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Violence, Apathy Mar Bayelsa Election




• Gunmen Kill Four, Storm Minister’s Home
• INEC Cancels Poll In South Ijaw LGA
• Card Reader Disappoints Dickson, Jonathan
• Kogi Supplementary Polls Peaceful Amid Fair Turnout<strong

THERE was widespread violence in yesterday’s governorship election in Bayelsa State, with attacks on both leaders and supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). The election also recorded low turnout of voters in many parts of the state.

In many polling units, accreditation did not begin on time due to late arrival of materials and fear of violence.

At Oporoma, headquarters of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, political thugs shot dead four people, yesterday morning.

Rampaging youths also invaded the country homes of acting PDP state chairman, Chief Serena Dokubo-Spiffs, and Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri.

Dokubo-Spiffs, who was going for accreditation in his Twon-Brass community, was accosted by the youths and ordered to turn back. They later stormed his house, damaging a section of it.

In Ekeremor Town, Ekeremor Local Government Area, gunmen stormed Lokpobiri’s house and fired shots into the building.

At Ward 5, Opolo Epie, in Yenagoa, the state capital, hoodlums blocked the distribution centre and chased party agents away. In Agudama, in another part of the city, a middle-aged man with a fake identification tag was arrested by the police for parading himself as a polling agent.

In Opume Town, 10 persons attempted the hijack of voting materials but were repelled by the police. At Kolokuma/Opokuma, hoodlums attacked voters, and prevented them from accessing polling units.

Shooting was reported in the Ogbolomabiri area of Nembe Town in Nembe Local Government Area, and in Sagbama, political thugs attacked a party agent who suffered a broken head and eye injury.

The Director, Media and Publicity of the Sylva/Igiri Campaign Organisation, Nathan Egba, alleged that in Oporoma, two ex-militants, known to PDP members, led armed thugs to the community and killed some APC members.

Supporters of Governor Seriake Dickson almost lynched an APC agent who was monitoring accreditation at the governor’s polling unit. Youths, chanting PDP slogans, broke bottles, grabbed nine-inch blocks and threatened to kill the agent, who luckily was whisked away.

Following widespread violence, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed conduct of the election in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.

Earlier, Friday evening, armed youths at Odioama village in Brass Local
Government Area had barred the APC flag bearer, Timipre Sylva, and his entourage from entering the community. Soldiers of the Joint Task Force stationed in the town, however, apprehended 17 of the youths. The police also nabbed a retired soldier and five others for being in possession of grenades and other weapons.

Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, alleged the killing of PDP supporters during the election.

“My party and I have called for peace. APC is not preparing for election but war. They have armed their thugs with police and military uniforms, and in some cases, are protected by security agents themselves. What is currently going on is mayhem,” he said.

He added that he received disturbing reports of premeditated and brutal attacks on his supporters in Brass. He also alleged that a certain Minister of State sponsored an attack at Ekeremor. He blamed the APC for another assault on his supporters at Oporoma, which, according to him, led to the death of one person.

“We are taking stock of all these and we hope and expect that appropriate legal actions will be taken against these notorious criminals who are unleashing terror and violence on fellow citizens, all in the name of politics. The security agents know who they are. The security agents arrived when the mayhem were carried out,” the governor said.

He added: “People have been attacked in Twon Brass, in two wards there. People who are supporters of our party are held hostage, as I speak to you. Supporters have been attacked and injured in Orwoma. A number of them have sustained life-threatening injuries. That terrible attack is going on, even as we speak. The state chairman of the party is hiding in police custody in Twon Brass. He cannot vote. The condition there is not one that promotes free and fair democratic exercise and franchise for our people.

“The APC and their leaders know that they stand no chance in a free and fair election. What is surprising is a seeming lack of resolve or lack of proactive reaction by the security forces. That is the situation under which Bayelsans are exercising their franchise in what is clearly a crucial election.”

Dickson, who, like former President Goodluck Jonathan, had difficulty getting accredited, said the use of smart card readers for election remains a major challenge to democratisation in the country.

The governor’s accreditation lasted several minutes at Ward 2 Unit 6 in Toru-Orua in Sagbama Local Government Area, due to failure of the reader to recognise his fingerprint, and that of his wife and mother.

“The smart card machine is a challenge to democracy in this country. I hope it doesn’t continue to portray us as a fraudulent and unserious country, manipulating everything and anything,” he said.

He regretted the high failure rate of card readers, saying reports of violence unleashed by APC thugs with the help of soldiers shooting sporadically was responsible for the low voter turnout in many areas, especially Okpoama, Eweama, Twon Brass and Oporoma, headquarters of Southern Ijaw LGA.

At his Otueke hometown, four card readers couldn’t recognise Jonathan’s fingerprint and that of his wife, Patience, until after a fifth intervention.

Timipre Sylva was accredited alongside his wife, Alayingi, at the Dakuraku Open Space Centre at his Opuama hometown at 11.40 am.

After the process, he complained to journalists about the inability of some of his supporters to be accredited, as a result of card reader malfunction.

He accused the PDP of importing thugs from Rivers and Delta States to disrupt the election and alleged that a top official of the state’s sanitation agency moved around the state capital with armed men. He disclosed that he notified the state Commissioner of Police, Sanusi Oki, on the development and was informed that the situation had been contained.

“I am satisfied with the accreditation and other processes here. Things are peaceful and the reader correctly processed my card. However, I am worried about those whose cards couldn’t be processed. I am also worried about the spate of violence being perpetrated by the PDP, all over the state.

“The home of the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development was attacked by some people who shot into his house. He called me on the phone and I could hear several shots being fired in the background,” Sylva said.

The former governor expressed optimism on the outcome of the election, saying: “Regardless of the antics of the PDP, I am sure of victory. We have campaigned all over the state. We are sure of overwhelming support throughout the state.”

At Okpoama and Twon Brass, people believed to be supporters of the PDP, including the Special Adviser to Governor Dickson, Mr. Austin Adigio, were attacked with machete and other dangerous weapons.

Speaking to The Guardian on phone, Adigio said they had to be evacuated from the community to an unnamed hospital in the capital, adding that all known supporters of PDP in Brass local council were warned to relocate or face assault.

As at 3.45 pm when The Guardian visited Amassoma, in the Ijaw South local Government Council, distraught voters with long faces were seen waiting for INEC materials and officials to arrive.

One youth corps member detailed to the area said INEC could not bring materials due to the insufficient number of security personnel, adding that the situation was compounded by speculations that some gun-wielding militants had planned to hijack electoral materials.

One Mrs. Ruth Bina Egabo, however, remarked that PDP supporters who wanted to hijack materials were surprised at the number of APC faithful in the area and that the determination of APC supporters to resist planned rigging forced the thugs to start shooting into the air, causing panic.

According to her, the plot to hijack the materials was because Amassoma is made up of three wards and has a large number of voters in the state.

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