Sunday, 4th June 2023

Election violence: Police arrest 47 suspects in Jigawa, Abia, C’ River, others

By Anietie Akpan (Calabar), Gordi Udeajah (Umuahia), Monday Osayande (Asaba),Mohammed Abubakar (Dutse) and Bala Yahaya (Minna)
23 March 2023   |   6:04 am
Though the February 11 and March 18 General elections have come and gone, it left scars in the hearts and bodies of many, as a result of violence recorded across the country. So far, 50 suspects have been arrested in six states for assaulting and destroying electoral materials.

Faces of violence in Cross Rivers and others.. PHOTOS: ANIETE AKPAN

Four killed, houses, vehicles set ablaze, many injured in Delta, C’Rivers 

Though the February 11 and March 18 General elections have come and gone, it left scars in the hearts and bodies of many, as a result of violence recorded across the country. So far, 50 suspects have been arrested in six states for assaulting and destroying electoral materials.

In Cross River State, 16 suspects were arrested for various election offences.  According to the State Commissioner of Police (CP), Mr. Abubakar Garba, 16 suspected political thugs were arrested in Ogoja and Obudu in Northern Cross River Senatorial District with six guns and live ammunition, during the presidential election.
The CP, who spoke through the Police Public Relations Officer, Irene Ugbo, said the suspects were recruited by top politicians in the Northern Senatorial District to disrupt the election. 
“They were arrested during the presidential election and paraded in Calabar and have been charged to court,” he added. On the day of the Governorship and House of Assembly election, The Guardian gathered that a top All Progressives Congress (APC) supporter was shot dead by a soldier providing security at a polling centre in Ogoja.
An eyewitness account said the deceased, whose name was given as Joe, is a popular bike rider in Calabar and a top Cocoa businessman in the state.
He was at the polling centre in Ogoja, allegedly creating tension in a rowdy manner, insisting that this time APC must win in Ogoja.
The eyewitness said that as tension and rowdy situation persisted, a soldier pulled out his gun and shot him dead, causing panic and more tension in the area. 

ON Friday evening before the election, there was a violent situation in the Okoyong community of Odukpani Local Council, as five vehicles in the convoy of a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart were destroyed. 

Four of the vehicles were completely burnt, while the Toyota Prado Sports Utility Van (SUV) was vandalised. It was also gathered that some of the occupants of the vehicles including a former Senior Special Assistant to governor Ben Ayade, Mr. Bobby Effiom Ekpenyong were shot, but they survived. 

IN Boki, a youth was shot by as youths tried to burn down the INEC office for alleged irregularities. INEC had asked them to put their protest in writing, they declined and made attempts to burn down the INEC office, but were stopped by the soldiers and in the process one of them was shot. He however survived as he was rushed to the hospital. 

IN Bakassi, Miss Glory Essien, an ad-hoc staff of INEC was shot during the governorship election.  Essien, who is currently receiving treatment at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), was shot by suspected militants while in a speedboat on her way for election duty.
According to a source: “The Adhoc Staff was shot by a suspected militant when the speed boat, which was in motion, was hit by bullets. The bullet hit her from behind while on her way to Bakassi for election duty and she almost became unconscious,” the source stated.
The state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Gabriel Yomere, who confirmed the incident  said: “it’s an unfortunate incident, but I am happy that the bullet did not touch the victim’s vertebral column.”
Yomere, who expressed sadness over the incident, disclosed that the doctors are on top of the situation as an X-ray had been done on the patient to ascertain any damages.

ALSO, Jigawa State Police Command has confirmed the arrest and detention  for questioning of 22 suspects in connection with various electoral offences during the  March 18 governorship and State House of Assembly elections in the state. 

The offences include: ballot box snatching, destruction of INEC materials, violence and disruption of voting process. The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Command, Shisu Lawal Adam, who confirmed the development in a chat with The Guardian, said investigation was ongoing to determine the level of culpability of each of the affected persons.
According to Adam, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), the suspects would be charged to court to answer for their charges upon the conclusion of investigations. He, however, confirmed that no casualty was recorded, either through loss of life or injury.  He attributed it to the proactive measures put in place by the State Command prior to the elections.
He said: “Yes, I can confirm that 22 suspects were arrested by the Jigawa State Police Command in respect to the election related offences, such as the destruction of INEC materials, violence and/or destruction of voting materials like ballot boxes/papers, bimodal voter accreditation systems (BVAS) machines.”
“Items recovered from the suspects as exhibits, he said, include machetes, jackknife, burnt BVAS machine as well as sticks.” Giving the breakdown of the figures of the arrests, the police spokesperson said five persons were arrested in Gagarawa Local Council for allegedly burning a BVAS machine; five persons from Sakwaya, Fanisau Division in Dutse Local Council for alleged destruction of electoral materials; five persons were arrested from Kirikasamma Local Council; three from Buji Local Council, one each from Birniwa and  Sule Tankarkar councils and two persons from Yankwashi Local Council. 

ALTHOUGH Abia State Police Command, yesterday, could not  give the number of those arrested in the election, investigation showed that arrests were made during the build up to the election. The Command also said no human life was lost and no property was  destroyed in the state during the election.
But a medical doctor and polling agent of the Labour Party (LP)  in Obingwa Local Council,  whose name was given as Dr. George Chimezie , was attacked and dealt machete cuts in his  neck by hoodlums alleged to be agents of another party.
It was also reported that about two INEC staff and some Ad Hoc workers involved in the election in that same Obingwa were attacked and held hostage for three days.

During the campaigns,  a state government official identified as Mr. Tony Ojukwu, was arrested after he was  captured in a viral video,  addressing a party rally and publicly threatening harm and even death for any voter that would not vote for the governorship candidate of the ruling  party.  

IN Delta State, two persons were reported killed, while seven, including two Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Adhoc staff members were arrested for electoral fraud during the governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state.
Spokesperson for Delta State Police Command, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Bright Edafe, who confirmed the figure to The Guardian yesterday, said two persons were killed in Mosogar by yet to be identified persons, who invaded the community and set ablaze a house, belonging to a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Wilson Omene in Ethiope West Local Council of the state.
Edafe told The Guardian that the two adhoc staff members were arrested when they were found diverting electoral materials to an unknown place, while the five suspected political thugs were arrested for alleged involvement in snatching of ballot papers and other electoral offences.
He said: “ The election was generally peaceful but with few skirmishes, which occurred in Mosogar. I confirm that in Mosogar, a building was set ablaze and two persons were killed, but I don’t know what led to their death “

The Guardian learnt that there was tension in the community following the killing and burning of the house by suspected political thugs. One of the victims, Wilson Omene, said the thugs came in the midnight, and started shooting sporadically into the air.
According to him, “the boys were many, not armed initially, hence we came out to confront them, but before you know it, the guns wielding thugs had done the havoc.”

IN Niger State, military officials attacked some journalists covering the just concluded governorship and House of assembly elections in Kontagora Local council of the state.
The military officials, who mounted road blocks at the front of Landmark FM Station in Kontagora, threatened to shoot journalists  for passing through the blocked portion of the road. 
The Guardian gathered that the under-age boy, who assisted the journalists to shift the plank used to block the road to enable the reporters cross the barriers, was subjected to punishment. It took the intervention of the leader of the military group to resolve the matter.