Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 3 August 2015 | 3,330 times
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State and the opposition All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) are trading blames over who perpetrated the burning of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in Obingwa Local Government Area of the state. The INEC office in Mgboko, headquarters of Obingwa LGA, was yesterday morning set ablaze by yet-to-be identified arsonists. Reports said youths wielding dangerous weapons set fire to the building which left in its trail, charred remains of equipment and documents. While PDP maintains that APGA faithful burnt down the building, APGA insists that agents of PDP and the State Government committed the arson.
PDP, in its official reaction, washed its hands off the fire, saying it has no reason to carry out such act as Obingwa is PDP’s stronghold. It urged APGA to allow law enforcement agencies to do their work of tracking down the arsonists.
“But what we cannot understand is why APGA should take over the functions of the police and other security agencies,” Abia PDP chairman, Senator Emma Nwaka, told journalists in his office this afternoon.
“It is important,” he went on, “to call our minds back to what happened during the last general elections. INEC office at Isiala Ngwa South was burnt down and we know it was done by our opponent (APGA) because they claim that is their home and, as God would have it, we won both the state and House of Representatives seats there.
“So, they thought the best thing was to burn down the place. You would notice that the inauguration of the State House of Assembly was a bit delayed. They had thought that by burning down that place, our candidate who won the election would not get his certificate. Of course, we insisted and reminded INEC that they said that they have released the result of 24 members of the House of Assembly. We must have the certificate of the 24th person before the House would be inaugurated. Eventually, INEC did the needful. It is unfortunate that they (APGA) are at it again.”
“If there is any local government you will expect PDP any day to win fair and square, it is that where the gubernatorial candidate is from and that is Obingwa. I invite all of you to go back in time, in fact, since 1999, PDP has never lost in Obingwa. So, we have no reason whatsoever to set the place ablaze.”
Nwaka recalled that recently, the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal allowed both parties (PDP and APGA) joint inspection of materials used by INEC in all the local governments.
“We are ready for that. We know that initially they (APGA) had wanted to do the inspection alone but our lawyers insisted on very solid grounds that both parties should jointly inspect the materials. We are indeed unhappy with what has happened,” Nwaka said.
He said that upon APGA’s insistence, INEC ordered a re-run in some units in nine local governments in the state. “INEC did not touch Obingwa,” he pointed out, adding: “There was no re-run in Obingwa because they (INEC) looked at it from every angle you can imagine and discovered that we (PDP) won them (APGA).
“I make bold to say that if tomorrow, they order another election in Obingwa, we will do even better, there is no doubt about it. It is our stronghold. No opponent of PDP has ever won in Obingwa since the inception of our current experience in democracy.”
But APGA would have none of that. Its State Chairman, Rev. Augustine Ehiemere, has alleged that the INEC office in Obingwa was deliberately burnt down by agents of PDP and the state government to frustrate APGA’s petition challenging the return of Ikpeazu as winner of the 2015 governorship election in the state.
Addressing newsmen at the Ikot Ekpene Road Secretariat of APGA, Ehiemere said:
“The APGA, Abia State, received with shock and utmost disappointment, the news that INEC office in Obingwa L.G.A has been set ablaze by political hoodlums suspected to be working for PDP and Abia State Government.”
According to him, APGA is “embarrassed that this criminal act of desperation is coming just few days after the Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Umuahia ruled in favour of APGA and directed that materials used in Obingwa and two other local governments be brought to the tribunal for inspection, as earlier requested by APGA, it is therefore very clear that the enemies of Abia who earlier failed woefully in their bid to stop APGA’s Governorship Petition from entering trial stage have now increased their anti-democratic acts of violence as the last resort to achieving the impossible.”
He said that his party was not surprised by the development, alleging that PDP and Abia State Government had “initially prevented APGA lawyers and Forensic Experts from inspecting those Obingwa materials which they feared would expose their electoral crimes and sink them permanently.”
“As we condemn this latest infamy of futility from the enemies of Abia, we call on the Federal Government, INEC, and the necessary Security Agencies to pay special attention to Abia State and take very decisive measures to ensure that justice is not raped and that the enemies of democracy will not ignorantly and carelessly bring avoidable anarchy to our state through these numerous provocative acts of cruelty and criminality,” Ehiemere added.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, has called on the security agencies to beef up security around offices and installations of INEC in the state.
Ikpeazu, who on hearing the sad news, quickly undertook an inspection of the burnt office located at his home local government, literally wept over the level of damage done to the building, describing the perpetrators as enemies of the state.
He condemned the barbaric act and charged security agencies to beef up security around INEC formations to forestall such occurrences again and also ensure that the culprits who burnt down the office were brought to book.
The Abia State Police Public Relations Officer, Udeviotu Onyeke, confirmed the incident but said the source of the fire was not known, adding that investigations into the fire have been launched.
•Photo shows the rubble of the burnt INEC office in Obingwa, Abia State.
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