Governorship Candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Rivers State, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, has said he supported the relocation of the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal from Port Harcourt to Abuja, because it was in the best interest of the people of the state.
This is as he alleged that members of the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers were forced to adopt the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Siminalaye Fubara, as the candidate of the state.
Abe, who spoke on a live television programme monitored in Port Harcourt, said it would have been difficult for opposition political parties and their candidates to appear before the tribunal if it had sat in the state capital.
He said: “I think that anybody who has been watching developments in Rivers State will see that there was really no way the tribunal could sit in Port Harcourt.
“Even the opportunity for members of the opposition parties to access INEC office in Port Harcourt and be able to get materials or information from INEC to enable them present their petitions before the tribunal was physically and violently resisted.
“People were beaten up; nobody could go near the INEC office. The place was kept under siege and the police allowed this to go for days. Nothing was done to bring it under control.
“So, clearly, the option of the tribunal actually sitting in Port Harcourt to do any meaningful work; anybody who has been watching events in the state knows that it was not even an option.
“There is no way anybody could have been able to go before the tribunal in Port Harcourt and be able to make a case. Even the tribunal is also made up of human beings, who also fear for their lives.
“The volatile political atmosphere in the state affected everybody and affected everything. I think that at the end of the day, the tribunal had no option but to relocate to Abuja, where we believe that everybody will get a better opportunity to be able to present their cases.”
Abe stated that it was only in Rivers State that the state government issued Executive Orders 21 and 22 to prohibit opposition political parties and their candidates from carrying out campaigns across the state.
The SDP Governorship Candidate said: “If you recall, I have said from the beginning even before the elections took place that everybody in Nigeria who have been watching events in Rivers State knew that one way or the other, the elections in Rivers State were going to be problematic. The elections in Rivers State, people were going to make an effort to manipulate the elections in one way or the other.
“This started even before the actual day of voting. For example: it was only in Rivers State that we had Order 21 and Order 22 issued by the state government, virtually prohibited other political parties from carrying out any campaigns.
“It was only in Rivers State that it was made physically impossible by the use of state sponsored violence to actually stop other politicians, including myself from being able to access the voters, to move around with our message, to be able to share our message with the voters in Rivers State.
“It was only in Rivers State that the State Council of Traditional Rulers were forced to officially adopt the candidate of the PDP as the state candidate. It was only in Rivers State that town criers and announcements were made that if you are not going to vote for the candidate of the PDP, you should not come out,” he added.