Livingstone Wechie, a member of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Executive Director of the Integrity Group, in this interview with NWADIKE UGOCHUKWU in Port Harcourt, advocates that former Governor of Rivers State should be prosecuted for impropriety committed when he was in office.
WERE you worried by reports that fake result sheets were brought in to conduct the national and state assembly rerun elections in Rivers State?
First of all, the umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is vested with the responsibility of conducting free, fair and credible election in the rerun elections in Rivers State, in partnership with stakeholders and other agencies. What we witnessed in the Rivers State rerun elections was most unfortunate. Even renowned political leaders in Rivers are crying. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raised alarm that there was suspicion that the All Progressives Congress (APC) distributed the fake result sheets in the state’s rerun elections. The INEC did not take any step to stop the circulation of the fake result sheets or address the situation. APC leaders plotted to manipulate the elections. They used the military and other security agencies that monitored the elections. The video was circulated in the social media; there were pictures of the military influencing the electoral processes for APC.
The military appeared in certain places, people resisted them. INEC had the duty to ensure transparent elections.
People were vigilant to report of irregularities that marred the conduct of the rerun elections in Rivers State. INEC tried to get better this time but politicians frustrated the commission. INEC has no excuse to fail because all the resources needed were given to the commission to conduct transparent elections.
Somehow, INEC should take the larger side of the blame in the failure of the elections. The fake result sheets almost discouraged voters in the rerun elections, but the voters stood their ground that INEC in their units and wards must not fail to use original result sheets in collation of results in all polling units, wards and the collation centres in the state. INEC was responsible because what they told Nigerian was that they are prepared for the elections, but what Rivers People saw during the election in INEC’s conduct, was appalling.
Do you agree with International Observers who described the rerun elections in Rivers State as shame, that the elections should have been called off because of the violence that rocked the State?
Leave those people that call themselves International Observers. They cannot tell the Rivers people what is happening in the state. It is time Rivers people decide what happens in the state. They are laptop NGOs. Those things they are doing are roadside arrangements. But it was very clear that everybody saw it in the news, the people made false claim about what is happing in the state but Rivers people had to rise up and defend their votes.
If there were pockets of irregularities in certain areas, those people should be treated as such. Calling for the cancellation of the elections, you can hear the voice of a political party; it is because they are sending a voice of a certain political party. I had of a certain politician and his party want total cancellation but they are not in the court of the law, everybody who feels aggrieved should approach the Tribunal. The Civil Liberties Organization told Nigerians the true position of the matter, that INEC did not do well. INEC became willing tool in the hands of certain political leaders using federal might during the last re run elections in Rivers. It is shameful that when the last election was held in Rivers State, the election result have not be declared even when these results have been collated and people already know the winners. So, what is INEC saying, is there any security implication in the declaration results. INEC plays major role in the tension sustained in the state; they delayed declaration of results to provide opportunity for calls for cancellation of the election. Calling for the cancellation of the election is a total deceit and lack of sportsmanship by the losers.
So, you disagree with APC leaders calling for cancellation of the entire results of the rerun elections?
I heard those talks everyday. I remember the APC governorship candidate, Dakuku Peterside, said that the results were declared in the favor of APC, he insisted on declaration of election results in these areas he felt favoured APC. I am not holding brief for any political party; incidentally, the Rivers State situation has now shown that in reality, you can vote to decide your leader and people have done that. As such, that call is just a political cry. APC leaders are bad losers of elections, they don’t accept defeat. It is the duty of INEC to do the bidding of voters. If there is any reason that the result should be canceled, that is the duty of the tribunal. INEC does not have the power to cancel elections results.
They can cancel election in certain areas, particularly, where the results have not been collated, but ones results are released, INEC lacks the power to cancel elections. INEC has a limit; ones the result has been declared, the only place that you can challenge the outcome of the election is the court.
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Governor Nyesom Wike accused former Governor Chibuike Amaechi of selling Rivers Government assets, including the Olympia Hotel, gas turbine project in Omoku, Gas turbine in Trans Amadi industrial area, etc, what is your take?
It would be in the interest of the people to know that as leader of the Integrity Group, I went to the Nigerian Senate Committee on Public Petition; I made appearance and defended our petition of corruption against Amaechi before the Senate Committee. In their recommendation, they said Amaechi should not be screened to become a minister. Unfortunately, APC senators went on to screen Amaechi, PDP senators walk out. Amaechi has not gone to the court to challenge the facts that we tabled before the public, he has never challenged the white paper we presented at the National Assembly over the alleged fraud he committed when he was Governor of Rivers State. Incidentally, I am the principal witness in the case, and I am a stakeholder in the matter being the Executive Director of Integrity Group. We petitioned EFCC, ICPC and the President of the Senate. My matter was important to the setting up of Justice Omuriji Commission of Inquiring. We raised alarm through our petition, what you people call watchdog, whistle blowers, raised issues on embezzlement of public funds, how assets belonging to Rivers State Government were secretly sold by former Governor Chibuike Amaechi.
We published our petitions in seven national daily newspapers. When the revelation became too heavy, the State Government did not have a choice than to set up a Commission of Inquiring. The Rivers State Government should take action against Amaechi, Amaechi have told us to go to court, and our duty is to challenge him in court, Amaechi should be prosecuted for corruption.
Amaechi complained of being witch hunted; don’t you think he has a case on such claim?
I owe a duty to expose corruption and political evils; it is a challenge before the administration of Governor Nyesom Wike. Although, he said he is accusing him of witch hunt but these are citizens rights because they involve public money, public assets. I was the person who insisted that the report will not go like that. Our petition to the international community was also submitted to all embassies, consulates and representatives of various international organizations in Nigeria. Two weeks ago, there was express call by the international community to President Muhammadu Buhari to sack Rotimi Amaechi in view of the reports of the Commission of Inquiring. PILOT Newspaper which carried the report stated that it is bound on the Buhari administration fighting corruption to remove Ameachi as a minister. I still believe that the Rivers State Government has the power to prosecute Amaechi. If they don’t do so, it would amount to high level of disappointment on the citizens; embezzlement of the state funds. Amaechi has not been able to dispute the facts that Edvant consulting and two others were mentioned that they were domicile at Trans Amadi, as the companies he used in siphoning these money. Those companies showed me from the foundation N3 million before the High Court in Abuja. I accused him of embezzling money during and before the court. But the bottom line is that we made search, called the CBN; before Breuer de Change warranted that their dollars transaction paid money under Amaechi’s watch. And CBN replied to my lawyer, I stated clearly that I have ICPC letter that these companies are licensed to the Breuer agent. People who made inquiring in the corporate affairs commission, discovered the companies are not incorporated in Nigeria, not registered. These are companies that are used to siphon money.
The State Government has no excuse not to prosecute Amaechi; he must be prosecuted, including the other caretaker committee chairmen who embezzled agriculture loans, squandered billions of Naira meant for poor farmers in the state in the days of corporative society by the chairman of the caretaker committee in the local Government Area.
Some of the people invited to appear before the Justice Omuriji Commission of Inquiry shunned the invitation, what is your view?
Justice Omuriji commission of Inquiring is not empowered by law to prosecute, convict, or arrest anybody. The commission was on fact finding mission. They have submitted the report to the Rivers Government, and the report is already published for everybody to go through. Unfortunately, Amaechi came to the senate chamber and said there was no report that indicted him, because his signature are everywhere in that transactions. So, it is the duty of the Commission place the issue of arrest on the door steps of the anti-graft agencies – ICPC, EFCC. It is unfortunate that the chairman of EFCC has declared that there is no corruption among APC leaders. When I heard it, I laughed. I went to Abuja, straight to his office, to submit by hand delivery my petition. And up till now, nothing has happened. People said they are fighting corruption, but up till now, Amaechi is not investigated. The EFCC has not taken any step to commence action on the petition before them, including ICPC. It is unfortunate that they only to go after political enemies and not investigating high profile alleged criminals in Buhari administration. It’s like Buhari’s intention is that the people working with him should be covered of corruption under his watch. He made this statement that nobody with corruption stigma will near his government. There are numerous evidence of corruption that people brought forward, what instrument do they want to use in fighting corruption.
There was conflicting reports on the killings in Rivers during eh elections, the Police said only four people were killed, but APC claimed 30 people were killed and were all APC members, which will you say is correct?
I watch in the channel, in fact, I have the record of his press interview on the matter. It is commendable that your paper has investigated this issue in its recent report. The police is the security, agency that manage security in Rivers State, they said that APC killed the people. But APC will go to the press and make false claims. Let everyone of us read the Police report. for now anybody that have the evidence of further killings should bring the security report to the police. There is need to investigate the leadership of APC in Rivers State. It is very curious and very disturbing that they have began to take over the job of security agents in Rivers State. If they have the evidence of such killings, they should tell us who killed who.