Divergent views have been trailing the news of the redeployment of the Edo State Resident Electoral Commissioner, (REC), Dr. Johnson Alalibo Sinikiem to Cross River State.
While some political parties and political gladiators may be jubilating and celebrating the redeployment of Dr. Sinikiem as Edo State INEC REC, some are accusing INEC of bias in their decision.
These divergent opinions must have arisen as result of the several controversies that have dogged the monitoring of the recently conducted political party primaries wherein their candidates emerged for the 2023 general elections.
While some of the political parties and aspirants in the party primaries are giving kudos and commendations to the Edo State INEC REC and his men for monitoring the primary elections in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, others are giving the electoral umpire knocks and accusing the INEC REC of bias and alleged complicity in the organization of parallel congresses in some political parties and availing some aspirants documents to initiate litigations against their party.
A case in point was the petition by an aspirant of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), one Prince Lucky Igbinedion to the Edo State Police Command accusing the Edo State INEC REC of allegedly forging INEC report in favour of one Osamudiamen Atu in the Edo State House of Assembly primary election of the APC for Orhionmwon East Constituency held on the 26th of May 2022.
Similarly, the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic party PDP accused the Edo State INEC REC of allegedly forging the party’s primary election results and availed same to some members of the party to initiate legal proceedings claiming victory in the primary elections.
In a petition signed by the chairman of the Edo State chapter of PDP, Dr. Tony Aziegbemi to the Commissioner of Police, Edo State, urged the police to investigate the issues raised in the said petition and prosecute if need be. The Edo State PDP followed this petition up with a press statement which was made available to journalists and signed by Dr. Tony Aziegbemi, further calling for the prosecution of Edo REC, Dr. Johnson Alalibo Sinikiem for alleged forgery.
The Edo State PDP claimed in the said statement that there’s no law that insulates INEC agents from investigation and possible prosecution.
According to the statement, “PDP request to the Police is very simple-to investigate and verify documents that Mr. Johnson Alalibo Sinikiem has been peddling as results of his imaginary Congresses and Primaries.
“The petition is backed by facts and we had initially refrained ourselves because the matter was before the Court. However, now that the Appeal Court in its ruling last week affirmed that the issue of Congresses and Primaries are Political Party’s internal affairs, justice has been served in favour of the party”.
The Edo State INEC REC was also accused by politicians and political parties in Edo State of alleged inappropriate handling of the voter’s registration exercise which ended on 31 July.
The Edo State chapter of the People’s Redemption Party, PRP called for the replacement of the Edo State INEC REC based on alleged corruption exhibited by INEC staff during the voters registration exercise.
In a statement signed by the Edo State chairman of the PRP, Dr. Greg Igbinomwanhia said, “it is highly embarrassing that the bribery allegations in the last voters registration was vividly captured by a national newspaper in the country.
“The newspaper has reported that there was element of corruption during the voters registration with the commission demanding between N1,000 and N5,000 before eligible citizens are allowed to participate in the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ahead of the 2023 elections”.
The said national newspaper also reported that INEC Head of Voters Registration and Publicity in Edo State, Mr. Timidi Wariowei disputed the allegation of bribery and inducement leveled against the commission, saying it was not true.
However, the Edo State Deputy chairman of the APC, Mr. Henry Tenebe faulted the redeployment of Dr. Johnson Alalibo Sinikiem as the Edo State Resident Electoral Commissioner, accusing the national leadership of INEC of bias noting that it came about as a result of differences he had with leadership of Edo State chapter of PDP and admonished the electoral umpire to as a matter of urgency return Dr. Sinikiem as Edo State Resident Electoral Commissioner to absolve itself of impartiality and complicity.
Political pundits and analysts in Edo State view the redeployment of Dr. Sinikiem from Edo as the only option left for INEC, not necessarily because he may be guilty of allegations against him as according to them, politicians have a proclivity of accusing the umpire and its agents of bias against them once the game is not going their way; but for the electoral umpire to extricate itself from accusations of bias by political parties and politicians ahead the 2023 general elections.
The political pundits and observers also counseled the incoming Resident Electoral Commissioner for Edo State to be mindful of how he will relate with politicians in the discharge of his duties, stick strictly to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, be transparent in the discharge of his duties and possibly meet with the State Working Committees of political parties in the presence of newsmen while implementing some contentious issues affecting political parties to vindicate himself and the commission in any event of accusations by political parties and politicians.