Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has accused the Returning Officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the March 18 governorship election in the state, Prof. Nnenna Oti, of being biased towards a particular political party. In an interview with Channels TV on Monday night, Ikpeazu alleged that Oti was “visibly happy” that she “favoured” a party. The governor also claimed that he had earlier reported Oti to INEC before the election, stating that she would not be fair during the electoral process due to the coincidence in her name and that of a contender in the poll. However, he was assured by the INEC that there would be no bias. “When I saw the Coincidence…” – Ikpeazu Accuses Abia Returning Officer of Favoritism.
On March 22, Oti, who is the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, declared Alex Otti of the Labour Party as the winner of the March 18 governorship election in Abia. Her declaration followed the resumption of the final collation of governorship election results in Umuahia, the state capital over 48 hours after INEC suspended the exercise in the state.
On March 28, while being welcomed by the management, staff and students of the university, Oti stated that she was threatened and pressured during the poll but stood her ground. She said, “As an electoral officer, I have never in my life participated in any election, but duty came calling, I made my inquiries from Abuja. If I perish, I perish, they came with their threats, they came with their money, they came with their intimidation.” “When I saw the Coincidence…” – Ikpeazu Accuses Abia Returning Officer of Favoritism.
Reacting to Oti’s comment, Ikpeazu described it as “very unfortunate” as he claimed that she lacked the power to manipulate the results. He said, “If she is a professor, she doesn’t even have the capacity to manipulate results because these are results that emanated from the units, collated at the wards, collated at the local governments and brought for her to just add them up and announce. I’ve not met her before; I’ve not spoken to her. If I have met her, if I have spoken to her, let her come to the public and declare so. So, I am shocked that she is making a big noise out of nothing.”
Furthermore, Ikpeazu reiterated that he knew the returning officer would be biased due to the coincidence in her name and that of the LP candidate. “At some point when I saw the coincidence in name and traced a little bit of her background, I complained to INEC that this lady was not going to be fair but they assured me that they had profiled her. I am still shocked. What she has portrayed in the aftermath of her service or stewardship in Abia indicates the fact that she is visibly happy with what she did. Her level of bias in that regard could be placed in favour of a party. She has portrayed that she had something at the back of her mind before she came,” Ikpeazu added. “When I saw the Coincidence…” – Ikpeazu Accuses Abia Returning Officer of Favoritism.
Read Also: Concern Rises As INEC Records All-time Low Voter Turnout
The allegation by the governor has raised concerns about the credibility of the election and the integrity of the electoral process in the country. It remains to be seen if there will be any action taken by INEC in response to the allegations made by Ikpeazu.