The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Imo, Prof. Francis Ezeonu on Tuesday expressed regrets at the challenges and irregularities witnessed at the Feb. 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Imo.
Ezeonu made his view known at the Imo INEC Interactive Meeting with Stakeholders in Owerri.
He noted that the meeting afforded the commission an opportunity to X-Ray what happened during the Feb. 23 election in the state.
The REC explained that there were a few hitches which impeded the early deployment of materials on the election day.
“There were deliberate efforts to frustrate the use of Registration Area Centres (RACs) and in some places, our water tanks were carted away soon after delivery and wires used in reticulation of the centres were removed and taken away.
“In a few places, the community members disrupted activities at the RAC centres.
“Out in the field, there were too much turmoil, we battled with thugs for INEC materials, corps members were hijacked and returning officers harassed and intimidated and in a few places forced to declare results that were obviously concocted under duress.
“Some other staff were obviously compromised. The maxim was either to play along or be battered.
“Our materials were destroyed and our office at Isiala Mbano burnt down by irate mob. At Isiala Mbano alone where the office was burnt, we lost 204 Smart Card Readers and over 600 ballot boxes among others.
“In Ohaji-Egbema we lost more than 30 Smart Card Readers. Our ballot boxes and other electoral materials were destroyed with impunity. This obviously is not our idea of an election.
“I regret that the election did not turn out as good as we planned,” the REC said.
Ezeonu explained that the most painful was that highly respected members of the society, who were supposed to demonstrate leadership allowed emotion and muscle to displace reason.
“For me, it is not a palatable experience. I had earlier warned that in this journey each one of us had a role to play.
“As the Resident Electoral Commissioner, I take responsibility for all the shortcomings during the last election and I pledge to make amends. However, there are issues for which I cannot be held liable,” he said.
The REC said that there was the need for Nigerians to create an amiable environment for the ad hoc staff to do their work urging those who claimed to be honourable, distinguished and Excellencies to exhibit honourable conduct.
“The experiences of the last election have sent shock waves; so much so that some ad hoc staff have given notices that they would not wish to participate in the next election.
“Even corps members are threatening to withdraw.
“The way things are going, we may come to a stage where no person will be willing to officiate during elections. The situation is that bad, but we can all work together to change it,” he said.
He however, declared that strategies would be employed to ensure the experiences of last election did not repeat.
Some of the stakeholders drawn from the civil society groups, party agents, party candidates, party chairmen and others expressed their dissatisfaction with the last election.
They advised INEC to ensure they put modalities in place to check the discrepancies.
Mrs Juliet Okayi, Programme Officer Development Dynamics while commenting, reeled out all the challenges and anomalies experienced during the election and called for correction.
Mrs Ijeoma Onwubuariri, Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) Secretary urged INEC to opt for the use of electronic voting to curb the challenges.
She said that observers and other staff that participated at the election experienced hardships, while the election started very late in most polling units in the state.