Rivers rerun: INEC, police officers face criminal charges
The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation has received the report of the investigation by the police into the crimes committed during the December 10, 2016 national and state assembly rerun poll in Rivers State, The PUNCH has learnt.
Some of the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, high-ranking police officers, six of the dismissed police aides to Governor Nyesom Wike and others are to be prosecuted for bribery, murder, money laundering, intimidation and disruption of polls among other charges.
One of our correspondents learnt on Wednesday in Abuja that the 104-page report was sent to the AGF and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), on Monday.
This was said to have come barely one week after the police sent to the AGF a “prior notice” in the form of “preliminary report of investigation”, giving a summary of the case.
According to sources, who are familiar with the case but are not permitted to speak on it, the final report sent to the AGF was accompanied by a bulky file, containing some documentary exhibits such as photographs, witness statements, eyewitness testimonies and correspondences.
It was learnt that the report recommended three State Coordinators and 20 other officials of INEC for prosecution.
Among others, also recommended for prosecution by the police, are some police officers in the ranks of Commissioner of Police, Deputy Superintendent of Police and Chief Superintendent of Police.
Police officers also listed for trial are the six cops dismissed in January 2017 for misuse of firearms while on duty as part of security details of Wike.
Other suspects indicted by the police are some members of the state and National Assembly accused of bribing INEC officials and sponsoring two violent cult groups in the state.
The sources declined to give the names of the suspects in order not to pre-empt an ongoing review of the case file by the Office of the AGF.
One of the sources said in compliance with the directive given by the AGF, relevant officers of the Federal Ministry of Justice had begun the review of the file and “deserving suspects” would be charged before the end of March.
But the source told The PUNCH that the police recommended that the suspects be prosecuted for offences such as snatching of ballot boxes, disruption of polls, intimidation and harassment of voters, bribery, murder and money laundering, among others.
Attempt to reach the spokesperson for the AGF, Mr. Salihu Isah, for his comment on Wednesday was not successful as repeated calls made to him indicated his telephone line was unreachable.
It was also learnt that the police had submitted the report to INEC.
INEC confirms receiving police probe report
Meanwhile, INEC confirmed, on Wednesday that it had received the report of the panel set up by the police to investigate the violence during the December rerun polls in Rivers.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of INEC, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that 25 staff of the commission were investigated by the police panel.
He said the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, had given the assurance that the commission would not shield any of the affected personnel from criminal prosecution.
Oyekanmi stated, “Yes, I was told that the report has now been received but I haven’t seen it yet. Our chairman has a copy of the report now; the report where they (police) said they recovered N111m from some staff. That is the one that they have given to INEC now.
“You know, the press conference you attended, it was very clearly stated that without prejudice to what the police are investigating, we will cooperate with them to carry out criminal prosecution of whoever is found culpable.”
The Joint Investigation Panel, set up by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, said it recovered N111.3m from 23 electoral officials and two administrative officers.
The 25 INEC staff had allegedly confessed to the panel that they received the money from Wike to manipulate the rerun polls.
The police had earlier said the 25 electoral officials were released on bail to the Director of Human Resources, INEC Headquarters, Abuja.
The IG inaugurated the panel on December 22, 2016, following the violence that rocked the polls in which DSP Mohammed Alkali and his driver were beheaded and their heads thrown into a river.
The panel, which comprised 12 officers of the Nigeria Police Force and three from Department of State Services, was mandated to investigate the various infractions, incidents and violence that marred the re-run elections in Rivers State and any relevant matter.
The panel, headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Damian Okoro, attributed the violence caused during the elections to lawlessness and leadership failure.