Benue Records Pockets Of Pre-Election Violence
TO say that Benue state is free of pre-election violence ahead of the rescheduled March 18 and April 11 general elections could be an understatement as pockets of violence have been recorded in the state.
This is despite the fact that several peace accords have been signed political parties and their members.
The tendencies for violence can be clearly seen in the speeches of some candidates and party supporters at campaign rallies, public events and even during private discussions at party levels.
The attitude of politicians has agitated the minds of many indigenes and residents of the state. A situation that has made the people to describe the peace pact as mere window dressing and pretence to deceive voters.
For instance, not too long ago, the Catholic Bishop of Benue convened a peace meeting in Gboko where the leadership of the PDP and APC as well as other political parties were in attendance and were made to sign an accord that they will not ignite crisis in the course of their campaigns. However, just few days after the event, there was serious fight between PDP and APC members in Gboko where party campaign materials and houses were allegedly destroyed.
Again, shortly after General Buhari visited Benue state for campaign and left, there was wide cry by Booth-to-Booth Project, a voluntary campaign organisation based in Makurdi working for the election of Mr. Terhemen Tarzoor the, PDP guber candidate that their bill boards/posters were vandalized by hoodlums suspected to be members of the leading opposition party in the state, APC.
The President of Booth- 2- Booth Project, Zaye Jerome and his secretary, Iyom Gideon told The Guardian that the suspected political thugs drove in a pick-up van to Pages Park, head office of their organization three times in the night to carry out the heinous act.
They however, warned that their peaceful mission should not be taken for granted by the opposition party, the APC.
In Gbajimba, headquarters of Guma Local Council of the state, the PDP gubernatorial rally was alleged disrupted by APC members. The party accused supporters of Dr. Ortom of masterminding the attack where one of the PDP youths was hit on the head.
At a church service organized in honor of Rt. Honorable Orker Jev in Buruku local government area of the state, PDP youths allegedly invade the church, destroying not less than 10 vehicles belonging to the ex-member of the National Assembly.
This incident was by the State commissioner of Police, Hyacinth Dagala, who also said four PDP youths were arrested in connection with the attack.
Similarly in Makurdi last month, the campaign headquarters of Dr. Samuel Ortom and across the state were allegedly attack and vandalized by youths suspected to be loyal to the PDP.
Two weeks ago in Adikpo, the headquarters of Kwande Local Government Area, three convoy vehicles belonging to the APC guber candidate, Dr. Samuel Ortom were vandalized, when he was delivering his funeral oration at the burial of Dr. Samson Sambe.
Irked by the several attacks and counter attacks between the members of the two major parties in the state, Dr. Ortom (APC) during a visit to the State Commissioner of Police, Hyacinth Dagala urged the commissioner to convene a roundtable of political stakeholders to dialogue and ensure peace in the state.
Ortom alleged that since the beginning of the year, he has written to the state command complaining about the consistent attacks, but nothing has been done. He stated that the most disturbing aspect was the report that the police provided cover for some of the attacks.
He however, warned his supporters against retaliation even as he said election should not be a do or die affairs.
In response to the recent directive by the Inspector General of Police that all political parties and their candidates for the forth coming elections should be made to sign a peace pact, the state Commissioner of Police in collaboration with The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) convened a peace signing meeting for candidates for the forthcoming election.
Speaking at the event, the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Dagala cautioned candidates against the dangers of possible break of violence at the forthcoming general elections and called for restraint.
The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Benue state, Professor Istifanus Dafwang appealed to all political parties and their candidates contesting for elective offices to aver themselves to sign and abide by the tenets of the peace accord.
He maintained that even as INEC is handy with all necessary materials, there was the need for stakeholders at the election and other members of the community to cooperate so as to avert violence at the elections.
In his view, Majority Leader of the State Assembly, Mr. Paul Ibiam advised the police and other law enforcement agencies not to give any candidate undue protection to perpetuate violence at the election, but to play a neutral role to enhance fairness to all at the elections.
Before signing the peace pact, Ortom urged INEC to ensure justice and fairness to all citizens at the election; insisting that election should not be a do or die affair.
He also appealed to all other contestants to subject themselves to the peace accord and urged the security agents to ensure that there is level playing ground for all candidates, promising to ensure that members of APC abide by the tenets the peace pact.
Similarly the running mate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Mr. John Ngbede promised to ensure that PDP members abide by the peace accord.
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