IMO 2019: Why EFCC, DSS, NPF Must Investigate Imo REC, R.O, Other INEC Officials In Imo By ONWUASOANYA FCC JONES

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2019 Imo INEC Returning Officer Prof Ogbonnaya Otunta
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Whenever I remember that we have a Professor in one of Nigeria’s most respected Federal Universities and a potential Vice-Chancellor of that same university who still struts around as the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Imo State, even with all the mind-boggling electoral fraud associated to his name and office during the 2019 elections, I feel like throwing in the towel in my belief in this country called Nigeria.

I was one of those who could bet my middle finger that Professor Francis Ezeonu is a gentleman who would not allow his name to be muddied with fraud. This is going by his public statements before the 2019 general elections. I was looking forward to a very transparent election, with the most minimal malpractices. Unfortunately, Imo recorded the most brazen cases of electoral malpractices in the 2019 elections, and this calls for serious investigations by Nigeria’s anti-graft and other security agencies.

It is particularly important that the Directorate for State Security (DSS), launches a wide ranging investigation on the Imo State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Professor Francis Ezeonu for his felonious subversion of the provisions of our Constitution and very clear criminal infractions on the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, especially as they affect the conduct of the elections.

Even though the Returning Officer for the governorship election, Professor Francis Otunta may be excused because his role in that election can be likened to that of an emcee in a ceremony, but as a Professor of Mathematics, his insistence on going ahead to declare a winner in an election that didn’t meet clearly stated Constitutional requirements is suspect. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and all other relevant government agencies should beam its searchlight on the bank accounts of Professor Otunta and his close family members and friends, especially within the period of the governorship election. It is either he was paid so heavily that he was ready to commit suicide or he had some personal scores to settle with some individuals in the State. Even the President wouldn’t have been declared winner under the same circumstances as Ihedioha was declared winner. This is why, during presidential election result collation, more emphasis is placed on the 25% score in 2/3 of the Federation. Why then would a Resident Elelctoral Commissioner (REC) instruct the Returning Officer to go ahead and declare a winner even when the legal department of INEC in the State had called their attention to the Constitutional loophole?

What the Imo State Resident Electoral Commissioner did in Imo State is clearly treasonable, because he deliberately turned the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on its head in situation as sensitive as an election. There are people who have argued that the REC was taking his instructions directly from Abuja and he was instructed to announce any result that is not in the favour of Governor Okorocha, no matter how glaring the irregularity may be. Those who hold this opinion argue that the cabal will be better disposed to conducting rerun elections in the State when Governor Okorocha is no longer in power as governor, because they believe that his powers and influence would have whittled down significantly after he is out of power.

Professor Francis Ezeonu will find it difficult convincing anyone that he did not come to Imo State with a predetermined agenda to scuttle democracy and impose his friends on the State, notwithstanding what majority of the people might think. He will also have a hectic time proving that he is not a card carrying member of the PDP, considering the broad daylight electoral robbery that he supervised in Imo State from the National Assembly to the State House of Assembly polls.

For close to two months since after the Presidential and National Assembly polls were conducted, Imo North District is yet to have a Senator-elect. And if not for the vigilance of the candidates and the people of Imo North who swore that they will never again be represented by sleeping, dull, unresponsive legislator, a candidate who was coming a distant fourth position would have gone home with the Certificate of Return as Senator-elect. The action of a certain Professor Ohajianya who was the Returning Officer mirrors with nor errors, the contents of the INEC in Imo State as supervised by the REC.

In Orlu Federal Constituency, the Returning Officer had declared the election inconclusive, with the APC candidate winning, only for the REC to invite a few people ten days after to declare the PDP candidate winner of the election in a most embarrassing circumstance. In Orlu State Constituency election, the Returning Officer had declared that only two polling booths would be affected by the rerun and the Action Alliance was already leading the count with about 400 votes. Few days to the scheduled rerun, rumors emerged that the number of polling booths have shot up to about twelve.

One of the marks of a free and fair election is that all processes leading to the announcement of results and declaration of a winner must be transparent. In Imo, the REC can wake up one morning and announce a different result from what the public already have. For instance, in Orlu Federal Constituency, the REC cancelled out votes that were already declared at the Federal Constituency Collation Center and this cancellation was done in the absence of Party agents.

In Imo West Senatorial District, the people resisted his attempts to rob Governor Okorocha of his well-earned victory and he went behind to concoct what I can describe as an ‘induced’ report against the Senator-elect. This has led to a first in history situation in our political history where someone who was duly declared winner of an election is being denied his certificate of return by INEC with the flimsy excuse that the declaration was obtained under duress. What these people haven’t been able to explain is what really qualifies as duress and who really put who under duress. This will be a topic for another day. There were reports on social media, few days to the National Assembly elections that the PDP candidate paid the twelve EOs in the Senatorial District a certain amount of money. This report was neither refuted by the Commission nor the PDP candidate.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission must rise up to the occasion by beaming its light on the accounts of the REC and other senior staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Imo State. The Commission must pay particular attention to all transactions carried out within the period of the elections. His friends and family members accounts should also be analyzed. The DSS and the Nigerian Police Force should also investigate the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Professor of Biochemistry to determine what might have been his political interests in this whole thing. The allegation in some quarters that has been promised the Vice-Chancellorship of UNIZIK as a reward for his efforts, should be investigated.


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