The dust raised by the recent state constituency bye-election in Ngor Okpala LGA of Imo state is yet to settle, as more groups and individuals have continued to agitate for outright cancellation of the exercise.

In a statement made available to newsmen in Owerri on Thursday, a group known as Ngor Okpala Young  Professionals Forum appealed to INEC to annul the poll which it described as a show of force, violence and fraud.
The statement which was signed by the group’s spokesperson, Chukwuma Nwoko, reads in part: “We are deeply pained by the turn of events during the state constituency bye-election that held in our land on Saturday, February 26, 2022. We note with dismay that our land was plunged into full-blown war by those who were supposed to maintain law and order on the instruction of Imo government. 

“Innocent women and men who had come out to vote were rounded up, beaten up and voting disrupted by armed hoodlums brought by chieftains of the APC, who also hijacked electoral materials and abducted INEC officials.

“Ngor Okpala people now feel unsafe and a heightened sense of insecurity. The invasion of our peaceful land by the Imo governmmet  and band of warmongers and election riggers has now sparked off mass outrage and we cannot ignore it any further. 

“We recall that during a stakeholders meeting of his party, Uzodinma threatened that he must take our constituency by force.
“We therefore appeal to INEC to annul the disgraceful, violent and chaotic bye-election of February 26, 2022 in line with the provisions of the new Electoral Act. INEC should rise to the occasion and protect the sanctity of our electoral system,” it says.

Similarly, Orlu Political Action Committee (OPAC) also accused Gov Hope Uzodinma of an attempt to destroy democracy in Imo State. Reacting to the outcome of the Ngor Okpala bye-election on Thursday, the spokesperson of the group, Nnamdi Maduka, called for the annulment of the election which he alleged was marred by irregularities.

His words, “Imo people woke up to yet another attack on our cherished democratic values on February 26, 2022, when Hope Uzodinma unleashed his appointees and loyalists with armed men on Ngor Okpala to perpetrate mind-boggling electoral fraud.

“A state constituency by-election that was supposed to be seamless, peaceful, credible, transparent and hitch-free was then reduced to total warfare. Ballot boxes were wantonly snatched away by APC chieftains aided by truckloads of security operatives and militiamen, ad hoc officials of INEC were massively kidnapped and results written at private residences of Uzodinma’s agents and in hotel rooms too. This is an anomie of indescribable proportion.

“We are therefore deeply troubled by the orgy of violence and electoral fraud in Ngor Okpala, and we firmly believee that if that travesty is allowed to stand, the far-reaching implications will be costly and unhealthy for democracy in Nigeria at large.

“As an immediate step to remedy the situation, we demand that INEC should outrightly cancel the Ngor Okpala bye-election,” he insisted.
Also, a frontline aspirant on the platform of the PDP for Imo State House of Assembly, Franklin Ngoforo, has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to exercise its powers and annul the February 26th bye-election in Ngor Okpala. Ngoforo, who seeks to represent Ideato North state constituency, said in a statement on Wednesday that allowing the outcome of the by-election stand will be highly injurious to democracy in Nigeria.

According to the Arondizuogu-born management consultant, what happened in Ngor Okpala cannot be described as election, saying it was a show of force, violence and fraud by APC chieftains in Imo who worked in cahoots with security operatives and various armed groups.

“We all saw what happened in Ngor Okpala. We all are witnesses to the abuse of power and state-sanctioned violence brought upon the people. Election materials were hijacked by armed hoodlums sent by the APC. Also, INEC officials were ruthlessly abducted and taken to Sentiero Hotel where they were forced to thumbprint ballot papers and concoct results for the APC. This is an aberration!

“What is now of overriding necessity is for INEC to prove that the infamy of Ngor Okpala never had their consent, collusion or collaboration. As the regulatory umpire, INEC has to demonstrate patriotism, fairness and a commitment to consolidating democracy in Nigeria by immediately cancelling that disgraceful exercise in Ngor Okpala.

“The spillover effects of the Ngor Okpala charade on future elections will be unimaginable if it is not quickly cancelled. It means political actors will reduce civil contests to full-blown war, and they will as a result pave the way for experts in war, the military, to take over and play a lead role. We cannot allow that to happen. INEC must therefore save our democracy now or be blamed if our fledgling democracy is truncated,” he warned.