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*Cart away BVAS machines, other voting materials
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Pandemonium broke out yesterday in Eresoyen Primary School Uhogua, Iguoshodin in Ovia North East Local Government Area, Edo State as gunmen stormed the primary school and took away three BVAS machines and other voting materials.
Also, in a related development yesterday, some suspected thugs attacked the Pangpit Polling Unit in Mikang Local Government Area, Plateau State destroying the voters’ register and ballot boxes.
At the IDP Camp Polling Unit in Edo State, INEC’s officials and materials arrived at 7:30 am and accreditation and voting commenced simultaneously at exactly 8:30 am.
Just after INEC’s officials were settled down, gunmen numbering three alighted from a vehicle; started shooting and snatched BVAS machines and other voting materials from the INEC officers in both units and left in their car.
A voter in the community, Mr. Joseph Simon lamented that there were hardly any security agents around, saying BVAS Machines allocated to Polling Unit 17 would not be enough to take the crowd in the polling unit though there were enough INEC officials on ground.
He said: “What happened here can only be seen in Hollywood films. Some men came in from nowhere shooting. They also ordered us to lie on the ground as they took the three BVAS machines away.
“INEC’s officials and some voters ran into the bush, while voting was disrupted in the units. Initially, INEC’s officials told us that the BVAS Machine in Polling Unit 11 was not configured because the accredited voters for the last presidential election were still appearing.
“Someone took him on a bike to their centre for the problem to be rectified. They came back within an hour and INEC’s Official declared that the machine had started working well. It was only 10 persons that had voted before the gunmen arrived and started shooting.
“Come to look at the whole scenario before the shooting started, what happened in Polling Unit 17 during the presidential and National Assembly elections would have played out.
“In the presidential and National Assembly elections BVAS machine in Polling Unit 17 was logged out, about 300 persons were unable to vote. While that of Polling Unit 11 in the same polling Unit was still working.
“In spite of complaints, INEC still allocated one BVAS machine to Polling Unit 17 while Polling Unit 11 with fewer voters got two BVAS machines. To me, this one looks like systematic disenfranchisement.
Another voter in the community, Mr. Mathew Ikhalo said: ”I will describe what transpired at Eresoyen primary school as Commando film. Thugs just took away electoral materials.
“We all ran into the bush as they were shooting. The security was not adequate. How can one security person be drafted to a Polling Unit as big as this? There was no election here as thugs invaded the units said,” he said.
Also, in Plateau, a voter at the polling unit, Mr. Joshua Kabiru said trouble started when some party agents who observed that some voters were being guided before casting their votes started quarrelling among themselves.
Kabiru said: It was at about 11:00 a.m. on Saturday that the incident happened at the Pangpit polling unit in Mikang. Voting was just going on smoothly when we saw the party agents quarrelling among themselves.
From what I learnt, one of the party agents complained that some voters were not being given free hand to vote for candidates of their choice in the polling unit.
“Suddenly, some people came and attacked the polling unit. In the process, they destroyed some of the votes and also voters’ registers. They also tore some of the used ballot papers and some people sustained injuries but INEC officials were not among those who sustained injuries.
“It took the intervention of some security agents who were deployed to the polling unit to bring the situation under control. But before the security men arrived, those who perpetrated the act had fled the scene.”
The spokesman for Plateau State Police Command, Mr. Alabo Alfred said Senior police officers had been deployed to all local government areas to handle every security issue that may arise as a result of the ongoing governorship and state House of Assembly elections in the state.