By Tido Lawal
Sabinus Oscar Eze, who served as the collation officer for Owo Ward in the March 18, 2023 governorship elections in Enugu State, has explained his own side of the story.
Eze, a professor, disclosed this in a viral message. Quoting him, “My fellow colleagues and the general public, having observed the turmoil arising from the results collated from Nkanu East LGA and also having served as the governorship collation officer for Owo ward in Nkanu East LGA, I stand in a proper position to put the records straight and clear some pockets of doubts.
“Collation of results at the INEC office near the LGA secretariat started around 7.30pm with the arrival of PO’s from different wards. As at 1.30am on Sunday morning, the PO’s from Owo Ward had not returned to INEC office to submit their results.
“As at such late time, majority of the collation officers had already completed their collation assignments from wards under them. The PO’s at Owo ward finally returned around 2.00am but collation couldn’t start immediately as the SPO was nowhere to be found, as reported by POs. Collation of the results finally started around 2.30am
“It was observed that only polling units 008, 009, 010 and 011 used BVAS machines for accreditation of voters, while seven polling units (001- 007) did not use BVAS machines. Steps 5 and 6 of the guideline for collation of results were activated but no response was observed. This was immediately brought to the attention of the EO but couldn’t yield good result.
“Step 17 of the guideline (Form 40G) on collation was activated, as the hard copy of the Form 40G was not issued to CO alongside other collation materials, but still failed. When all these actions were taken and all efforts to justify results returned from Owo could not stand, it became imperative that the only alternative was to cancel those results from Owo where these BVAS machines could not work.
“All these were brought to the attention of the LGA collation officer who also doubles as the LGA returning officer for gubernatorial election. I categorically made it clear to the LGA collation officer that he should not collate the results for Owo ward, especially where BVAS machines could not work, and that the election in the affected areas without BVAS machines should be cancelled so that a re-run should be fixed since the RATECH claimed that those BVAS machines malfunctioned.
“The LGA collation officer for gubernatorial election claimed that he would not adopt my advice because his life would be in danger thereafter. All my efforts to get the results from Owo Wards (polling units 001 to 007) cancelled generated a lot of tension as the news permeated everywhere that I want to cancel the gubernatorial election held at OWO.
“The cloud of tension and animosity became too thick to the point that I was advised from both within the area and outside Nkanu to make effort to leave the scene as my life was visibly in danger.
“At this point, all other collation officers from other wards had already left back to Enugu with the only two buses that conveyed all collation officers to the INEC office at Nkanu East, thereby leaving only me behind.
“As efforts to get the results from polling units 001 to 007 canceled with a view to rescheduling a re-run failed, I decided, as a last option, to do a letter of complaint to the REC through the LGA collation officer/returning officer. Unbelievably, the LGA collation/returning officer refused to accept this letter from me, insisting that unless the EO endorsed it, he would not collect the letter. The EO, on the other hand, also declined to endorse the letter.
This particular action taken by me to initiate the process of cancellation of the polling units results skyrocketed the tension in the area and it became visibly obvious that my life was in danger since I have been abandoned with no vehicle to exit the area.
“The total number of registered voters in Owo ward was 6129. How the number translated to 30,000 votes from Nkanu East LGA is not known to Owo ward collation officer. Note that all the results sheets from all the eleven polling units in Owo have only one political party with votes and other parties scored zero. The recording of zero to other political parties was done at the polling units level and not at the Ward collation level.
“When I did not obtain the protection and support of the EO to secure the rejection/cancellation of the results for a rerun, and given the clear threats from a plethora of thugs, and without any security protection, it was clear that I was on my own and that my life was in obvious danger. How I, as Owo ward collation officer, left the area and arrived at Enugu should be better imagined. The dead does not tell the story but the living.”