Election is war in Nigeria? Violence, voter apathy and vote-buying marred the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections that took place across 29 states in the country on Saturday.
Reports from most parts of the country revealed that killings, ballot box snatching and the militarisation of the process badly affected the credibility of the elections.
It was also observed that voter apathy experienced during the February 23 Presidential and National assembly polls was a child’s play when compared with what happened on Saturday.
The reasons for these, observers noted, included violence, military presence, harassment of opposition parties and generally held belief by many that their votes would not count.
For instance, canvassers in some parts of Lagos State including Eric Moore, Itolo Street in Surulere and some areas of Ifako Ijaiye Local Government Area of the state had to resort to using vuvuzela and bells to urge voters to come out and exercise their civic duty.
In some areas, they knocked on the gates of residents to appeal to them to come out and vote.
In Rivers State, the exercise witnessed low turnout of voters while there were reported cases of ballot box snatching.
The exercise, which failed to kick off at most polling units at 9am, was further characterised by heavy deployment of policemen and army personnel in most of the places visited by our correspondents in the state.
In the few places that people managed to turn out to exercise their rights, agents of some political parties wooed voters with money. This activity went on in the presence of security officials at some places without hindrance.
Similar scenario played out in Katsina State as voter turnout was low, compared to that of the presidential and National Assembly polls. INEC Presiding Officers and observers admitted the fact of the low turnout.
One of our correspondents, who visited many units in several locations in the state to monitor the elections, observed that the queues were shorter, while at some units, the ad hoc workers of INEC were virtually idle.
For instance, in Malamawa 3 Low Cost Unit in Daura, the Presiding Officer, Mr Kassimu Adamu-Giza, blamed the low turnout on alleged failure by politicians particularly legislators to fulfil their campaign promises.
He explained, “You were here during the presidential election, the turnout was massive. In this one, it is low because people feel the local politicians don’t meet their expectations.
“They think that they are voting for nothing. That is the type of awareness that the voters have here.”
The PO in Majima 1, Daura 1 Primary School, Aisha Lawal-Rabe, said the people were more interested in the presidential poll and came out more because of “the Buhari factor.”
From Rivers to Ekiti, Imo to Oyo, Enugu to Akwa Ibom and Benue states, many people including a member of the House of Representatives, representing Akinyele/Lagelu Federal Constituency of Oyo State, Temitope Olatoye, popularly called Sugar, were killed in the violence that characterised the elections.
Olatoye died at the Intensive Care Unit of the University College Hospital, Ibadan after he was shot in the head by suspected political thugs in Lalupon area of the state.
He was hurriedly rushed to the Accident and Emergency ward of the UCH by his supporters from where doctors on duty moved him to the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital.
The UCH Public Relations Officer, Mr Toye Akinrinlola, told one of our correspondents that the lawmaker was moved to the intensive care unit, where doctors battled in vain to save his life.
“He eventually died around 7.45pm,” he said.
A close aide to the lawmaker (name withheld) had told The Punch that some suspected political thugs of a rival politician in the constituency allegedly carried out the attack.
Olatoye, who won the 2015 election on the platform of the APC, lost re-election two weeks ago on the platform of the Action Democratic Party.
He vowed never to return to the APC, notwithstanding the overtures reportedly made to him by a former governor of the state, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, to join him in the APC.
Before his death, he was representing Lagelu/Akinyele federal constituency. Olatoye had in 2011 won an election into the state House of Assembly on the platform of the Accord Party before he later defected to the then Action Congress of Nigeria.
He was said to be coming from his village where he had gone to exercise his franchise when the assailant ambushed him.
Two hours earlier, a supporter of the PDP, simply identified as Mudasiru, was shot dead by a police officer in Ile Titun area of Ibadan South-East Local Government Area of the state.
Mudasiru, in his late 20s, was said to be celebrating his party’s victory when a trigger-happy officer fired a shot which hit him from the back and ruptured his intestines.
An eyewitness told The Punch that he was quickly rushed to a traditional doctor, Chief Kehinde Ege, in Ita Ege for treatment.
As Ege was almost getting the bullet out, the boy gave up the ghost having lost too much blood, said a source who witnessed the treatment.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Lawrence Fadeyi, who confirmed both incidents, begged for more time within which the police would make its comprehensive findings available.
“Yes, both incidents are true but kindly give us more time to come up with a detailed analysis of what really happened,” Fadeyi said.
Four killed, one kidnapped as ballot box snatching mars Rivers polls
Also, a policeman and three others were killed by unknown gunmen while a chieftain of the PDP, Mrs Emilia Nte, was kidnapped in Rivers State.
This is just as ballot box snatching, vote-buying characterised the exercise in some parts of the state.
The policeman was said to have tried to protect Mrs Nte, who is a former council chairperson, from being taken away when the gunmen shot him.
This, it was learnt, happened at about 6pm on Friday in Nyeada, Andoni Local Government Area of the state.
Emilia, according to a source from the area, was returning home when the gunmen attacked her vehicle and shot the policeman before whisking her away.
Though Mrs Nte was reportedly shot dead, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Nnamdi Omoni, dismissed the claim, saying that she was kidnapped and not killed.
“It was the policeman, who tried to engage the gunmen that was killed and not the woman. The woman in question was kidnapped by the gunmen,” Omoni stressed.
Also, at about 3am on Saturday, one Michael Abednego was killed in Akinima, Ahoada West LGA of the state by a security agent suspected to be a mobile policeman attached to an unidentified politician.
It was also gathered that a man and a woman leader of the All Progressives Congress lost their lives in another gun attack in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA.
Although the state PPRO confirmed Abednego’s death in Ahoada West, he said the police had yet to get the full details of what happened.
He, however, promised to find out what happened in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, where two persons were reportedly killed.
In Abonnema community, suspected armed thugs reportedly snatched ballot boxes as voters exercised their rights on Saturday morning.
The incidents took place in Wards 5, 6, 7, 10, 11 and 12 according to findings by one of our correspondents. The situation sent panic across the coastal town.
Similarly, there were sporadic shootings in Ward 13, Unit 007, Mbodo, Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state.
Three gunmen on motorcycles attempted to snatch ballot boxes at the place but were repelled by heavily-armed policemen, who rushed to the scene after being alerted to the incident.
However, voting went on smoothly in Uzuoha community also under Ikwerre Local Government Area as people were seen exercising their rights under a peaceful atmosphere.
A former caretaker chairman of the local government, Nwoziri Best, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said that the area was peaceful because they did not want elections to divide their community.
Most parts of Port Harcourt witnessed a downpour on Saturday afternoon, bringing voting in most units to an abrupt end.
Curfew in Ondo as security agents kill two ballot box snatchers
Also, no fewer than two persons were reportedly killed in violence that erupted during the elections at Oba Akoko in the Akoko South West Local Government Area of Ondo State.
Three vehicles were also vandalised, which included a police patrol van by the irate youth during the violence.
Also, a beer depot beside a collation centre was burnt down.
Though the members of the political parties involved in the violence were not known as of the time of filing this report, it was gathered that trouble started when some armed thugs attempted to attack a collation centre in the town.
A source said, “The incident happened when some thugs attempted to attack the collation centre, they were shooting sporadically to scare the INEC officials away at the centre but the combined team of soldiers and policemen prevented them from gaining entrance into the centre. So, the security men engaged them in a shootout.
“Later, the security men also chased them shooting sporadically; it was at that point that two of them were shot dead while one was injured.”
Confirming the incident, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Femi Joseph, said two people lost their lives while some suspects had been arrested in connection with the violence.
He added, “Some thugs wanted to attack the collation centre in Oba Akoko but our men, in conjunction with other security agents, did not allow them to enter the centre. Two of them were killed. We have commenced investigation into the incident. We have also arrested about 20 persons in connection with violence in different places during the election today (Saturday).”
Meanwhile, the state government on Saturday evening imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on the community to reduce tension.
Soldier kills one, 13 injured in A’ Ibom elections
Also, at least one person was on Saturday killed by a soldier at a polling unit in Ossiom village, Ukanafun Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State during the elections.
Nine other persons were injured in Nsit Atai LGA when members of the PDP and the APC clashed over disagreement on election matters.
Similarly, four persons, including the Chairman of Etim Ekpo LGA, Mr Wilson Eduo, were injured by thugs that hijacked ballot materials meant for wards 8, 9 and 10.
This came just as thugs were said to have harassed officials of INEC in Awa Ward 3 in Abak Ishiet, Onna LGA.
The thugs were said to have hijacked one of the card readers and the handbag of a female police officer, who ran away into safety, but the incident was said to have happened after voting had ended at about 3pm.
However, Governor Udom Emmanuel and his wife, Martha, voted at exactly 9.23 am at Town Hall in Awa Ward 1 (Unit 001) in Onna LGA.
Speaking shortly after performing his voting, the governor lauded INEC for the improvement in the accreditation processes. He also expressed optimism that the experience would be replicated in other units across the state.
However, the APC governorship candidate, Mr Nsima Ekere, called for the cancellation of the result of any polling units where there were reported cases of violence and hijack of materials.
Ekere, who voted at Edemeya Ward 1 (Unit 004) in Ikot Abasi LGA at about 10.49am, lamented the late arrival of election materials to his unit.
“INEC should cancel election process anywhere there is violence or hijacking of materials,” he insisted, adding, however, that the election was generally peaceful.
Also, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr Onofiok Luke, who voted at about 9am at Ikot Etokpo Health Centre in Itreto Ward, Nsit Ubium LGA, described the conduct of the election as impressive.
An APC chieftain and former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr Bassey Essien, described the exercise as peaceful in his area, adding that it was a demonstration of true democracy.
Panic as thugs kill party agent in Imo
There was palpable tension in Imo State on Saturday afternoon after political thugs murdered a party agent.
The murder took place in the Nkwerre Local Government Area of the state.
The killing, one of our correspondents learnt, made voters who had yet to cast their votes to flee the area.
It was gathered that the murdered party agent whose identity had yet to be ascertained had engaged in an argument with some other party agents in one of the polling units.
The party agent, who had left the polling unit after the argument, was ambushed by political thugs who shot him dead.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Orlando Ikeokwu, who confirmed the killing to one of our correspondents, said that the police had taken over the investigation.
The PPRO said, “I can confirm that a party agent was shot dead at Nkwerre. We have swiftly responded and taken over the investigation process.
“Outside some pockets of violence the security architecture of the state is wonderful. The security agencies are on top of the situation. We have made a couple of arrests including arrest of fake policemen and military men at Umuobom in the Ideato South LGA.”
Violence has escalated, militarisation threat to voters –Situation Room
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has expressed concern over the worsening security environment about the governorship and state assembly elections.
The worsening security environment, it said, got to a frightening dimension on the eve of the March 9 elections.
The organisation said reports at its disposal indicated “an escalation of violence between and within political parties and their supporters.”
The Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre and Convener, NCSSR, Clement Nwankwo, in a second preliminary statement, said there were also “reports of partisanship of security agencies in the discharge of their duties, harassing and intimidating candidates, their supporters and voters.”
He said, “Reports from across several states and some RECs point to an intimidating presence of military personnel who are unwilling to assist in providing security and safe delivery of election materials in locations and INEC completely helpless in this circumstance.”
According to him, the deployment of military hardware including fighter jets, attack helicopters and excessive military deployment across the country poses an unacceptable and disenfranchising atmosphere.
He said the militarisation represented a major disincentive for good voter turnout or free exercise of choice by citizens.
Nwankwo said, “The tension is palpable and would only serve to undermine the credibility of the election process. Situation Room calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately issue orders to the military hierarchy to comply with their constitutional and legal responsibilities and conduct themselves within the scope of their roles and responsibility as provided in Section 29 (3) of the Electoral Act 2015 as Amended.
“The escalation of violence has led to loss of lives and destruction of properties on Friday in Oto-Awori, Ojo Local Government Area in Lagos State, where 35 vehicles were burnt and two persons killed as a result of violence between members of the All Progressives Congress.
“There is tension and apprehension in Okirika LGA in Rivers State due to heavy deployment of the military and sporadic gunshots. These are just a few examples of the escalating cases of violence that our observers have reported.”
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