Party agents at the Imo West Senatorial district Collation Centre in Orlu have debunked claims that the returning officer Professor Innocent Ibeabuchi was forced to declare Governor Rochas Okorocha as Senator-elect.
The agents said if he was indeed under pressure then it could not have been from the Imo state governor or his agents.
The agents who represented 31 political parties at the centre said they were shocked when the returning officer announced that the state Resident Electoral Commissioner had directed him to move the process to Owerri at a time the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate had won in eight out of nine local government areas that had been announced.
One of them said “if Professor Ibeawuchi was under pressure, then accusing fingers should be pointed at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate Jones Onyeriri who was clearly losing at the time the returning officer attempted to suspend the announcement”
This was corroborated by APC’s collation agent Steve Asinobi who was also present at the Orlu centre.
Like other agents, he wondered what could be so important for the Returning Officer to stop announcing election results midway in order to continue with the process in Owerri.
Asinobi said “The truth is that on Sunday at about 10 pm after collating results of 9 council areas namely Nkwerre , isu, Nwangele ,Njaba, Ideato South , Ideato North ,Oru east , Ohaji Egbema and Orsu, the returning officer announced to the utter shock of most people present that the Resident Electoral Commissioner had requested him to return to the state headquarters in Owerri to continue with the process.
“At this point, Owelle Rochas had won in 8 local government areas while Jones had won in one which is Orsu .
The move was vehemently rejected by all including security operatives as this might lead to manipulations of results. In addition, the laws of the land back our position that the Orlu Senatorial election has to be concluded in Orlu collation centre and not owerri.
“Apart from the PDP agent and the party’s senatorial candidate who came to INEC office to attempt to make us change our mind, every other party agent and even election observers present insisted that the remaining 3 LGAs must be collated in Orlu and not Owerri .
He also maintained that the Imo state governor had no reason to pile any pressure on the INEC returning officer.
“In all of these Owelle was never involved and if the professor said he was under duress, it was self inflicted as he in concert with PDP candidate and its agent wanted to subvert the will of the good people of Orlu which was rejected by our people and supported by the police area commander, the DSS , the Army , other security agencies as well as election observers and media personnel present at the collation centre.
Asinobi added that when collation of results from the remaining three local government areas was done, Governor Okorocha was duly elected as senator representing the Orlu Zone in the Senate.
“Even after issuing the summary result sheet to us (form EC 8D (1)) Ibeabuchi claimed that he was not given the declaration form EC 8E(1) and this led to another bout of problems to the astonishment of all including the media .
“A formal report and petition will be made against him with video evidence. This is with a view to pushing for his prosecution for electoral fraud ”, he said.
Asinobi who is the Special Adviser to the Governor on Electoral Matters also wondered why people who were not at the collation centre had been in the forefront of spreading tales on social media platforms