The Resident Electoral Commissioner in Imo State, Prof. Francis Ezeonu has said that soon no Nigerian would be willing to officiate an election for fear of their personal safety.
Prof Ezeonu said this at the Independent National Electoral Commission interactive meeting with stakeholders in Owerri on Tuesday, regreting the challenges and irregularities witnessed during the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Imo.
He was saddened that highly respected members of the society, who were supposed to demonstrate leadership, misbehaved themselves.
He said, “It is not a palatable experience for me; 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.”
According to him there is the need for Nigerians to forge a friendly environment for INEC ad hoc staff to do their work.
“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,” Ezeonu added.
On allegations of sabotage he said, “There were deliberate efforts to frustrate the use of Registration Area Centres 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 was 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 an 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.”
Prof. Ezeonu however assured that strategies would be employed to ensure the experiences of the last election do not repeat during Saturday’s governorship and House of Assembly elections.
Recall that the returning officer for Imo-West senatorial election, Prof. Francis Ibeabuchi had said that he declared outgoing Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha winner of the senatorial election under duress.
Mr. Okorocha had rejected the allegation.