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17.01.2010 Nigeria

Anambra: Nzeribe Is Owner Of Seized INEC Materials And Truck

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Asaba Jan 16, (THEWILL) - Barely few weeks to the Anambra State 2010 gubernatorial election, police in the state on Friday arrested a trunk load of electoral materials allegedly belonging to a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) House of Representatives member, representing Ihiala Federal constituency, whose name was given as Mr. Chuma Nzeribe.

The trucks, belonging to the 'K' Line group of motors with trade registration number KKF U7284 86 and vehicle registration number, Lagos XS 139 AKD, was intercepted at Ihiala, a town in Anambra South Senatorial District and was said to be heading for Dunukofia. The other truck zoomed off before police officers could impound it.

THEWILL learnt that the special police unit dispatched to Anambra State against the incessant kidnappings and armed robbery in the state arrested the truck fully loaded with election materials originating from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after an accident with another vehicle.

Police officers discovered neatly arranged parcels of INEC materials in green folders and ballot boxes inside the truck which made them arrest the driver and impound the truck at the home town of the former governor of Anambra State, Mbadinuju and the former lawmaker. The truck was escorted to the Area Command Headquarters at Amawbia, Awka in the state.

Some political parties' agents and other interested stakeholders who got wind of the development and besieged the scene of arrest followed the truck closely to the police station.

Speaking with THEWILL in a conference call, Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Emeka Chukwuemeka who had in Awka confirmed the arrest of the truck and also confirmed that the contents inside were INEC Anambra election materials, reversed his statement after barely 24 hours.

According to ASP Chukwuemeka, "Its not true that a truck loaded with electoral materials was arrested but there was a truck actually, that was involved in a traffic accident and was carrying some plastic panel that was supposed to be used in erecting polling boots in port-Harcourt. This is what we found out during investigation and the vehicle was promptly released to continue its journey," adding that it was all lies as there was no such incident.

All effort to contact Mr. Chuma Nzeribe who was sacked last year by an Appeal court sitting in Enugu and replaced by Mr. Vitalis Okafor also of same PDP proved abortive as at the time of filing in the report.

Nzeribe though a PDP party member is loyal to Governor Peter Obi. Sources say he is not working for the interest of the PDP in the election neither is he on Andy Uba's side or Ngige's. He is believed to have benefitted immensely from Obi's government and even nominated a commissioner in his current administration.

Nzeribe plans to run for the Senate soon and sees Obi's government as his chance of actualizing his ambition.

However the Independent National Electoral Commission on Saturday issued a statement debunking allegations that some electoral materials meant for the Anambra poll were seized by the police.

INEC Director of Public Affairs, Umenger Emmanuel said the truck in question was transporting collapsible polling booths from its headquarters to the Port Harcourt store, when it collided with another vehicle in Okija, Anambra.

“To effectively overcome logistics nightmares usually associated with delivery of electoral materials during elections, the commission created zonal stores in the six geo- political zones of the country and is at the moment, ferrying non-sensitive electoral materials to each of these stores ahead of 2011 general elections,” the statement said. INEC said it had become necessary to explain why the cargo was being transported and how the accident occurred in Okija, before mischief-makers distorted the matter.

“Prominent politicians and some candidates in the impending governorship election have since visited the scene of the accident and have interfaced with the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge, Okija. They are satisfied that the INEC truck in question was truly conveying collapsible polling cubicles to our Port- Harcourt zonal store and that no ulterior motive on the part of the commission was intended.

“INEC wishes to call on all Nigerians, especially the good citizens of Anambra state to disregard any account of the incident being peddled by mischief-makers other than the authentic version of what has been presented above,” he said.

“The commission is fully committed to a governorship election in Anambra State that is not only credible, free and fair but overly transparent,” the statement added.

INEC has fixed February 6 for the election and analysts have said it would be keenly contested between incumbent Governor, Peter Obi (APGA); Charles Soludo (PDP); Andy Uba (LP); and Chris Ngige (AC).

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