Soldier, Five Others Killed in Election Violence in Rivers

  •   INEC suspends polls in two LGAs

Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

A soldier and five other persons were killed while several others sustained injuries in the violence that trailed the Presidential and National Assembly elections in Rivers State.

The soldier, a lieutenant, was among persons said to have been killed at Abonnema, headquarters of Akuku Toru Local Government Area, while a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Chairman of Andoni Local Government Council, Chief Mowan Etete, was killed alongside his elder brother and cousin in Asarama.

In a statement issued by its Publicity Secretary Chris Finebone, APC said one of its ex-officio members of State Executive Committee, Ignatius, was also shot dead at Ajakaja, also in Andoni by suspected thugs.

Also, an unconfirmed number of persons believed to be members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were killed following the eruption of violence before the commencement of accreditation and voting in Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru and Degema Local Government Areas of the state.

The police however have confirmed the death of the soldier and two others, while the army was yet to react to the death of the soldier as at the time of going to press.

The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Nnamdi Omoni (DSP), while confirming the incidents, said Etete was in his house when unknown gunmen scaled the fence, entered the house and killed him and his brother.

“We had issues in Okrika and in Andoni. In Andoni, two lives were lost as a former local government chairman and his brother were shot dead. In other places, we had pockets of crisis. The men on the ground have been able to restore normalcy in these areas.

“The Commissioner of Police has ordered investigation into these matters. We already have a task force on electoral offences. The task force is headed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police and arrests have been made in all the cases and persons arrested are helping us.

“I am not aware of such a report that a soldier was killed. We heard about shooting in that area, but nobody has told us about any casualty in that area (Abonnema),” he said.

In the case of carting away of election materials by security operatives in Okrika, he said: “I stand to debunk that. We have three personnel to every polling unit. So, I don’t see how three personnel can hijack voting materials in a polling unit.”

Areas worst hit by violence were communities in Eleme, Ikwerre, Bonny, Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru, Degema, Andoni and Okrika.

Despite the presence of heavily armed security agents drawn from the Department of State (DSS), the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and several others, shootings and explosions rocked parts of the state.

Meanwhile, INEC has announced the suspension of elections in Bonny and Akuku Toru Local Government Areas of Rivers State.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Obi Effanga, told THISDAY that the commission had to suspend elections in the two areas because of security concerns.

“We are reviewing the situation and will fix a new date when we will conclude elections in those areas,” he said.

The violence put a damp on the massive turnout of voters in the state despite the late arrival of materials.

While voters turned out as early as 7.30am in some polling stations, materials did not arrive many stations until as late as 10am.

Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, and his wife, Hon. Justice Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, voted at Unit 7, Ward 9, in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State at about 11.55am

Also, the Minister of Transportation Chibuike Amaechi and his wife, Dame Judith Amaechi, voted at Unit 8, Ward 14, Ubima in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state at about 10am.

Addressing journalists after casting his vote, Wike expressed happiness with the large turnout of voters. He stated that Nigerians are ready to exercise their franchise.

The governor said: “From what I have seen here, it is a large turnout and Nigerians are ready to express their franchise. Apart from the military intervention, things are moving on smoothly.”

He said that INEC showed preparedness in the discharge of their electoral duties during the voting process, regretting that the military proved to be the stumbling blocks against democracy across the state.

Wike said: “It is unfortunate that our military can descend so low. We used to complain about the police, but now it is the military.

“What Nigerians have wished to be will be, it doesn’t matter the manipulation anybody would want to carry out, I am very hopeful that Nigerians will decide today and a new president will emerge.”

Similarly, the Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state, Hon. Samuel Nwanosike, has called on the international community and Nigerians to prevail on Amaechi not to change the outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections in the area.

Amaechi, who is also the Director-General of President Buhari Re-election Campaign Organisation, hails from Ubima community in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state.

Nwanosike said: “In Ikwerre Local Government Area, we are law abiding people. Since 2015 when we started having proper election, because you know that we have had what is called nearest to one-party system in Rivers State since 1998/1999 to 2015.

“In 2015 general election, once accreditation and voting had started in the morning, the exercise will be peaceful until afternoon, violence will start immediately the collation starts at the ward level. That is where crisis will start and that is the problem we have here.

“Who is causing this crisis? Just one man, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation under the Buhari government. We keep complaining on this same issue. It happened in the rerun we had in March 16, 2016. On December 10, 2016, during the re-rerun it happened.

“I call on the international community and Nigerians to know that whatever happens in Ikwerre Local Government Area this afternoon moving forward, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi should be held responsible.”

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the day as a “black day” in Rivers politics.

The state PDP Director of Information and Communications, Emma Okah, in a statement, described the situation as “barbaric and appalling, coming after the people of Rivers State had complained aloud about the threats of rigging, intimidation and violence hanging over their heads”.

“It is a black day in Rivers State as the Presidential and National Assembly elections turn bloody with many PDP members shot dead by the military in Akuku Toru Local Government Area,” he said.

He said reports from other parts of the state showed a pattern of organised violence and shootings in some cases with the military, police and APC as the main actors.