Professor I.I. Ibeabuchi, the Returning Officer for Imo West Senatorial District and other staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Imo State are currently being held hostage in Owerri, by Governor Rochas Okorocha and his thugs, with security operatives looking the other way.
We earlier reported that Okorocha stormed the Imo West Senatorial District collation centre in the early hours of Monday to persuade Ibeabuchi to continue the collation after the INEC’s returning officer stopped announcing nine out of 12 local governments
Ibeabuchi said he had been directed to return to Owerri, the rest of the result will be announced later.
Efforts to convince him were in vain as he reportedly stuck to his guns and refused to be persuaded to stay by the governor.
According to a fresh report from Sahara Reporters, Okorocha and his thugs have threatened that neither Ibeabuchi nor other INEC staff would be allowed to leave the venue until they had declared the Governor winner. The report says:
“As I speak to you, the INEC staff at the collation centre are being detained right there. Their lives are in danger.”
“The Governor suddenly showed up at the collation centre and said he must be declared winner; he threatened them that they could not leave the place. All of them are in fear; and in fairness to them, we were all expecting the security agents to act but they simply did not do anything. Our worry now is that if the INEC staff have to choose between their own lives and the Governor’s victory, it is bad news for Nigerian democracy.”
We gathered that even the life of Professor Francis Ezeonu, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), has been threatened.
Rochas Okorocha, the outgoing Governor, who is seeking the Imo West senatorial district under the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, was leading the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after the collation of results in eight of the 12 local government areas in the district.
However, results in the outstanding local governments could still hand victory to his opponent.