Leaders of major political parties in Imo staged a walkout during a stakeholders meeting organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The meeting took place on Tuesday in Owerri, the Imo state capital.
The stakeholders meeting was put together by INEC ahead of the off-cycle governorship elections in Imo, Kogi, and Bayelsa states on November 11.
The interactive session began on a peaceful note but proceedings was disrupted after the National Commissioner for the south-east, Kenneth Ukeagu, told the press to leave the hall.
Ukeagu was representing Mahmood Yakubu, national chairman of INEC, at the meeting.
The directive did not go down well with leaders of opposition political parties present at the session, as a war of words ensued among leaders of the various political parties.
Amid the rowdy session, leaders of the Labour Party (LP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and others walked out in anger, leaving the representatives of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who did not leave the session.
Speaking after the walkout, Jones Onyereri, running mate to Samuel Anyanwu, the PDP guber candidate, alleged that Ukeagu’s directive was part of plans to rig Saturday’s election in APC’s favour.
Onyereri called for the removal of the Imo resident electoral commissioner (REC), Sylvia Agu, before the election.
“You can now see that INEC is no longer hiding its affiliation with the government of Imo state”
“You all saw what happened. How can the INEC chairman order the media to stop coverage of the proceedings and when we tried to counter it, some APC mad dogs pounced on us and were clapping for the chairman.
“Whatever be their plans to rig this election, we must resist it at all costs.
“If they say they are accepted by Imo people, they should jettison rigging and come out to the field and put their popularity to test.
“It was most shocking. Everybody, every candidate, we all stood up and shouted at him and said why would you let that be? Are we running a secret society here?” Onyereri said.
Tony Nwulu, the running mate to Athan Achonu, LP candidate, said the party will not accept any election conducted by the current Imo REC.
“I have said it and I will say it again, we are not accepting any election conducted by the current Imo REC,” he said.
On his part, Macdonald Ebere, APC chairperson in Imo, said the INEC commissioner only asked journalists to observe the proceedings without cameras.
Ebere said the opposition parties would always look for issues where there are none, adding that the Governor of Imo state, Hope Uzodinma, has already won the election.