July 29, (THEWILL) – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Edo State Police Command have debunked reports that an INEC Resident Commissioner in Edo State, Dr Johnson Alalibo Sinikiem, was arrested.
However, INEC confirmed that the REC was invited to make some clarifications over issues bordering on the primaries held by one of the political parties in the state.
“The Commission can confirm that the REC was invited, however, the Edo State Police Command has issued a statement to clarify the situation, saying that the REC was only invited to provide insight into some technical issues regarding our processes and nothing more.
“He was neither detained nor is he personally under investigation as media reports suggested”, said Festus Okoye, INEC’s National Commissioner for Voter Education and Information.
The commission, however, frowned at the invitation, saying that the police could have demanded for a much junior officer or at best visit the REC in his office for needed clarifications.
“While we welcome the clarification by the Police Command, we wish to point out that any other official of the Commission assigned by the REC could have provided the required insight. Alternatively, a visit to our State Office by the Commissioner of Police or his assigned representative could have achieved the same goal as has been the tradition in our collaborative relationship with security agencies”, the statement added.
The Commission emphased that the REC in Edo State is a conscientious public officer and co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) at State level.
“He was the sitting REC when the last Governorship election was conducted in Edo State on 19th September, 2020, which was adjudged to be free, fair and credible.
“Any action capable of creating the impression of harassment of our officials or infringement of the independence of the Commission must be avoided, especially at this critical period of our preparations for the 2023 General Election.”
On its part, the Edo State Police Command denied that Alalibo was arrested on Thursday, July 28, 2022, by the operatives of the command.
A statement on Friday, by the assistant spokesperson, Jennifer Iwegbu in Benin, described the reported arrest as fake news, orchestrated to mislead the public and strain the seamless inter-agency synergy between the police and the commission in the state, ostensibly, for incomprehensible goals.
Iwegbu. an assistant superintendent of police, however, admitted that a petition dated 20th July, 2022, was received from Dr Anthony Aziegbemi, the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Edo State chapter, which contained certain components that required informed and expert opinion which the INEC was best suited to provide towards aiding the police in arriving at a credible investigative outcome.
She said that it was in furtherance of the petition and in appreciation of the inter-agency collaborative relationship between the police and INEC that the REC was invited, not as a suspect as being falsely projected in the media, but as an expert source to meet with the police towards aiding in addressing the technical issues in the investigative process.
Iwegbu insisted that such administrative interactions between the police and INEC in Edo State are routine.
She said, “Following the meeting, the Edo State Residential Electoral Commissioner offered informed opinions which are proving to be invaluable to the ongoing police actions on the referenced petition and immediately after the meeting, the INEC REC left the Command Headquarters. Contrary to the mischievous information being peddled on social media by ill-intentioned individuals, the INEC Residential Electoral Commissioner was not invited to the Command Headquarters as a suspect, nor was he treated as one nor detained by the Command.
“While the freedom of information rights of the citizens and the mandates of journalists to inform the public remain acknowledged and respected, the Command wishes to advice, once again, that citizens and journalists should be circumspect and should always strive to verify sensitive information from authorised sources in the Command before publishing in overriding national security interest and to avoid being witting or unwitting harbingers of fake news, which could threaten internal security order.”