Violence, killings, irregularities wreck Rivers rerun poll
The rerun election in Rivers State, yesterday, lived up to expectation, as violence and irregularities took the centre stage.
In Bodo, Gokana Local Government Area, a 25-year-old man was shot dead by security personnel.
Crisis started brewing at the polling unit located at St Pius X College, in Bodo, when the presiding officer arrived the Ward, which has 12 units without result sheets. After altercation between party agents and the presiding officer, voting later commenced peacefully.
While voting was going on peacefully, security personnel dressed in black stormed the unit in three white Hilux vehicles and started shooting sporadically. As the guns boomed, hundreds of votes at the venue scampered for safety. Within a few minutes, the secondary school was completed deserted by voters. This paved way for the security personnel to cart away some of the electoral materials.
They left on their trail, broken ballot boxes, thumb-printed ballots papers littering all over the place.The security men then drove to State School Bodo polling station in Ward 2, where they also shot sporadically and in the process shot dead a 25-year-old man identified as Mr. Meebari Kormaga.
Meanwhile, elections went on without hitch in Ward 1 of Bodo town.Secretary to the Rivers State government, whose home is directly opposite St Pius X College decried the invasion of the polling booth by security operatives.
“I do not know how people think they can ride to power on peoples’ blood. Security men shot dead a young man in his prime. He did not commit any offence to warrant his untimely death. This is shameful,” he said
At Mogho community also in Gokana, there was a clash between supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Ccongress (APC), resulting in the smashing and snatching of ballots boxes.
Anti-robbery squad of the Police stormed the polling booth and started shooting guns and teargas. This caused the crowd to disperse. Amid the pandemonium that ensued, the electoral officials were whisked away with the electoral materials to Kpor Divisional Police Station.Voting however, went on peacefully at Biara, and Bera, the hometown of the APC Rivers South East candidate, Senator Magnus Abe.
Similarly, elections in Tai, Oyigbo, Asari-Toru, Ogba/Egbema/ Ndoni, Bonny Local Government Areas were peaceful.At Ubima the hometown of the immediate past governor of state and Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, a presiding officer was arrested by security men for failure to produce result sheet for his polling units. And at Unit three of Ogu/Bolo Ward Nine, political thugs snatched sheets and disappeared.
In Omoku, security men arrested seven suspected political thugs in the convoy of a former commissioner in the state.Election expected to take place in 12 wards in Okrika only took place in nine, due to alleged diversion of electoral materials. The incident also resulted in the lynching of an elderly man who was accused of aiding and abetting a politician to snatch election materials.
At Agbocha-Eleme, election materials were destroyed in unit eight, following a fierce disagreement between APC and PDP supporters.Voting commenced at about 2:30 pm in Akuku-Toru, after members of the PDP and APC agreed to proceed with the process, which was delayed due to allegation of diversion of election materials.
Governor Wike accused security agencies of being used in Khana, Gokana, Akuku-Toru and Etche Local Government Areas to manipulate the result of the polls.
He said that true to the claim by the APC governors and leaders that they will use federal might against the people, the military was used to rig rerun elections in parts of the state.
The governor also claimed that out of the 19 wards of Etche Local Government Area, soldiers and personnel of the State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) hijacked election materials for four wards.
“I anticipated it. I tried to let the world to know that these are the plans of the security agencies. In my entire political career, I have never experienced this kind of invasion by security agencies. What causes violence is when you give certain persons undue advantage. Be assured that we are resisting it, it may take our lives, but we will resist to the last. That is what is expected, when you are fighting for freedom. You must make sacrifices, ” Wike said.
Abe, however lauded the conduct of the election in the state. He told reporters after casting his vote at Ward 16 Unit 10 Bera in Gokana Local Government Area at about 11:55am, that although he got reports about few cases of late arrival of materials and ballot box snatching, he was impressed with the conduct of the polls.
“Since this election started, this is the first time I am actually casting a ballot; this is the first time many of the people here are actually voting. Well, it is not a perfect exercise, there are cases of late arrival of materials and security challenges, like we are getting report of hoodlums still having the audacity to come out to attack and try to hijack materials in some areas,” he said.
The rerun elections were held in 1,840 polling units across the 23 LGAs of the State. 37 elective positions were contested in the elections. They include, Rivers West, Rivers East and Rivers South East Senatorial seats. Also, eight federal constituency seats were up for grab. They are Tai/Eleme/Oyigbo, Andoni-Opobo/ Nkoro, Bonny/Degema, Akuku Toru/Asari-Toru, Khana/Gokana, Ikwerre/ Emohua, Etche/Omuma and Okrika/Ogu-Bolo.
The rest are ten state constituency seats, including Andoni, Asari-Toru 1, Asari-Toru 2, Bonny, Degema, Eleme, Etche 2, Gokana, Ikwerre and Khana 2.