Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
One person was killed yesterday in the rerun election in Rivers State after what started as a peaceful election degenerated into a violent exercise in Ogoni area of the South East Senatorial Zone.
The police have however denied knowledge of violence while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called for the cancellation of the exercise in Khana Local Government Area, alleging connivance of the police in ballot snatching and attacks on PDP chieftains.
The legislative rerun elections in Rivers State had proceeded peacefully in most polling units across the state. Unlike the situation in the March 19 rerun, there were no incidents of gunshots or snatching of ballot boxes in most of the areas.
Security was tight in most of the places where voting took place while there were road blocks in strategic areas of the state.
It was also gathered that some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last night ran away from the Rivers South East Senatorial Collation Centre at Bori following pressure from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to write results in its favour.
The INEC officers who spoke on condition of anonymity alleged the APC officials invaded the INEC collation centre at about 7pm in the company of security officials , locked the gates and demanded that the INEC officials accept the results they had brought in about elections in Gokana Local Government Area
An INEC official, who did not want to be named, told THISDAY that he had to disguise to escape from the Bori Centre having known that some security agents snatched ballot boxes in the area earlier in the day.
If we allow this to happen we will be sowing a seed that will ultimately destroy this country,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, led soldiers to beat up Ikwerre Caretaker Chairman, Hon. Samuel Nwanosike, and also invaded the INEC Collation Centre at Isiokpo.
A statement by the party said Thousands of Ikwerre people have besieged INEC in Isiokpo following the invasion of the Local Government Collation Centre.
It claimed the Minister stormed the INEC Collation Centre with over 200 soldiers and Armoured Personnel Carrier and was also accompanied by the Commissioner of Police in charge of Election, Mr David.
According to the PDP, “The soldiers and the Commissioner of Police forcefully gained entrance where they drove away the live crew of the African Independent Telecision(AIT) Live crew, other print and broadcast journalists, agents of political parties and observers.
“The Commissioner of Police in charge of elections, Mr David beat up the Caretaker Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Area, Mr Samuel Nwanosike before dragging him on the floor.”
The INEC has in the meantime confirmed that elections would hold on Sunday at Akukutoru Local Government Area of the state as elections could not hold there on Saturday because of late arrival of materials.
The state Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the commission said the commission would return to conduct elections in the area on Sunday.
In Buguma, headquarters of Asaritoru Local Government Area, the waterways were patrolled by the police and the navy. While the area was peaceful, materials did not leave early and there was low turnout of voters.
The same apathy was witnessed in parts of Eleme Local government Area and Ikwerre Local Government Area, home of Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi.
In polling units in Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor and environs, accreditation and voting started at about 9am while in other areas it started between 10 and 11am.
The APC candidate for the Rivers South East Senatorial District, Senator Magnus Abe, voted at about 11:55am at Ward 16 Unit 10 Bera in Gokana Local Government Area.
Addressing journalists shortly after, Abe commended the conduct of the state and national assembly re-run elections in Rivers South East Senatorial District particularly in Gokana Local Government Area.
He said although he had got reports about few cases of late arrival of materials and ballot box snatching, which he said was promptly responded to by security operatives, so far the conduct appears impressive.
He commended the law enforcement agents for their vigilance and also used the opportunity to commend President Mohammadu Buhari and Service Chiefs for providing adequate security for the election.
His words: “Well, first of all, I want to express my sincere appreciation to President Mohammadu Buhari, Inspector-General of Police, Chief of Army staff, Chairman of INEC, the people of Rivers South East Senatorial District and most importantly to Almighty God.
“Since this election started, this is the first time I am actually casting a ballot; this is the first time many of the people here are actually voting. Well, it is not a perfect exercise, there are cases of late arrival of materials and security challenges like we are getting report of hoodlums still having the audacity to come out to attack and try to hijack materials in some areas. But in all, the security responses have been prompt and adequate.”
But shortly after the interview, there were reports of police invasion of a polling station at St. Pius X College, Bodo, where Units 2 and 3 of Ward 3 were voting.
When THISDAY visited the scene, voters had dispersed but there were tell tales of destruction left behind: destroyed ballot boxes, already thumb-printed ballot papers and empty shells of bullets.
There were, however, some people who came back to look for their missing items at the centre.
One of those persons was a lady who gave her name as Barituka. She told THISDAY, “I was in the queue to vote in Unit 2 at about 11.45am when some men in SARS (Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad) uniform came here to disrupt the peaceful election.
“As they drove into this place in three white Hilux vans, they started shooting. They came to scatter the election because we are voting for PDP.
Barituka also informed THISDAY that the same team of SARS operatives attacked Ward 2 in the same Bodo City where they killed one Mr. Meebari Kormaga in their (SARS) attempt to disrupt the election and cart away the ballot boxes.
Addressing journalists at the Ward 1 polling centre, Bodo, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Hon. Kenneth Kobani, lamented that SARS operatives, attached to the APC House of Representatives candidate for Gokana/Khana Federal Constituency, Hon. Morris Pronen, invaded the St. Pius X College, Bodo polling station and killed Mr. Meebari Kormaga and took away the ballot boxes.
“They have killed an innocent man who just came out to exercise his franchise in cold blood. I don’t know how people think they can ride to power on people’s blood,” he lamented.
When THISDAY also visited the polling unit at Kpor, close to the police divisional headquarters, THISDAY saw a detachment of the SARS, leading other police and security operatives forcibly take the ballot boxes and used tear gas to scare away voters who protested against the removal of the ballot boxes.
But when contacted for his reaction, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Nnamdi Omoni, said there was no report of violence in the area and that elections in the area was peaceful.
“We have just left Gokana in the company of the GOC and there was no iota of violence or election malpractice. Everywhere was peaceful. We also visited Bodo especially and there was nothing to even suggest violence,” he said.
But when THISDAY insisted that he witnessed some violent scenes at Gokana, especially in Bodo and Kpor, he said he would call the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the area and get back to him. But he never did till the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has accused the Nigerian Army and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police of killing PDP agents, hijacking electoral materials and working to deliver a particular candidate in Rivers South-East Senatorial District.
The governor added that no matter the use of the Nigerian Army and SARS personnel by the APC Government, Rivers State would never be conquered.
Wike, who was said to be reacting to the mass shootings by the Nigerian Army and the Police in Khana, Gokana, Akuku-Toru and Etche Local Government Areas on Election Day, said the Security Agencies were deployed to the State to manipulate the result of the polls.
He said true to the claim by the APC Governors and leaders that they would use Federal Might against the Rivers people, the military have been used to rig rerun elections in parts of the state.
The governor said in Khana Local Government Area, election materials for the entire Local Government Area were hijacked by the Nigerian Army and SARS personnel.
He added that in Gokana Local Government Area, soldiers hijacked election materials for Wards 2 and 3 in Bodo City where the military also killed two persons in the process of fleeing with the materials.
Wike said out of the 19 wards of Etche Local Government Area, soldiers and SARS personnel hijacked election materials for 4 wards.
He alleged that one Mr Charles Anyanwu, Etche APC Chieftain, has been arrested with two AK47 guns. He noted that the security agencies may release him.
The governor noted that the unfortunate onslaught by the military and SARS personnel started in the night of Friday, when the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi backed by a battalion of soldiers and over 20 SARS personnel attempted to hijack materials from the Isiokpo INEC headquarters, but was resisted by youths.