Groups Reveal Details of Alleged Rigging in Imo Governorship Election

Groups Reveal Details of Alleged Rigging in Imo Governorship Election

A coalition of pro-democracy groups has condemned the 2023 Imo governorship election, calling it a sham marred by voter intimidation, violence, and widespread electoral fraud.

In a statement, the coalition, which includes the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), the South-East Zone of the Civil Liberties Organization (South-East CLO), the South-East Based Coalition of Human Rights and Democracy Organizations (SBCHRDOs), and the Human Rights, Social Development and Environmental Foundation (Port Harcourt), accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of complicity in rigging the polls in favour of incumbent Governor Hope Uzodinma.

“As correctly predicted in our joint Press Conference of October 29, 2023 and Press Statement of Nov 9, 2023; our latest findings have shown that not less than 70% or “490, 000 votes” announced by INEC as “total lawful votes cast” arising from the Nov 11, 2023 Imo Governorship Election were composed of “harvested and written results”. It was also found that most of the “540,000 votes” allocated to the INEC-declared winner of the shambolic poll were harvested and written. Out of the remaining 210, 000 validly cast votes in all, at least 40% were independently found to have been garnered through voter intimidation and corruption including vote-buying. The allocated “540,000 votes” to the INEC-declared winner also magically surpassed the total lawful votes cast arising from the 2023 Presidential Poll in the State (459,261) garnered by the trio of Peter Obi of Labor Party (352, 904), Ahmed Bola Tinubu of APC (66, 171) and Atiku Abubakar of PDP (30, 004). Of the three Governorship Polls held (in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa); Imo, with 27 LGAs and most difficult terrains (according to INEC’s earlier statements), magically became the fastest to be delivered in less than 24 hours as against Bayelsa’s three days with only 8 LGAs. In the Imo Governorship Poll, there were also no reports of election or result cancellation despite the State being the most security and safety challenged of the three election-held States. Imo’s 27 LGAs were further found to have become the “fastest, freest and safest” to vote, collate and announce “results”. The State also became the South-East State with “largest turnout of voters” or “33% of the registered voting population of 2,2m” since Nigeria’s 1979 General Elections or in a period of past 34 years,” the statement reads.

The coalition alleged that at least 70 percent of the votes cast in the election were “harvested and written” results, pointing to the fact that Uzodinma’s 540,000 votes exceeded the total number of registered voters in the state.

“The State recorded the highest number of voter apathy and lowest voter turnout than Anambra State during its Nov 6, 2021 Governorship Poll where only 10.12% of the State’s registered voting population of 2,46m voted. Election only took place in some areas of some LGAs including Owerri Municipal, Owerri West, Mbaitolu, Ikeduru, etc. It was very risky and life threatening to vote in Imo especially in over half of the State’s 27 LGAs under siege. Voting in those areas could attract instant or post election targeted violence against persons and properties including assassination and house burning by dreaded Ebubeagu and Government-linked political death squads or armed non state actor squads. At St Paul Catholic Church near Owerri Waterside, where voting took place, voter intimidation was the order of the day and attempts not to vote for the opposition candidates became the beginning of wisdom. Political thugs and Ebubeagu dreaded militias were also let loose on few courageous voters. In Ehime Mbano, the stronghold of one of the opposition candidates, live bullets were flying from left, right and center chasing away those that mustered courage to come out and vote. Soldiers, Police Crack Squads (Tiger Base, etc) and Ebubeagu killer militias and Government-allied others were fully deployed to terrify and terrorize the voting arenas and voters. At Nkwere, for instance, one Chinasa Nwanneri and a notorious Tiger Base Police IRT Commander, “Chukwukadiba” were reported to have held the area under siege leading to a confrontation with some personnel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps.

The statement further detailed how election materials were diverted to local government area secretariats, where results were fabricated and rewritten. Voters were also reportedly subjected to intimidation and violence, with some areas experiencing live gunfire and ballot box snatching.

“LGAs where voters stayed away from voting for fear of losing their lives and properties or being targeted for assassination or arson; INEC officials were reported to have a field day harvesting and writing results using compromised arenas within the Headquarters of such Local Government Areas. Such was the case in Okigwe, substantial parts of Ideato North, Ideato South, Orsu, Orlu, Isu, Njaba, Oru East, etc. In places like Ideato North where election took place in every polling units, voters were beaten mercilessly for wanting to vote independently. In Ehime-Mbano, NYSC corpers were reported to have compromised their duties and forced to do dirty jobs. In Isiala-Mbano and Ikeduru, gunshots and ballot box snatching were the order of the day; likewise in Mbaitolu and Oru West, characterized by vote-buying and voter intimidation. Oguta and environs were also a no go area. In Awo-Omamma located Oru East with three electoral wards, voting did not take place in most of them. In its ward 2 with 18 polling units, election only took place in two polling units: Pioneer Primary School (1 and 2) with polling units 007 and 011. The voting arenas there were held under siege by dreaded Ebubeagu militias, threatening and forcing voters to vote the Candidate of APC. Election did not place and no INEC officials were seen throughout the period of the election in the remaining 16 polling units of 001-Umubochi Primary School, 002-Okwuorji Primary School, 003-Umudim Hall, 004-Ubachima Primary School, 005-Umuelibe Primary School, 006-Ugobie Market Square, 008-Amaji Primary School-1, 009-Amaji Primary School-2, 010-Umuifa Hall, 012-Duru Anowa Hall, 013-Amaekele Umuchukwu, 014-Orie Ukwuorji, 015-Ama Ugweru Village Square, 016-Ojubia Square, 017-Umuduru Otutu Hall and 018-Ekenkika Market Hall.”

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