Intimidation, violence mar governorship, state assembly polls

  • I’ve fulfilled promise of ensuring credible elections to Nigerians — Buhari
  • Osinbajo, Shettima, Okowa commend INEC, express satisfaction despite low turnout
  • CSOs decry violence, destruction of election materials, BVAS machines
  • YPP governorship candidate seeks investigation of alleged killings in Akwa Ibom
  • Army, NSCDC arrest scores of suspected thugs in Enugu
  • EFCC arrests over 65 for alleged voters’ inducement

It was a return to the old order yesterday, as widespread violence, ballot box snatching, destruction of BVAS machines and intimidation of voters by hoodlums characterised what would have been President Muhammadu Buhari’s electoral parting gift to the country.

Nigerians had gone to the polls to elect new leaders in the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections hopeful but were disappointed with what they saw.

From Lagos to Ondo, Edo, Delta, Kaduna, Kano, Enugu, Rivers and Cross River states, violence was a common thread in the election, as various arms of security agencies were put to task in maintaining sanity, while the electorate rose to the occasion in some instances to protect votes.

The unsavoury situation, perhaps, resulted in the low turnout of voters recorded in many voting centres across the states.

The Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) in its preliminary statement on the elections, raised doubts over its credibility across the states following alleged public sale of votes, violence and intimidation.

The organisation said that although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fared better in the aspect of logistics deployment leading to prompt arrival of poll officials for the elections, there were occasional issues of non-functionality of the Bi-modal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS).

OrderPaper, Nigeria’s premier and pre-eminent policy think-tank/legislative interface, also decried voters’ apathy and alleged votes buying in parts of the country.

A preliminary report by Mr Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq, Communications Lead, Voter Project, OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative, indicated that there were large reports of low voter turnout resulting from intimidation by thugs, political party agents and apathy linked to perceived mismatch of voting and results announced in the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections.

The report claimed that states such as Enugu, Niger, Plateau, Ekiti, Osun, Bayelsa, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Taraba and Jigawa recorded the lowest voter turnout going by feedback received so far.

The Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities (EVAPWD), on its part, decried the level of security provided by the security agencies and poor deployment of assistive devices such as Braille guides, shade and magnifying glasses to various polling units.

EVAPWD, in its preliminary statement by its chairman, David Anyaele, said there were no security operatives available in some polling units.

Likewise, the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, raised alarm over destruction of election materials as well as disruption of materials distribution in yesterday’s election.

Situation Room, in its interim briefing yesterday in Abuja, said its observers reported cases of arguments and quarrels between party agents and fighting among party supporters.

Interestingly, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed satisfaction with the election, saying he was glad he had fulfilled the promise he made to Nigerians to ensure free and credible elections in the country.

Speaking shortly after casting his vote at the PU003 Kofar Baru, Babban Tone Quarters of Sarkin Yara ‘A’ Ward at his Daura hometown, Katsina State, he said his administration had told Nigerians it would work for them, and that he had fulfilled the promise made to ensure credible polls.

“In this administration, we mean what we say, we say what we mean. We told Nigerians we’re going to work for them, we are going to maintain trust. We’ll not allow anybody knowingly to steal their resources. We promised to make sure we do our best and I believe we’ve done that,” he said.

Buhari said he had always known that the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu would win the presidential poll due to his antecedents. This, according to him, is because he had performed well as governor of Lagos State in addition to the fact that the APC campaigns were thorough and detailed.

He expressed confidence that the outcomes of the Governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections will favour the All Progressives Congress (APC) across the country as Nigerians know the party “means what it says, and says what it means.”

In similar vein, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo expressed satisfaction with the conduct of yesterday’s elections, stressing that the exercise was excellent.

He spoke after casting his vote at the Egunrege Polling Unit 14, Ward 1 in Ikenne Council in Ogun State. He had arrived the polling booth alongside his wife, Dolapo.

In Lagos, President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu kept mum after casting his vote at Polling Unit 085, Alausa Ikeja at exactly 9:37a.m. His wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, accompanied him to the polling unit, which also recorded non-impressive turnout.

The former Lagos State governor was not as cheerful as he was during the February 25 presidential election. Voting also did not commence at Polling Unit 052, Alausa, located at about 20 meters to where Tinubu cast his vote until 10:00a.m. Ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) blamed logistics for their late arrival.

In Yobe, the Vice President-elect, Sen. Kashim Shettima also commended the INEC for conducting a credible, free and fair governorship and Houses of Assembly elections in the Northeast.

According to him, all the election materials and INEC officials arrived the polling units on time to commence accreditations at 8:30a.m. in Borno and Yobe states.

Excited by the massive turnout of voters in Maiduguri, Borno State, he said: “I went round the Maiduguri metropolis and Jere Council. So far today, it was good as there was massive voters turnout.”

He attributed the turnout of voters in Borno to the timely delivery of election materials and officials at the various polling units.

Low voter turnout and apathy characterised the elections in most polling units in Delta State, especially Asaba, the state capital, as well as Ika North East Council, where Governor Ifeanyi Okowa hails from.

Across most parts of Asaba, voters at the polling units were scanty; hence orderly, as many voters, whose candidates did not win the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections, stayed away.

Voting materials and INEC officials arrived at most polling units as early as 8:00a.m. to meet few voters on ground, unlike the previous polls, where the turnout was massive in many units.

At Uzigwe Primary School along Nnebisi road, which houses many units, Asagba Primary School, with four polling units, as well as units around Specialist Hospital, voting started early and went on smoothly, with heavy security presence and patrols.

Some voters said they managed to come out to cast their votes despite “the daylight robbery of the last election,” worrying that the low turnout of youths and supporters of the ‘Obidient’ movement could, at the end, pave way for either PDP or APC to win.

Okowa arrived at Ward 2, Units 17 located inside Eghoma Primary School, Owa-Alero at about 10:00a.m. and voted immediately, alongside his wife, Edith, in an exercise he described as very peaceful.

Speaking shortly after casting his vote, the governor said: “I just cast my vote and everything is working perfect here in my unit, the capture was quickly done in a short while. The process is seamless, very low turnout, very peaceful, but I am not aware of any intimidation. I agree with you that there is low turnout as a result of the challenges Nigerians faced with the voting process. We cannot continue in the same way of irregularities unless we get it right at the moment. However, I am very sure that our candidate, Chief Sheriff Francis Oborevwori, will win the election.”

Some voters in the community lamented intimidation by the agents of the PDP, who asked them to vote the party, adding that they were out to vote their conscience despite the intimidation. They called on security agents to ensure that the irregularities were checked in all the polling units.

In Warri South, Warri North, Warri Southwest, Ughelli North and Ughelli South Councils, the exercise was largely peaceful, although violence erupted in Ughelli North, leading to the destruction of BVAS machines and election materials. Voting in all polling units in Evwreni, hometown of a founding leader of the APC in the state, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, was disrupted, as thugs allegedly working for a serving commissioner and a former lawmaker destroyed all electoral material, including some BVAS machines.

It was learnt that corps members and other electoral officials were attacked by the thugs, with some sustaining injuries, while three BVAS machines were smashed.

The APC governorship candidate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, also drew the attention of the media to the violence unleashed on voters in Evwreni while casting his vote in Orogun Ward 4, Unit 19 about 10:10a.m., saying information reaching him indicated that security men deployed to the community were overwhelmed.

But a source in Evwreni told The Guardian that the security personnel sent to the community were compromised and did nothing while the thugs destroyed the materials.

Meanwhile, the PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Sheriff Oborevwori, who cast his vote about 9:40a.m. in his hometown, Osubi (Ward 32), commended the peaceful conduct of the exercise, saying the materials arrived early and voting process went smoothly and peaceful. Oborevwori said a hitch-free election would make Nigeria a strong democracy.

Amid reports of widespread violence across the country, one person was shot dead in Ogoja, Cross River State. The deceased, a top APC member, was short dead by one of the soldiers providing security at a polling centre.

An eye-witness account said the deceased, whose name was given as Joe, a popular bike rider in Calabar, was allegedly causing tension and insisting that APC must win in Ogoja.

In Kano, thugs reportedly disrupted election, snatched and destroyed ballot boxes in Kano Council.

The affected areas include, Dugurawa where four boxes were destroyed, Jujin Kosau at Ajili ward, Kwangi at Yelwan Dan Ziyal, Akalawa and Wuti wards.

The hoodlums reportedly lunched attacks in various polling units and made away with more than 15 boxes, inflicting injuries on innocent voters.

In Ondo, a policeman, as well as one other person, were shot just as suspected thugs stormed polling units, destroyed voting materials. The incident occurred at Idanre, the headquarters of the Idanre Council of the state.

According to a source in the community, the victims were not targeted by the suspect, but a stray bullet hit them. “Immediately the security operative and the other victims were hit, they were rushed to an undisclosed hospital for medical attention,” he said.

When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, SP Olufumilayo Odunlami, stated that the suspect had been arrested. According to her, a pump-action rifle and two live cartridges were recovered from the suspect.

Meanwhile, some hoodlums attacked some polling units at Ute in the Ose Council of the state, where they hijacked and destroyed ballot boxes and other voting materials.

In Akwa Ibom, Senator Bassey Akpan, the governorship candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), has called for investigation into the alleged killing of three indigenes in Ibiono Ibom Council by a detachment of police from the Akwa Ibom State Government House.

Akpan, a Senator representing Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District, made the call in his Ididep Usuk community while interacting with journalists minutes after he and his wife, Nkeiru Imaobong Albert, cast their votes.

In their appraisals, civil society groups that monitored the election, scored it low in terms of credibility on a number of fronts.

For instance, having raised the alarm over destruction of election materials and disruption of materials distribution, the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, at a briefing by its convener, Ene Obi, said the group observed tension in about 5 per cent of polling units.

“Situation Room observed the presence of security personnel in 82 per cent of polling units observed, and intervening to quell some of the tensions in the polling units. We commend this intervention while advocating for vigilance and action against incidents of vote buying.”

On logistics, Obi revealed that the body observed early deployment of election officials and materials across the country with many states deploying officials and materials to the RACs on time.

Obi further revealed that situation room observed vote buying in 8 per cent of polling units visited, saying that, in some of the polling units, party agents were asking voters to show who they voted for.

“There are also reports of voters’ inducement through sharing of money and food items as well as collection of bank account details of voters. For example, in polling unit 008, Ward 5, Onitsha North LGA of Anambra State, party agents were seen collecting the account numbers of voters. Also, in Polling Unit 002, Bakin Kasuwa, Utai Ward in Wudil LGA of Kano State, party agents were seen sharing fabrics and wrappers to voters. This incident was also observed in Polling Unit 022, Nguru Ward, Nguru LGA of Yobe State. Incidents of voter buying have been escalated by the Situation Room to the Police,” she added.

Meanwhile, soldiers providing security in Enugu, yesterday morning, arrested political thugs deployed to disrupt the election, numbering over 120. It was gathered that the hoodlums were picked up at a popular hotel in Nsukka town. The hotel is said to belong to a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the area.

Also, additional three hoodlums were arrested at INEC office, Nsukka. The source said the thugs were all armed with weapons, including AK47 rifles and have confessed to having been deployed by the council chairman, Walter Oziko.

When contacted, however, Oziko denied recruiting and harbouring thugs in any location for the purposes of the election. He told The Guardian that as a lawyer and chief security officer of the council, he knew the implication of engaging in such action and called for the prosecution of anyone caught violating electoral laws.

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) also confirmed the arrest of scores of suspected political thugs in the Nsukka axis of Enugu State.

The spokesman of NSCDC Enugu State Command, CSC Danny Iwuchukwu, gave the confirmation to newsmen in Enugu.

Iwuchukwu said that the scores of suspected thugs arrested had been duly handed over to the Nigeria Police within the Nsukka axis. He said that the arrests were made early yesterday, after an intelligent tip-off, at a popular hotel in Nsukka.

No fewer than 65 persons were also arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) across the country for alleged voters’ inducement, according to a statement by spokesperson of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren.

Twenty of the suspects were arrested by operatives from the Ilorin Zonal Command while 13 suspects were nabbed by operatives on election monitoring duty at the Kaduna Zonal Command.

The teams monitoring the polls in the Port Harcourt Zone arrested a total of 12 people for various offences bordering on inducing voters with money to vote for their preferred candidates, while the Uyo Zonal Command made four arrests in Calabar. The remaining suspects were arrested in Gombe, Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger states.

The Guardian

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