Fear of violence grips states over guber, assembly polls
• Gunmen kill three soldiers, others in Rivers, Kaduna
• Police to focus on crisis-prone areas during elections
Against the backdrop of crises in different parts of the country, the governorship and house of assembly elections scheduled to hold at the weekend may be marred by violence.
Already, the crisis in Benue State has continued to claim lives. The military yesterday blamed certain powerful forces for the recent attacks on communities in the state.
The Force Commander, Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), Maj-Gen. Adeyemi Yekini, who made the allegation at a press briefing yesterday in Makurdi said such individuals instigated the attacks on communities shortly before a major election in the country ostensibly to disrupt the exercise.
“It is obvious that some forces are instigating violence in Benue; it is not a coincidence that there was an attack on Agatu community a week to the presidential election and now there is another attack on Gwer West a week to the governorship election,” Gen. Yekini said in a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report.
The OPWS was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018 to tackle cases of armed banditry on communities in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states.
The force commander said the military outfit had intensified operations along Loko-Agatu, Kwande and other border communities in Benue to prevent a reoccurrence of the attacks. He confirmed that seven persons were killed and their bodies recovered, contrary to the 16 victims that were reported.
He condemned the preference for cattle against human lives by those who retaliated because of cattle theft.
Flt Officer Mohammed Abubakar, the Sector Commander of OPWS in Gwer West Local Government Area, said some people were using military uniforms to rustle cattle. “Those people who did this are suspected to be livestock guards, according to our local sources.”
In Gombe State, some hoodlums suspected to be political thugs have attacked the Lafiyawo community, destroying a private radio station, Progress FM, located along the airport road.
According to a report, eight shops were burnt in the community and two vehicles were set ablaze in Jekadafari quarters in the state capital.
The Police Commissioner (CP), Mr. Bello Makwashi, who confirmed the incident to journalists yesterday through the command’s spokesperson, Mary Malum, said an investigation into the crime committed on Saturday evening was ongoing.
The Managing Director of the radio station, Alhaji Ibrahim Biu, alleged that the attack was perpetrated by thugs attached to Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo.
“Yesterday evening, thugs following the governor’s convoy from the airport attacked our office with weapons. They were throwing stones and making attempts to gain entrance into the compound.
“So I quickly called the commissioner of police and the director of State Security Services who responded swiftly. In the attack, one of our security men was wounded. It was very scary but we thank the security operatives for their swift response,” he said.
But the Director of Media of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Campaign Council in the state, Mr. Dahiru Kera said the thugs that attacked the community and the radio station were not from the party.
Kera said the thugs had initially attacked the governor’s convoy on his way from the airport, adding that two cars in the entourage were burnt.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Yekini Nabena, yesterday accused Governor Seriake Dickson of arming thugs to unleash violence in Bayelsa State ahead of the Saturday’s elections.
Nabena, who spoke to journalists in Abuja, claimed that he was privy to a security report which uncovered the arms build-up by the governor to score political goals during the polls.
“The Seriake Dickson PDP administration has become very unpopular and stands rejected in Bayelsa State. The governor, in desperation, has turned to violence and manipulation of the elections to suppress the people and keep PDP in power in the state,” he alleged
Nabena called on the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, to urgently probe the alleged illegal activities of the state security outfit, Operation Doo Akpo, which he alleged was used by the governor and other chieftains of the PDP to aid the rigging of the presidential and National Assembly elections.
“Operation Doo Akpo, a creation of Governor Seriake Dickson is no longer a crime-fighting outfit but now a political tool assisting chieftains of PDP to rig elections. The security outfit must be proscribed and disbanded for the safety and security of the state,” Nabena stated.
In Kogi State, a chieftain of the APC, Mohammed Audu, berated the security agencies and the government for the violence that marred the February 23 polls in parts of the state, especially Kogi East senatorial district.
Audu told The Guardian in Lokoja yesterday that the miscreants could not have operated without the backing of security operatives.
“This thing is usually state-sponsored, they cannot go on their own. The state should not force people to vote for them, they should canvass for votes and embrace democratic principles. These communities should be able to expose these people so action can be taken against them.”
Audu spoke as the Attah Igala, Dr. Michael Idakwo Ameh Oboni 11, placed curses upon anyone connected with the sponsorship of political violence in Kogi State during and after the presidential elections.
The presidential and National Assembly elections were disrupted by violence, especially in Kogi east, leading to the declaration of the polls in 129 units as inconclusive.
The violence also claimed the lives of three persons, including a student of the Kogi State University, Ayingba.
The senator representing Kogi West district, Dino Melaye yesterday raised the alarm over an alleged plan by the state government to assassinate him on the 8th or 9th of March.
The lawmaker, who defeated his predecessor, Smart Adeyemi, was declared winner of last Saturday’s senatorial election.
Melaye, who made the allegation through his verified Twitter handle said the plot would fail, but Nigerians should take note. However, the Director General, Media, Publicity and Strategy to the governor, Kingsley Fanwo, dismissed the allegation.
“It is false and unfounded. He should follow up the allegations with proofs if he wants to be taken seriously. That is what men of integrity do. We have decided not to respond to such blackmail and mind games by him. How can you allege that a government is trying to assassinate you? It is spurious and unintelligent.”
A Lagos State House of Assembly candidate for the Kosofe 1 Constituency, Sanni Okanlawon, at the weekend, escaped assassination by the whiskers, as persons suspected to be supporters of his rival attacked his campaign office in Mende, Maryland.
The attackers injured three supporters of Okanlawon – Edu Falilu, Aina Idowu, and Yomi (aka) Nokia with guns.
The Guardian learnt that the incident, which occurred on Saturday, after the conclusion of a rally organised by youths of the party for Okanlawon, left cars and wares destroyed, as people scampered for safety.
Okanlawon, who narrated the incident to The Guardian yesterday accused the rival candidate of being the brain behind the attack.
The Kaduna State Police command has confirmed that five persons were killed on Saturday by gunmen in Sabon Sara village in Giwa Local Government Area. The Public Relations Officer, Yakubu Sabo, said one of the 10 others who were injured, later died in an hospital.
He said three of the victims had been treated and discharged while the remaining six were receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital.
“During the attack, the villagers mobilised themselves to resist the attackers and they succeeded in killing one of the bandits. A team of policemen from the 47PMF in Zaria with Armour Personnel Carrier (APC) vehicle was mobilised to the scene but the culprits had left the scene.
In Rivers State, gunmen who disguised as soldiers have killed three men of the Nigerian Army in Obonoma community in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area.
Palpable fear has gripped Obonoma and Abonnema communities as residents have begun to flee to adjourning communities for fear of possible reprisal by the military.
A source told The Guardian that the gunmen dressed in military camouflage approached an army check point late Saturday night and pretentiously stopped to exchange pleasantries with the unsuspecting military personnel on duty at Obonoma.
While exchanging compliments, some of the gunmen opened fire and killed three soldiers on the spot before escaping to an unknown destination. The reason for the attack was not known as at press time.
When the news filtered into Obonoma and the adjoining Abonnema, an atmosphere of fear quickly pervaded the communities over fear of a possible military offensive.
By yesterday morning, many families had started vacating both communities and moving to Degema, Buguma and Port Harcourt in anticipation of another military siege to the area after what they experienced in the presidential and National Assembly elections.
Pained by the incident, the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, King Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel, has denounced the killing as a criminal act committed by persons not from his kingdom.
“Criminal elements attacked a military check point between Obonoma and Abonnema and killed soldiers. We are shocked about this news. We condemned it in its entirety. This is not the attitude of our people because we have lived with the military for years.
“We are shocked about these attacks on military. I am telling you that these people who killed the soldiers are not our people. They are criminals who invade our community from time to time for oil bunkering and stealing of other valuables,” the monarch said.
He described the killers as bandits who are bent on inflicting pains on the people of Abonnema.
He said Abonnema people were saddened by the incident and had directed the people to be vigilant and report any suspicious person to the chiefs and security operatives so that they would be arrested.
The chairman of Obonoma Council of Chiefs, High-Chief Philip Brown Agu, said the killing was disheartening.
When contacted, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 6 Division in Port Harcourt, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, said the military would later issue a statement on the incident.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police has promised to pay special attention to states with history of electoral violence during the forthcoming gubernatorial and house of assembly elections.
Police Public Relations Officer (PRO), ACP Frank Mba, who disclosed this in an interview with The Guardian yesterday, said the police had already devised a strategy to mitigate challenges from states with records of electoral violence.
The Force PRO assured Nigerians that the police security personnel would not give priority to any state in the country at the expense of others.
According to him, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, will meet with the assistant inspectors general and commissioners of police of the 36 states, including the FCT to do a postmortem of the recently conducted presidential and National Assembly elections and strategise for the gubernatorial polls.
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