Violence, apathy mar Rivers re-run
• 13 Killed, As Thugs Use Guns, Dynamites
• INEC Postpones Election In Four LGAs
• Soldiers, APC Connived On Irregularities, Says PDP
• Fayose Condemns Polls, Warns Of Anarchy
Yesterday’s re-run in Rivers State was characterised by widespread violence and apathy, as voters went to the polls to elect 22 House of Assembly members and fill 12 House of Representatives and three Senate seats.
An immigration officer was shot dead at a registration centre at Abalama in Asari Toru Local Government Area (LGA). A skirmish had ensued, following attempt by All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members to hijack electoral materials. After minutes of altercation, the APC supporters succeed in escaping with the items.
Shortly after, three Toyota Hilux vans conveying persons in police and army uniforms arrived the centre and opened fire. The immigration officer was killed on the spot, while some people sustained severe injuries.
Youths shot sporadically and detonated dynamites after skirmishes broke out between APC and PDP supporters at Abonnema in Akuku Toru LGA. Supporters of both parties had tried to snatch election materials, which were eventually taken away by one of the contenders.
Four persons were reportedly killed at Buguma, headquarters of Asari Toru .
Heavy shooting was reported in Degema, especially in Abalama community, forcing voters, journalists and INEC officials to desert polling units.
Hoodlums at Ward 7, Unit 4 in Nonwa, Tai LGA killed one young man, Tombari, shortly after he had cast his vote. A voter was also killed after a stray bullet hit him at Rumuokuta roundabout. Solders deployed to the place had ordered the driver of a sports utility vehicle to stop for a search. The driver, however, ignored the directive, following which the soldiers fired on the vehicle. The soldiers hastily abandoned the checkpoint, as police rushed the man to a hospital.
Four persons were feared dead in the Ogoni area in Rivers South-East, as tension escalated, following the late arrival of voting materials. Two persons were reportedly shot in Abua/Odual and Ahoada West LGAs allegedly by the military, even as security men arrested eight persons in Bori for being in possession of military uniforms.
Solders arrested the Secretary to the Rivers State Government and former Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Kenneth Kobani, for allegedly disrupting the distribution of electoral materials at Kpor in Gokana LGA. This was after a disagreement between APC and PDP agents, and allegation by the PDP that result sheets were fake.
The caretaker committee chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government, Mr. Samuel Ejekwu, was apprehended by soldiers at Ikoku bus stop in Port Harcourt for driving during the election. The chairman, who was later released, claimed he was rushing to a nearby police station to lodge a complaint over electoral malpractice in his unit.
Police spokesperson, Ahmed Mohammed, said the police arrested two persons with marked result sheets at a checkpoint near the University of Port Harcourt.
Fake INEC officials carrying a busload of electoral materials to an undisclosed destination were also arrested by soldiers at GRA junction along Aba Road.
Following attacks on its officials, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed elections in Khana, Gokana, Andoni and Bonny Local Government Areas (LGAs).
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Mr. Aniedi Ikoiwak, said the Commission decided to postpone the re-run after some people attacked officials based on allegation that they had been distributing fake result sheets. The REC denied this.
Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, said logistics challenges, which resulted in delay in the distribution of electoral materials, showed INEC was not prepared for the exercise.
He expressed dismay at the electronic card reader after three of the devises failed to capture his fingerprint at his Ward 9 Unit 7, Rumueiprikom in Obia-Akpor LGA.
“With regards to the card reader, you can see that I stood for over six minutes before I was able to be captured. That tells you the number of hours that can be spent. We thought by now that the electoral commission would have improved on this card reader issue. To stand for five, 10 minutes, just to be captured! That is a long process! But by and large, we thank God that at the end of the day, I have voted,” the governor said.
He added: “Generally too, in terms of the preparedness of INEC, I can’t give it a pass mark, as far I am concerned. We have said if you know you have a problem, let the world know it; not tell the world you are prepared when you know you are not.”
Wike, however, said he was impressed with the security arrangement put in place for the polls, even as he confirmed shooting at Omagwa.
State PDP chairman, Felix Obuah, condemned the arrests of Kenneth Kobani and the arrest and detention of former Chairman of Khana LGA, Hon. Greg Nwidam, by soldiers in Bori.
He alleged that soldiers beat up the state Commissioner for Environment, Professor Roseline Konya, and PDP agents at INEC offices in Bori, Tai and Gokana councils.
The PDP chairman said all electoral materials for Tai council were hijacked and that attempt to resist the seizure led to the killing of two persons.
He called on INEC to cancel Rivers re-run election in Tai, Oyigbo, Gokana, Khana and all other LGAs where soldiers of the Nigerian Army connived with the APC to hijack electoral materials, kill, maim, destroy properties, arrest and detain PDP members. He condemned the action of the military and called for an investigation
There was widespread voter apathy across the state. The atmosphere of fear that greeted the election might have kept a lot of voters away. Many of the wards in Obio/Akpor LGA recorded very low turnout of voters.
In virtually all the 23 LGAs, there were also reported cases of late arrival of voting materials. State REC, Aniede Ikoiwak, had at different occasions said the exercise would begin 8am and end at 2pm. As at 3pm, however, people were still voting and getting accredited.
The State Commissioner of Information and Communication, Dr. Austin Tam-George, in a statement, accused APC thugs of wearing military uniforms in order to intimidate voters.
He alleged massive distribution of fake result sheets in Khana, Bonny and Andoni, describing the re-run as a mockery of democracy.
Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, meanwhile, has raised the alarm over the fate of democracy in Nigeria, saying: “The open display of contempt for free, fair and transparent election by the APC government of President Muhammadu Buhari, as witnessed in Rivers State, is capable of setting Nigeria on the path of anarchy.”
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, yesterday, the governor, said: “Obviously, INEC under President Buhari has destroyed that legacy of free, fair and transparent elections bequeathed to Nigeria by the PDP government former President Goodluck Jonathan.”
According to the governor, “It is strange that INEC produced result sheets with PDP omitted, and I wonder what is going to happen in 2019 if INEC and security agents are acting in this clear compromised manner in Rivers State.”