The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is currently investigating Blessing Suleiman, the electoral officer in charge of Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, over allegations of compromise levelled against her by a group, the Ithihikpe Campaign Organization, on the presidential and National Assembly elections held in the area.

The law firm of Felix, Igelige and Associates had, during the elections, on behalf of the Ithihikpe Campaign Organization, petitioned the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, accusing Suleiman of working with the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after allegedly receiving some gratification.

The petition, entitled ‘Demand for the Immediate Removal or Posting Away of Mrs. Suleiman, the Current Electoral Officer in Charge of Isoko South Local Government Council Area of Delta State Acts of Gross Misconduct, Betrayal of Trust and Breach of Oath of Office,’ was issued on behalf of the Ithihikpe Campaign Organization, signed by Rockson Igelige and obtained by SaharaReporters. It alleged, among other things, that there was compromise and fixing of names of PDP members in the area as ad hoc staff of the commission.

The petition read: "We act for and on behalf of the Ithihikpe Campaign Organization (our client) and it is upon their firm instructions that we forward this petition. Our client, which is an integral part of the Joel-Onowakpo Thomas Campaign Organization, has just discovered to their chagrin that one Mrs. Blessing Suleiman, who was recently posted to Oleh as your Commission’s Electoral Officer for Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, has been compromised by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

"The above assertion is premised on the partisanship flagrantly displayed by the said Mrs. Suleiman in the selection of INEC ad hoc personnel, which clearly showed that apart from the current serving corps members, over 90% of all other categories of such personnel recruited are known card-carrying and active members of the PDP.

"For instance, one Oneke Michael, who is the current youth leader of the PDP for Oleh Ward 2, has been recruited as Asst. Presiding Officer II for Unit 18 of Oleh Ward 2.  Furthermore, one Mr. Emmanuel Oneke who is an ex-councillorship candidate under the PDP and currently the Personal Assistant to Mr. Kenneth Ogba a candidate of the PDP for Isoko South Constituency 1 also made the list as an ad hoc staff.

"Again one Ifoghale Osibi, who is PDP Chairman for Unit 12 Oleh Ward 1, has been recruited and is posted as an Assistant Presiding Officer Unit 13. The foregoing is the prevailing scenario all over the Isoko South Local Government and we dare say that this situation, if not checked, will smear the Commission with filth and rubbish the good effort of the Commission at ensuring free, fair and credible election.

"Even more worrisome to our client is the fact that other non-aligned working civil servants as well as ex-corps members, who applied and who are supposed to be the first line of persons for consideration for recruitment after serving corps members, have been deliberately and conspicuously left out of the recruitment net, all in an effort to favour the fortunes of the PDP.

"Our clients and indeed the great majority of the Isoko people have lost faith in Mrs. Suleiman as a person who is capable of delivering a free and fair election for the Commission in Isoko South Local Government Area. In view of the foregoing, we demand that the recent recruitment exercise carried out by Mrs. Suleiman, the Electoral Officer for Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, be cancelled and a fresh one which will remove any form of partisan toga or colouration, be carried out."

The petitioner also demanded the immediate redeployment of Suleiman and replaced.

Responding to the petition, Cyril Omorogbe, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, and obtained by our correspondent, said the commission is currently investigating the claims in the petition.

A letter personally signed by Omorogbe read: "We are in receipt of your letter to the commission dated 15 February, 2019. The letter alleges that our staff, Mrs. Suileman Blessing, Electoral Officer for Isoko South Local Government Area, Delta State, is compromised and that some categories of ad hoc staff are card carrying members of a party.

"While these allegations are yet to be established, the commission will leave no stone unturned to ensure a free, fair, transparent and credible election. We make bold to say that all issues raised are currently being investigated and addressed. Once it is found to be as alleged, the commission will do the needful.”

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