Some civil society groups in the Southeast have written to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), pointing out conditions for inclusive, free and credible governorship election in Imo State, scheduled for November 11, 2023.
In separate petitions to the national chairman of the commission, Mahmoud Yakubu, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) and the South-East Zone of the Civil Liberties Organisation (South-East CLO) specifically demanded the removal of the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Silvia Agu and 17 other top electoral officers and the demilitarisation of the polling units and result collation centres.
The groups disclosed that several investigations into state of affairs in Imo State indicated that the enthronement of popular and credible democratic government in the state remained key to ending myriad of problems bedevilling the state since January, 2020.
While Intersociety’s letter was dated Monday, August 21, 2023 and signed by the board chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi, Chidinma Udegbunam Esquire (head of publicity) and Ositadinma Agu (head of contacts and mobilisation), that of the South-East CLO was dated Tuesday, August 22, 2023 and signed by the chairman of the South-East CLO, Comrade Aloysius Emeka Attah.
In the petitions, the groups urged the headquarters of the commission to comprehensively overhaul the Imo INEC and its principal departments, including EOs, Administration, Operations, ICT, Voter Education, among others and address the anomalies arising from the 2023 presidential/national/state assembly polls in the state.
“Several INEC officers were strongly accused of playing different indictable roles to undermine the credibility of the polls; to the extent that the state assembly poll in the state was the worst of it all and a ‘walkover’ for candidates of the state ruling APC by “winning” 26 of the State’s 27 House of Assembly seats.
“Vicariously or otherwise, the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof Sylvia Agu, did not stand tall to be counted and respected owing to her poor handling of the earlier 2023 polls and therefore could not be trusted to organise and deliver a free, participatory and credible governorship poll in the state scheduled for November 11, 2023″, read one of the petitions.
It also added that having comprehensively checked and monitored the goings on in Imo State ahead of the November 11, 2023 governorship poll, it has found that REC Sylvia Agu and 17 other top electoral officers, including 11 EOs and six departmental heads drawn from the State INEC Secretariat are grossly incapable of ensuring free, participatory and credible Governorship Poll in the State.
The petition urged the INEC national headquarters to address all the wrongs arising from the 2023 general election and clean up and reposition the state’s INEC ahead of the Nov 11, 2023 governorship poll.
They further called on the INEC that several of the electoral officers in the 27 Local Government Areas in the state had long overstayed far above periods allowed by the INEC Establishment Act of 2004 or the Electoral Act of 2022 as amended which has also made them vulnerable to electoral corruption and related sharp practices.
They therefore maintained that they were certainly not sure that the Imo REC, Prof Sylvia Agu is capable of conducting free, participatory and credible Governorship Poll in the State on Nov 11, 2023; with a clear case in point being her recent invitation of 2,300 soldiers for the Poll which was not only widely condemned and rejected but also seen by many as “militarization of the Poll with intent to rig the election.”