By Grace Danjuma
Voters Rights International has called for the postponement of the November 18 Anambra election, warning that the face off between the Nigerian Army and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) could jeopardize a successful conduct.
Voters Rights International president, Barrister Jezie Ekejiuba, said this in reaction to a statement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji penultimate Thursday at Awka.
Addressing the participants, Dr. Orji said that some of the challenges that may affect the election process include the pro-Biafra agitators, general discontentment in the SouthEast region and security challenges in the region which might rub off in the electoral process.
He also listed other challenges already affecting the job of the commission to include meagre funding, erratic power supply, policy delay and discontentment on the part of voters.
Responding, VRI said it does not see how the commission will do any magic to overcome challenges identified by the commission in less than two months time.
It said: “Apart from the above INEC’s identified challenges to the poll, we recall the earlier threats posed to the poll as reported in the media including the boasts by Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) that it would stop the poll unless there was a referendum on Biafra before the conduct of the poll and the legal challenge by the pending Supreme Court case in Appeal No. SC.671/2016 INEC V. Barrister Jezie Ekejiuba and Anor in which the activist lawyer had already warned the commission that he would file an interlocutory application for an injunction to stop the commission from conducting the Anambra governorship election for excluding formerly deregistered political parties as alluded to by Dr. Orji in his above statement.
”On the heels of these dangerous challenges comes the recent declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organization by the Nigerian Military and proscription of IPOB by the SouthEast Governors which to all intents and purposes are like pouring fuel to raging fire rather than following the part of peaceful dialogue.
”It is against the backdrop of these unwholesome insecurity challenges and emergencies that we hereby call on the commission to stop spending the available meager funding on the Anambra governorship election that is doomed to be postponed based on the overwhelming evidence on the ground.
“We also call on the commission to as a matter of law and security postpone the Anambra governorship election over the lingering SouthEast Army/IPOB insecurity crisis caused by the recent invasion of the SouthEast region by the Nigerian Military tagged Operation Python Dance II (Egwu Eke II) which began on September 15, 2017.
”Section 26(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended clearly provided for postponement of election thus: “Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct the elections as a result of natural disasters or other emergencies, the Commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area or areas concerned appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable”.
”We consider what is happening in the South East region (including Anambra State) today as constituting as “other emergencies” and “cogent and verifiable reason” as provided in the above quoted provision of the Electoral Act enough for INEC as a responsible electoral body to follow to avert loss of lives of voters during the election.
“INEC therefore must urgently heed this clarion call to postpone the Anambra governorship election to a later date conducive enough for voters to come out and vote without any fear and devoid of military invasion, otherwise called Operation Python Dance II.”
Meanwhile, IPOB has accused the Nigerian government and military of withholding details on the whereabouts of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.