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Anambra senatorial re-run: Umeh coasts to victory amidst boycott, low voter turnout

There was poor turnout of voters during yesterday’s Anambra-central re-run election, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered.  However, candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the election, Chief Victor Umeh, expressed optimism that he would clinch the seat.

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Umeh stated this while briefing newsmen after casting his vote at Ward 18, Ifite village, Agulu Uzigbo town hall, Anocha Local Government Area of the state.

He said he was not surprised at the poor turnout of voters in most of the polling units where the election was conducted in view of “the misconception among the electorate that the election might not hold”.

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“Voter apathy is expected because a lot of propaganda has been peddled that this election will not hold. I’m happy this election is taking place today, I have casted my vote alongside my wife and daughter and it has been smooth everywhere it is taking place.

“The report am getting is that the election is going on fine in the seven local government areas that make up this senatorial zone. One thing that is certain about this election is that those who doubt the integrity of INEC now know that they have high respect for the rule of law. They refused all forms of intimidation and harassment and that is why this election is happening today,” he stated.

Umeh said those who had prevented the election from holding for more than two years should know that it was not about him, but about doing things the right way.

“The only thing we can do to have enduring democracy is for everybody to subject himself or herself to due process. It is not right for people to circumvent the process.

“By the time the results are collated we will see that the election took place in all the seven local government areas,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, on the eve of election, distanced himself from the exercise, describing it as Kangaroo and a charade.

In a statement made available to our correspondent at about 9pm on Friday, Ngige, who contested the senatorial seat in the 2015 general elections asked his supporters to shun the poll, stressing that he was not in the race.

The minister who said he had in 2016 written to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that he was no longer interested in the race, threatened to drag the electoral umpire to court should the commission publish his name as a candidate on the ballot paper for the poll.

His statement read in part,” the attention of the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment that INEC has listed his name in the rerun election being conducted by the INEC on January 13, 2018.

“For the information of the general public and voters and my  numerous supporters in Anambra-central Senatorial District I’m not participating in the said election which can be described as a charade.

“I had since by a letter dated 11th January 2016 withdrawn from this rerun when it was earlier scheduled for March 2016, in accordance with the provisions of sections 33 &35 of the Electoral Act 2010 for personal and family reasons.

“My party APC promptly wrote the commission of its intention to organise a primary election for my substitution. 

“A primary monitored by INEC was organised at Awka and the name of a new candidate that emerged was promptly submitted only for INEC to reject the new candidate on 29 January.

“My party the APC and INEC is in the Court of Appeal, Abuja, over this obnoxious and illegal action of INEC, with hearing on the matter fixed for 23rd of January which is still within the armbit of 90days ordered by court only for them to fix an ‘election’ for 13th in order to give an unfair advantage to the APGA candidate to go ‘unopposed’.

“I have met with INEC on this issue and I’m using this forum to inform that I’m not participating in this Kangaroo election and listing my name on the ballot will earn them a litigation because it’s an illegal action which will be roundly challenged in court.

“INEC actions which are biased, and jaundiced will be viewed as an act intentionally undertaken to humiliate and ridicule my person”.

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that the election registered a poor turnout in all the seven local government areas involved.

Our correspondent who monitored the exercise observed that in most polling units, electoral officers were seen sitting idle as a result of low turnout of voters.

At Umudim Akasi, Amatutu Ward 2, Aniocha constituency, where former governor Peter Obi was to cast his vote, a total of 44 votes were recorded as at 12.38pm.

Our correspondent gathered that the former governor, alleged to have instructed his constituency to boycott the election, was reportedly absent at his polling unit.

In Agulu, the Agulu Lake Migrant School polling unit was desolate, with only polling officers seen in the square.

One of the INEC staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, said the officials would remain at the centre until the end of the exercise.

There was however massive turnout of voters at Aguluzoigbo town, ward 18, where the APGA candidate for the rerun election, Chief Victor Umeh, voted.

An elder of the community said, “we have to come out to support our son. So even if the turnout is poor in other places, it has to be different here.

Our correspondent also gathered that election commenced at 8 a.m in six local government areas of Awka-North, Awka-South, Aniocha, Dunukofia, Njikoka, and Idemili-South, except in Idemili-North that recorded some hitches.

Voting ended at 2 p.m. at Umudioka Town Hall polling units, Amawbia Village Square, Aroma Junction in Awka-South Local Government and Central Primary School, Ukpo in Dunukofia.

At Oye Market in Ukpo in Dunukofia with five polling units, voting also ended peacefully. 

The Head of Department of INEC in Awka, Leo Nkedife, explained that the problem in Idemili North was sorted out a few hours after it was reported to the commission, adding that voting took place in the area.

One of the candidates under the platform of the Action Congress for Democrats (ACD), Oby Okafor, described the election as smooth and peaceful.

Okafor told our correspondent after casting her vote at Obunagu Ward in Awka-South, that there was low turnout of voters across the central senatorial district.

Our correspondent further gathered that some transporters engaged to move materials for the exercise in Idemili-North Local Government Area,  abandoned the assignment because the part payment they were given was insufficient.

Mr Ayeleso Olutope, INEC Electoral Officer in-charge of Idemili-North Local Government Area of Anambra, said all materials for the election were supposed to have been moved to polling units at 5 a.m.

He regretted the hitches recorded, noting that while some transporters conveyed the materials, some refused on the grounds that the part payment was insufficient for the job.

Olutope also said that some NYSC members engaged as ad-hoc workers also demanded that their stipend be paid before they commence work.

At the time of filing this report, collation of results was still on-going.


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