foreign observers that monitored the exercise.
Announcing the cancellation, Ozumba said, “We are here to uphold the rule of law and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. By the power vested in me as the state collation and returning officer, I hereby cancel results from the following local governments; Obingwa, Isiala-Ngwa North and Osisioma.
“This is based on the evidence before me and the provisions of the constitution and Electoral Act.”
Ahamdi Nweke, the APGA agent at the collation centre had argued that there were no elections in Osisioma LGA, coupled with cases of electoral violence and ballot box snatching in other places.
The PDP agent, Solomon Ogunji, while reacting to the cancellation, said it was unheard of that result of an election would be cancelled based on evidence from foreign observers and social media.
According to him, his party will not accept the decision.
Abaribe insisted that the collation exercise would not continue until the decision was reversed.
Meanwhile, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Selina Oko, left the collation centre and held a closed-door meeting with the Governor, Metuh and Abaribe.
Ozumba attempted to continue with the collation exercise, but was stopped by PDP stalwart, who had flooded the venue, insisting that the exercise could not continue until their demands were met.
Ozumba was left with no option than to leave the collation centre, bringing the collation exercise to a halt.
During the course of the forced break, Nweke granted a press interview, where he accused the PDP of electoral violence, malpractice and falsification of results.
Ogunji, the PDP agent, denied all the allegations made by the APGA agent, wondering why an election that had produced members of state House of Assembly would be cancelled at the governorship level.
“These results have been declared at the ward and local government levels. We cited Jega’s action during the collation of the results of presidential election that you cannot present petition during the collation exercise, especially when the results have been announced at the local governments. So, the learned professor cannot take decision based on the prayer of a single party,” he said.
Abaribe said he could not allow the Ngwa people, whom he represents at the Senate, to be disenfranchised by the action of the Returning Officer.
“Even the case of Rivers State, where a committee was set up to investigate the allegations, the result was allowed to stand,” he said.
On why they stormed the collation center, he said they only came to see the REC and had to enter the collation center since they were told that she was at the venue.
On resumption of collation, Ozumba reversed his earlier decision, citing order from above, to the delight of the PDP and it’s officials.
He, however, said those areas, where there were issues with the results, would be cancelled.
This again generated another round of arguments, especially when attempts were made to reconsider results from Osisioma LGA.