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PDP caucus demands justice over murder of Kogi women leader

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INEC National Commissioner/Chairman of Information and Voters Education, Mr. Festus Okoye (middle); Senator Dino Melaye (right) and Secretary to the commission, Mrs Rose Oriaran-Anthony (left) during the presentation of a petition on Kogi West election by Melaye in Abuja …yesterday.PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ATEKO.


• APC condemns post-election violence as Melaye petitions INEC
• Report flays govt over attacks on journalists during polls

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the Senate yesterday expressed concern about the future of the opposition in Nigeria following the murder of PDP women leader in Kogi State, Mrs. Salome Abuh. Political thugs killed the late Mrs. Abu shortly after Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello won re-election on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja, Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe alleged that APC hoodlums chased her to her house, doused the residence with petrol and burnt her to death in public view.“You have all seen the viral video of her skeleton and especially her skull…for the mere fact that she is an opposition leader and a woman at that. If you are in the opposition and you are singled out to be murdered, it tells us that what we are going to see will be dangerous for Nigerian politics, if it is not curbed immediately and now.”He called on President Muhammadu Buhari, Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu and security agencies to fish out the killers of the woman.

“What it tells us is that the rest of us who are in the opposition are no longer safe. What it also tells us is that anybody who seeks to win an election can go ahead and commit murder and mayhem. And as long as he belongs to the APC, he would be left free.“We hear that the police said they are launching an investigation as usual. But this is something that we don’t want pushed under the carpet because it involves life. When you get to power on the ashes and bones of all these people that you have killed, God is watching you, especially the governor of Kogi State.

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“We cannot continue to condone these attacks. If we leave the matter to continue this way, we don’t know what is going to happen in 2023. Let us see action. The caucus of the PDP in the Senate is not in support of these anomalies in the past elections.”He described what happened in Bayelsa and Kogi States during the elections as outright intimidation, killing and connivance between security agencies and different groupings in the APC to perpetrate hate on Nigerians.

The APC, however, condemned the post-election violence in Kogi. In a statement by its national publicity secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, the party condoled with the family of the deceased and others affected by the incidents. It said: “While the Kogi police command says the killing was as a result of a reprisal attack, we urge Kogi people to ensure this does not escalate. We are aware that the Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello has already directed law enforcement agencies to fish out the perpetrators.

“The APC abhors violence and other criminalities which sadly continue to plague our electioneering process. We urge partisans to see election as a democratic contest and not a do or die affair that we pay for with our lives. We pray that the culprits are caught and the full weight of the law is brought to bear on them.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has advised partisans that are not satisfied with the results of governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States to seek redress in court and shun violence. We must all heed this call.”In the same vein, the candidate of the PDP in the Kogi-West Senatorial District rerun, Dino Melaye, yesterday stormed the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja demanding the cancellation of the senatorial poll. Melaye, who arrived at the commission with some supporters, presented 21 video clips containing details of alleged violence and irregularities during the election.

INEC National Commissioner Festus Okoye, who received Melaye, said the commission would study his petition and take action in due course.Reacting to the polls, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said in a statement: “In saner climes, the police chief could have tendered his resignation for absolute failure to stop the bloody violence that trailed both the Kogi and Bayelsa election including the burning to death of a Peoples Democratic Party women leader, Mrs. Acheju Abuh, by APC armed thugs.”

Meanwhile, a report released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) yesterday said Nigerian journalists were attacked and threatened while covering the Bayelsa and Kogi elections.The CPJ urged the authorities to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the harassment of journalists.

The report noted: “Armed men threatened and harassed reporters, security forces barred journalists from entering electoral buildings, and demonstrators threw stones at reporters trying to cover the elections, according to news reports and journalists who spoke to CPJ.”
The statement circulated by the African Press Organisation (APO) described journalists as indispensable in the conduct of credible elections and urged the government to ensure they are shielded from threats, violence or harassment.

“Nigerian authorities,” according to Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa programme coordinator, “must investigate all allegations made by journalists about interference in their work covering the November 16 elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States.“In Kogi State, Chinedu Asadu, a reporter with the privately owned The Cable online newspaper, told CPJ in a phone call that police officers seized his cell phone for 15 minutes when he attempted to take photos of a politician giving money to women waiting to cast their votes. After police returned his phone, Asadu said another officer made threatening comments. He feared the officer would harm him, so he left the polling place.

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“Lolafunke Ogunlolu, a journalist with the privately owned Africa Independent Television, told CPJ in a phone call that a group of armed men threatened to beat her after they saw her film them assaulting a woman at a polling station in Aiyetorogbede, Kogi State.”CPJ said calls and text messages to INEC spokesperson, Oluwole Ozassi-Uzi, went unanswered. The head of voter education in Bayelsa State, Wilfred Ifogah, however told journalists that security officials “misunderstood INEC instructions” when they barred reporters from entering the commission’s office.

Also, in a text message to CPJ, police spokesperson, Frank Mba, said he was not aware of any assaults on journalists. “The safety and wellbeing of journalists and media practitioners generally was of paramount importance to the Nigeria Police Force.” He said the force would “take extra measures to ensure (journalists’) safety.”

Mustapha Isah, Acting President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), in response to the report, condemned the attacks and called for the prosecution of the culprits. He told The Guardian: “I totally condemn the attacks on some journalists who were deployed to cover the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections. Those behind the attacks must be fished out and prosecuted. Journalists should feel safe and protected while performing their constitutional function of holding government to account. Under no circumstances should journalists be intimidated, threatened or attacked. Government should provide a safe environment for us to do our legitimate duties, and covering elections is one of such.”

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