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Youth demonstrate against the alleged refusal of INEC to hold a byelection in Akwa Ibom.

Youths from Oron Union in the Oron Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State stormed the Independent National Electoral Commission, or INEC, along Udom Udoma Avenue Uyo in protest of the commission’s “delay or tactical refusal” to hold a bye-election to fill the federal constituency’s vacancy.

Nse Ekpenyong, a former member of the House of Representatives representing the Oron Federal Constituency, passed away on April 23, eight months ago, leaving the position vacant. The Speaker made the announcement on June 30 while Ekpenyong was in prison.

In a protest on Wednesday, the youth of the area lamented that they had been denied many benefits and rights by the National Assembly due to their lack of representation, and they accused the electoral umpire of being careless in conducting a byelection in the area.

The youths urged the INEC National Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, to ensure that the bye-election in the federal Constituency is held immediately by displaying placards with various inscriptions, such as “INEC sabotaging our constitutional benefits for 8 months of no representation,” “Oron Federal Constituency deserves a Representative from National Assembly in Abuja,” and “We need a voice at the National Assembly,” among others.

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The young people said that the largest federal constituency in Nigeria had the most oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta.

Mr. John Bassey, the group’s international president, and Maxi Mkpo, its secretary, spoke on behalf of the protesters. Bassey remembered that INEC had held byelections for six constituencies in four states of the federation sometime in January and wondered why Akwa Ibom would be different.

He listed the states and constituencies where by-elections were held, which included: Akure North/Akure South Government Voting demographic, Ondo State; Plateau State’s Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency; Plateau State’s Pankshin South State Constituency; Cross River State, Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency; Cross River State’s constituency of Akpabuyo; Imo State’s Ngor-Okpala State Constituency

“Today, we are gathered here to send a very strong signal to the Chairman of the National Electoral Commission INEC Prof. Mahmood Yakubu over this perceived cruel disenfranchisement and broad daylight robbery of our constitutionally and democratically given right to representation at the green Chambers of the National Assembly, Abuja,” the statement read in part.

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“Technically, INEC has stayed out of any process that could have been started for a bye-election in our federal constituency.” We are being deliberately denied our right to representation, which is guaranteed by the constitution of the Nigerian federal republic.

“It has been approximately eight (8) good months since the unfortunate departure of our late MP on April 23 of this year, when the speaker declared the seat vacant and interned him on June 30, 2022. As a result, we are deeply concerned about the possible explanation for INEC’s decision not to facilitate the process of holding a byelection to fill the vacancy.

“Remember that Mr. Emmanuel Inyang, a resident of Mbo LGA, made a one-man protest to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in Uyo on October 12, 2022, against what he called the Commission’s “unnecessary delay” in filling in for vacant seats in the National Assembly. This press conference is to reiterate and state our anger at INEC regarding the imminent dangers posed by its apparent refusal to conduct the bye-election and the numerous disadvantages of such an undemocratic delay for the Oro people.

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“Our point is very clear and simple: we are asking INEC to expedite the process of holding a byelection for this huge, oil-rich constituency in order to prevent any further breakdown of law and order during the already volatile elections season and the Niger Delta region,” the group said.

He likewise approached individuals from the parliament addressing other government supporters inside the state to hold hands in fortitude in denouncing such demonstrations during meetings.

He added that if the commission does not comply with their request by the end of December 2022, they will be forced to occupy the state headquarters of INEC beginning January 2023 until the necessary steps are taken.

However, when he spoke to the youth, Vincent Ogene, the Head of Operations for INEC in Akwa Ibom, promised that the problem would be fixed.

Ogene praised the youths for their orderly and peaceful behavior without implying that the national commission would issue a directive on what should be done.

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