The Coalition of Okigwe Youths, a political pressure group, barricaded the entrance to the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Owerri, in protest against the outcome of the Dec. 5 Imo North senatorial by-election.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that members of the group were seen in a peaceful protest in front of INEC offices on Tuesday, displaying placards with different inscriptions.
Some of the inscriptions were: ‘Do not create bad precedence’, ‘Who was a candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC)? ‘, ‘Obey the rule of law’ and ‘Time for substitution of candidates has elapsed’, among others.
Addressing newsmen, the group’s Coordinator, Mr Chiedozie Ibekwe, described the youths as “critical stakeholders in the development and deepening of democracy’’.
He added that the youths of Imo North would not allow their senatorial district to be used for what he described as “political experiments with dangerous undertones”.
Citing two court injunctions which disqualified frontline candidates of the APC barely 24 hours to the election, Ibekwe urged the electoral body to revisit its pronouncement that the APC was the winner of the election.
He argued that in line with the Electoral Act as amended, the electoral umpire was expected to declare Mr Emmanuel Okewulonu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the election, having come second in the polls.
“Our position is hinged on the fact that INEC declared a political party as winner of the election without announcing the candidate of that party.
“On Dec. 4, a Court of Appeal disqualified Sen. Ifeanyi Araraume on the grounds that he did not win APC’s primary election and on the same day, a Federal High Court disqualified Mr Ifeanyi Ibezim on the grounds of certificate forgery.
“It is an aberration to the rule of law that a party that went into the election without a bona fide candidate was declared the winner of that election.
“We, therefore, use this peaceful protest to urge INEC to comply with the court orders that technically disqualified the APC from the contest and declare the PDP and its candidate, Emmanuel Okewulonu, as the winner,” he said.
Responding, INEC Public Relations Officer in Imo, Mrs Emmanuella Ben-Opara, thanked the protesting youths for being civil.
She assured them that their concerns would be transmitted to the commission’s management while advising them to channel their grievances to the tribunal, as spelt out in the Electoral Act.
NAN also reports that scores of security patrol vehicles surrounded the protest area in a bid to ensure that it remained peaceful.