Uncertainties surrounding the conduct of the governorship elections in Bayelsa State on Saturday February 11, 2012, were last night laid to rest as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INCEC) said it would go on as planned.
The death of the governorship candidate of Mega Progressives Peoples Party (MPPP), Chief O. Ebakunmo Ogbegetebe, raised concerns and anxiety on whether the election would hold or not. Part IV, section 36 (I) of the electoral act which empowers INEC to put on hold the conduct of any election in the event of the death of a candidate was the whistle blower.
The section states that 'if after the time for the delivery of nomination paper and before the commencement of the poll, a nominated candidate dies, the Chief National Electoral Officer or the resident Electoral Commission shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, countermand the poll in which the deceased candidate was to participate and the commission shall appoint some other convenient date for the election within 14 days.' However, INEC's spokesman, Kayode Idowu, told FACE OF BAYELSA YESTERDAY, that INEC had no justifiable reason to postpone the elections since they were in receipt of letters from the running mate of the deceased, state chairman and National Secretary of the party, stating non-interest in participating in the election.
'We have no reason to postpone the elections. The state chairman and National Secretary of the party wrote us, stating they are no longer willing to go on with the elections. The parties contesting the seat conducted valid primaries. The electoral guidelines are clear and we have to follow them strictly.'
The death of the candidate had thrown the party into a web of intrigues as a group of zonal chairmen threatened to go to court to challenge INEC if it went ahead with the elections. In a letter to INEC signed by the National Chairman Alhaji Rasheed Shitta-Bey and the six zonal Chairmen, the party contested the validity of the position of the running mate to the deceased, the National secretary and the state chairman. The constitution of the party as well as the electoral guideline on the issue however confer authority on the state chairman of the party and the running mate to a deceased candidate in consultation with the National Secretariat.
MPPP's withdrawal, in party's interest -Chairman
Bayelsa State Chairman of Mega Progressive Peoples Party (MPPP), Chief Isaac Eze has said there is no going back on the withdrawal of the party from next Saturday's governorship election in the State. He said the decision was reached after wide consultations with the local chapter and the national headquarters.
In a telephone chat with FACE OF BAYELSA, Eze said: ''We have withdrawn from the race for good and the decision is in the best interest of our party and Bayelsans.
He said INEC has done the right thing by going ahead with the election on February 11 as scheduled.
In a memo to INEC on January 31 Eze said: ''Following the decision taken by the national body of this party, we the above named party, hereby wishes to inform the commission on non-interest to file another candidate for the governorship election coming up on February, 2012 in the Bayelsa State Chapter''
Following the death of its governorship candidate, Chief Ebakumo Ogbgetebe on January 23, this year, the state chapter of the party and the national body wrote separate letters to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declining to field another candidate for the polls.
Ogbgetebe's running mate, Chief James Osian who should have stood for the election as a result of the vacuum said he was withdrawing too.
The MPPP national secretary, Hon. Hamisu San Turaki had similarly written a memo to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega on the matter. The letter was dated January 30, 2012. It will be recalled that INEC had one week after Ogbgetebe's demise, released time table for the polls.
Thursday, 9 February 2012
The House of Representatives yesterday resolved to investigate the amnesty programme, which began in 2008.
The resolution of the House came against the background of the renewed threats by some ex-militants to attack oil facilities.
The House mandated its standing committees on Niger/Delta Ministry, NDDC, Public Safety and National Security, to investigate the performance of all bodies connected with the management of the programme.
The committees are to report back to the House within two weeks.
A member, Arowosoge Ifeoluwa Abiose (ACN, Ekiti), who sponsored the motion, spoke of apprehension in the Southsouth, following the threat to attack installations of the MTN, a leading GSM service provider and SAC Oil.
Said Abiose: “MEND has concluded plans to attack South African companies having investments in Nigeria, particularly MTN and Sac Oil, due to the interference of the South African President, Jacob Zuma, in what they called legitimate fight for justice in the Niger Delta.”
The lawmaker noted that MEND had already attacked in installation at Ogbobagbene in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, followed by another attack on a crude oil trunk line belonging to AGIP in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State on February 4.
He said any attack on MTN investments based on Henry Okah’s trial will strain the diplomatic relations between Nigeria and South Africa.
Abiose said with the wave of attacks from Boko Haram in the North, any insurgence by MEND will have unmitigated ripple effect on the economy.
According to him, there is need to urgently prevent the ex-militants from carrying out attacks on the oil installations and bring production to zero level.
Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, who presided over plenary session, said the decision to investigate the amnesty programme became necessary to craft a comprehensive and integrated solution to the Niger Delta problem.
An ex-militant leader has warned government and oil multinationals operating in the Niger Delta to brace for more attacks, in the wake of last Friday’s bombing of the Brass Creek trunk line of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company in Bayelsa State.
‘General’ Ekiyes Para, a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), who was invited by the Joint Task Force for questioning over the incident, told reporters yesterday that the attack on NAOC is a tip of the iceberg.
He said: “The Federal Government has not seen anything yet; this is just the beginning. Unless they come down to us for discussion, they will see more deadly attacks in the days ahead.”
Para, who is also a leader of the aggrieved 3rd Phase Amnesty ex-militants, scoffed at the invitation by the JTF, describing it as a vain threat, adding that his arrest would not change anything.