By G9ija

A coalition of five opposition political parties in Rivers State has pledged to prevent any effort to manipulate the upcoming governorship and State House of Assembly elections on March 18.

During a joint press conference held in Port Harcourt, the parties accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of collaborating with the state government to sabotage the election.

The political parties include the All Progressives Congress (APC), National Rescue Movement, Labour Party, African Democratic Congress, and Action Alliance.

Tonye Cole, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, alleged that Governor Nyesom Wike is planning to suppress opposition parties during the upcoming election.

Cole said, “We demand that INEC should stop all government officials from accessing the collation centres.

“We also demand INEC to restrict the movement of government officials, including the Governor and Local Government Chairmen at the collation centres, as their presence will compromise the electoral process.

“We want a peaceful, free and fair election. Only accredited party agents should have access to the collation centres.

Continuing, he said, “INEC should assure us that the BVAS will work this time and that results will be uploaded at the polling units.

“Then there should be adequate security at the Local Government collation centres on March 18.”

Similarly, the governorship candidate of NRM, Sobomabo Jackreech, accused INEC of colluding with Wike to rig the elections even before March 18th and urged the commission to come out clean.

He stated, “The information we have is that they have perfected plans to rig at the local government collation centres and INEC is in collaboration with them.

On his part, the ADC governorship candidate, Tonte Ibraye, vowed to resist any form of rigging.

When approached for comment, Mr. Mark Usulor, the Head of Voter Education and Publicity in Rivers for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), refuted the allegations made by the opposition political parties.

According to Mr. Usulor, the accusations are unfounded and lack any basis in truth.

Usulor said, “It is not true and can never be true. It is a false allegation, fake news and misinformation.

“Such allegation should be discountenanced because it is baseless and lack foundation.

“We are a transparent electoral commission even though we had some glitches in the last election.

“But that doesn’t mean we are colluding with any political party or government because it is not in our ethics.

“We are here to conduct a credible and acceptable election for the people of Rivers State.”

Also, the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Chris Finebone, said the parties were expressing unfounded fears and propaganda.

Finebone said, “In the last election, the governor after several hours was able to vote because of the malfunctioning of the BVAS machine and thereafter he left for his house.

“Whatever you heard about him going around trying to influence people is fake news. Nothing of such happened and I believe you monitored the election.

“What is happening is that they are foreseeing their failure and trying to lay a foundation of a narrative that will explain their failure in the election.” He added.