Segun James in Lagos and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Simon Onu, an Outside Broadcast (OB) Van driver with Radio Bayelsa was reportedly killed Wednesday in Nembe, Bayelsa East, killed at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship campaign rally, while several others critically injured were rushed to hospitals in Yenagoa.
THISDAY gathered that Onu, who was close to the source of the gunfire, was trying to drive off to save the van when he was hit by the bullet, which killed him instantly.
The incident, which happened in volatile Ogbolomabiri, disrupted the rally while Governor Seriake Dickson and the candidate of the party, Senator Douye Diri had not arrived the venue.
This is coming as the United States has again reiterated that it will not tolerate any act of violence during the conduct of the governorship election in Bayelsa State, warning that the US and the international community will be watching the election closely in order to deter the potential instigators of violence or those who seek to undermine the democratic process.
It was learnt that the heavy shooting by the armed men rocked the King Koko Square, venue of the campaign as party supporters were waiting for the dignitaries to arrive Ogbolomabiri, which was also a flashpoint during the state and National Assembly elections earlier in the year.
It was gathered that some journalists covering the rally were also caught in the crossfire as many others sustained different degree of injuries.
However, as at yesterday evening, Governor Dickson, who was billed to attend the rally in company with the candidate of the party, was said to have cancelled the event to prevent more loss of lives.
The Police Public Relations officer, Asinim Bustwat, had yet to respond to inquiries at the time of putting this report together, but soldiers deployed in the place were said to be holding ground against the suspected hoodlums.
A source said that the gang was spearheaded by persons allegedly sponsored by an opposition party in the state, who also allegedly attacked some party loyalists who were on transit to Brass for a campaign two weeks ago.
The gang reportedly opened fire on the Protocol bus of the Bayelsa State Government House at a junction between Bassambiri and Ogbolomabiri.
Dickson, who has condemned the violence on PDP members, urged the security agencies to take full control of the situation.
Meanwhile, United States has again reiterated that it will not tolerate any act of violence during the conduct of the governorship election in the state.
It also warned that the international community will be watching the election closely in order to deter the potential instigators of violence or those who seek to undermine the democratic process.
At a press conference, the US Consul General in Lagos, Ms. Claire Pierangelo made it clear that anybody who engages in violence, electoral malpractice and other anti-democratic activities would be sanctioned by the American government.
“I would like to reiterate the US Mission’s longstanding commitment to support free, fair, transparent, and peaceful elections in Nigeria. It is our desire to see nothing less during the November 16 election in Bayelsa State.
“The US government has assisted Nigeria with strengthening the electoral process since 1999 and from that time, robust US elections-related diplomacy and programmes have sought to advance three main objectives.
“First, we support a free and fair electoral process, including technical assistance to Nigeria’s election institutions and civil society in addition to our active monitoring of both general and off-cycle elections.
“Second, we consistently work to prevent and mitigate election-related violence, including peace-building programmes and messaging.
“Third, we encourage an expansion in Nigerian civic and political engagement, including support to Nigerian civil society’s election observation efforts and parallel vote tabulation, as well as campaigns such as ‘Vote, Not Fight’ that promote peaceful political involvement by Nigeria’s youth.”
Pierangelo said she recently returned from Bayelsa as part of her first trip to the Niger Delta region since assuming the role of the Consul General in Lagos.