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Poor turnout, violence as Lagosians elect council officials

By Eno-Abasi Sunday, Seye Olumide, Odita Sunday, Gbenga Akinfenwa, Daniel Anazia, Eniola Daniel, Isaac Taiwo, Adelowo Adebumiti, Paul Adunwoke and Kehinde Olatunji
23 July 2017   |   4:35 am
A policeman and two others yet to be identified were arrested in the Agege area of the state with sensitive election materials. Items recovered from the suspects included thumb-printed ballot papers and ballot boxes.

• Heavy Downpour Facilitates Late Arrival Of Materials
• Policeman, Two Others Arrested At Agege With Ballot Boxes
• Thugs Fire Gunshots, Beat Up Accord Party Agent In Odiolowo, Mushin
• Several Nabbed In Ikeja, Mushin For Electoral Offences • Fashola Absent At Poll

A heavy downpour, which lasted for about two hours, yesterday, left parts of Lagos State heavily flooded, as well as, ensured the late commencement of voting in the state’s local council poll.

The rains, which began at about 5am and attendant flood, reminiscent of what took place in the state penultimate week, confined many to their residences, and delayed for hours, the arrival of election materials at polling stations across the state.

State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, cast his vote by 9:45am at Ward 6, Unit 33, Ogunmodede Junior and Senior College in Papa Epe, Epe Local Council.

Only two political parties were represented at polling station, and The Guardian learnt that out of the 12 parties that registered for the council poll, only the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) eventually took part.

Ambode, who arrived at the polling unit by 9: 35am, described the council area as being close to the people, who make the election important.

He said: “There are 12 parties contesting today but in this particular ward, maybe the PDP candidate must have withdrawn. What is important to me is to vote for my own candidate which is APC, but if it happens that other candidates are not contesting in this ward maybe it is a reflection of what we are doing.”

The last time local government election held in the state was in 2011 and Ambode said it was high time the people began to show interest in governance especially at the local government level in order to ensure that their interest is well protected.

“You cannot stay back at home and just expect that things will work well. Yes, we have tried at the state level, but we also need credible people at the local government level, and that is the nearest government to our people…” the governor said.

He added that: “If you don’t take part, you will not be part of what is coming up and the whole essence is for you to choose people who will really touch your needs. If you sit down at home and people who are not credible get there, it will not be their fault when they give you bad results and that is what we don’t want.”

Ambode’s predecessor and Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Babatunde Fashola did not vote in yesterday’s council election. Reports said he was conspicuously missing at Ward G3, Unit 002, State Senior Grammar School, Itolo, where he normally votes.

All efforts to reach his personal assistant, Hakeem Bello, were unsuccessful. Even a text message sent to his mobile phone was not replied as of the time of filing this report.

But while casting his vote at Ikeja, national leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, said the exercise went smoothly, except for the heavy downpour, which discouraged many from coming out.

Said he, “The election was peaceful. The people respected the party’s call and came out to vote. Look at the ballot boxes, within a short period of time they are getting filled up.”

Although, former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, said it was unfortunate the rain prevented many from participating, “that notwithstanding, it was a sign that people are disenchanted. Our boys are reporting some incidents here and there. But from what I have heard, we are going to do well in the election.”

Spokeman of the PDP/Labour Party alliance, Taofik Gani, as well as the Labour Party (LP) Chairman, Pastor Biodun Popoola, called for outright cancellation of the exercise, saying, “It was marred by irregularities and snatching of ballot boxes by hoodlums working for the APC.

According to Gani, “At Mafoluku in Oshodi, more than four ballot boxes were snatched while voters were coerced to vote against their conscience.” Gani also alleged that more that 95 per cent of ad hoc staff used by the commission were APC members.

In similar vein, Popoola alleged that, “LASIEC has failed as the election can never reflect the desires of the electorate.” But Lagos APC Publicity Secretary, Joe Igbokwe commended the security situation during the exercise particularly in some flashpoints like Odi Olowo, Orile Agege, Amuwo Idofin, Orile Agege, Mushin and so on.

Abule-Egba, Agbado/Ijaiye, Agege, Meiran, Oshodi and Ojokoro areas of the state recorded late arrival of electoral officers and voting materials. Though, the election was peaceful in these areas as at the time The Guardian visited, most polling stations were largely without voters.

As at 10:10am electoral officers posted to St. John’s Catholic Church Primary School, Oshodi polling booth were yet to resume, while voters waited around to exercise their franchise. The same scenario played out in other polling units around the area and other areas under Oshodi/Isolo Local Council.

Election materials finally arrived units 044 and 047 (Ijaiye/Ojokoro) at about 11:23am. Electoral officers reportedly went to the wrong location before retracing their steps.

The same situation played out at Abattoir Polling Unit, Oko-Oba, where LASIEC officials were seen coming arriving around 9:30am. The APC chairmanship candidate for the council, Bolaji Muse Ariyoh, described the process as peaceful, stressing that, “there is no cause for alarm. Contrary to peoples’ imagination, Oshodi is extremely peaceful, we’ve been on the field since morning and we’ve not witnessed any trouble, our people are voting and leaving polling centres peacefully despite the heavy downpour and I don’t think there will be any issue in Oshodi.”

At Ward E, Kasumu, Agege, only ballot papers for the chairmanship election were provided, the ones for councillorship election were not available as at the time of the visit. At Olugboso and Adeyemi polling units also in Agege, as at 1:08pm, no official of the Lagos State Independent Electoral Officer (LASIEC) was on ground.

Though police officers present declined to speak to The Guardian, agents of political parties said they would hold when LASIEC officials arrive. At Adeaga Pipeline Junction Unit, Awori, Abule-Egba, as at 11:10am, only 22 people out of 524 registered voters had voted. The situation was not different at Anwar-Islam Unit, Ahmadiyya Bus Stop, and at Polling Booth 039 Ijaiye/Agbado Kollington Unit. In the last unit, out of 1,189 registered voters, only 15 had voted as at 11:45am.

Even though most of the challenges were blamed on the early morning downpour, which grounded vehicular and human traffic, leading to the disruption of arrangements, The Guardian learnt that the low turnout was not unconnected with fears of violence that characterised the build-up to the poll.

Contrary to expectations, there was no violence in Ojokoro, Ijaiye Ojokoro LCDA, where the name of the consensus chairmanship candidate, Oladipo Okeyomi a.k.a Carry go was substituted.

Okeyomi, who spoke with The Guardian immediately after casting his vote, praised Ambode for the peaceful conduct of the poll. He appealed to his supporters in the area to give the ruling APC maximum support, noting that the party will be victorious at the end of the poll.

Labour Party candidate for Ijaiye Ojokoro, Prince Adefarati Olatunbosun said, “the election is peaceful. The conduct is peaceful. There have not been reports of fracas. But we are still waiting to see the end of the election before we can place a verdict on the entire process.”

At Ward B, Unit 082 situated opposite K and S Street, Abaranje, Ikotun/Igando LCDA, election commenced by 10.35am. At Better Life Market area, two polling booths- 031 and 032 recorded low turn out, but the situation was different at Olaiya Street, Okerube. Though voting started around 11am, there was large turn out at the booth. Over 150 voters were seen around the polling booth ready to cast their votes.

A policeman and two others yet to be identified were arrested in the Agege area of the state with sensitive election materials. Items recovered from the suspects included thumb-printed ballot papers and ballot boxes.

It was gathered that the policeman was escorting the two persons in a commercial bus to an unknown destination. All the suspects were taken to Area ‘G’ Command, Ogba, where they were detained.

The Guardian learnt that five other suspects were arrested for various electoral offences around Ikeja metropolis, while many suspected political party thugs were arrested in Mushin for beating up voters with horsewhips and attempting to derail the electoral process.

A police source told The Guardian that the five persons who were arrested in Ikeja were being interrogated at Area ‘F’ Police Command. Meanwhile, hoodlums attacked LASIEC officials and Accord Party agent, Mrs. Abimbola Adewusi in Mushin.

A source said that the hoodlums allegedly loyal to the ruling APC attempted to snatch the ballot boxes along Post Office Road, Mushin. Sporadic shooting rent the air in the area to scare policemen and voters, who were on ground to provide security.

At Martin’s street also in Mushin, hoodlums engaged themselves in a free-for-all. It took the intervention of the Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, and officers from the Special Anti Robbery Squad, led by Mohammed Ahmed, a chief superintendent of police to scare them away.

Area Commander, Area D command, Akinbayo Olasoji, who led a patrol team to trouble spots in Mushin area told newsmen that prospective thugs were checked. But at Mushin Ward BI, Odiolowo LCDA, the Accord Party alleged that APC thugs snatched two ballot boxes and papers and replaced them with their own.

Commissioner Owoseni, told reporters in the Mushin area: “We have arrested many people for various offences, but, I won’t be able to tell you how many suspects until after collation from different divisions. But I can confirm that many persons were arrested especially in Ogba, where someone was shot by thugs. We arrested some thugs in Mushin and other parts of the state.”

Meanwhile, the LASIEC PRO, Dapo Olatunde attributed the delay in the distribution of election materials to the downpour saying, “Where there were little delays in getting sensitive election materials, it was due to the rains. That also affected the turn out of voters. Those materials are sensitive to water. And in some cases, some of the house owners, where we stationed our polling stations were demanding money from the electoral officers to put the ballot materials in the front of their houses, so they had to relocate to other places. But in all, I can tell you that it went well.”