Thirteen governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have warned the Department of State Service (DSS) to stop arresting, detaining and questioning staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over electoral-related matters.
At a press briefing after the end of their meeting Wednesday night in Abuja, chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum (PDPGF) and Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, alleged that the DSS was intimidating INEC staff and PDP members in Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Abia, which are all PDP controlled states on issues that were before the Election Petition Tribunal in the three states.
According to the PDPGF, the situation is capable of spelling doom and posing danger to the country’s democracy.
The governors asked the DSS to focus on maintaining internal security rather than electoral matters and to investigate alleged cases of under-age voting in the March/April general elections in some states, which they alleged were controlled by the All Progressives (APC).
The governors added that a Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in one of the states, whose name was not mentioned, be investigated by the DSS on grounds that money for a deal on electoral malpractices was traced to his bank account.
“The forum condemns in very strong terms the alleged worrisome meddlesomeness of the Department of State Services (DSS) in Election Tribunal matters especially in Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Abia States. It is against the spirit, ethos, values and fundamental tenets of democratic norms and tradition; more so with the existence of the Electoral Act and the Constitution.
“The forum is worried, alarmed and shocked by this development. A situation where officials of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in these three States, (all PDP States) are daily being arrested, detained and questioned on election-related offences, even when the cases are on-going at the tribunals, spells doom and poses imminent danger to our fledgling democracy.
“The alleged interference is an attempt to stifle the opposition and this is most unacceptable. We insist that the trend be reversed. No democracy survives without a viable opposition in any part of the world.
“INEC is supposed to be an independent commission and its officials ought to be shielded from partisanship, especially at a time when the dust raised by the alleged APC membership of the DG of the SSS, Mr. Lawal Musa Daura is yet to settle.
“There were clear cases of under-aged voters in some states and we wonder why the DSS did not investigate a single person or made any arrest. Even in a clear case where money paid was traced to the bank account of a State Resident Electoral Commissioner, the DSS is yet to order investigation into the matter”, the governors said.