The Kogi and Bayelsa states’ governorship elections as well as the Kogi West senatorial rerun were on Saturday characterised by violence, shootings, killings, vote-buying and ballot box snatching as many polling units across the two states experienced tension created by political thugs.
Four people were killed in Kogi during the election by political thugs while many were injured in Bayelsa where peace took flight as a result of electoral violence.
The Commissioner of Police in Kogi State, Hakeem Busari, had before the elections assured residents of the state of the safety of their lives and property as adequate personnel would be drafted for the polls.
The elections commenced on a peaceful note across the state as there was a large turnout of voters with the electorate, mostly women trooped to the various polling units as early as 6.30am in Kogi.
But in spite of Busari’s assurance and voters enthusiasm, mayhem broke out in some polling units in Kogi East, Kogi West and Lokoja, the state capital.
Two persons were also reportedly killed by stray bullets at the Adankolo polling unit in Lokoja.
Sunday PUNCH gathered that the incident happened when some hoodlums tried to snatch ballot boxes at the polling unit.
APC chieftain house set ablaze
Eyewitness said the two persons were killed when voters resisted the thugs. The thugs, it was gathered, killed the two persons while a passerby sustained a life-threatening injury from gunshot wound.
This angered the youth who mobilised and set the house of a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in the area ablaze.
When the state police command was contacted, its spokesperson, DSP William Aya, said all enquiries should be directed to the Commissioner of Police in the state Commissioner of Police.
But the commissioner did not pick his call when one of our correspondents put a call across to him.
An officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity at a restaurant in Lokoja, scored security low during the election.
He claimed that there were many thugs terrorising voters with guns, adding that security operatives were brazenly bribed by party officials.
One of our correspondents, who monitored the elections in Kogi West, observed that in some of the polling units visited, one or two security officers were attached to each of them.
The voting areas were largely unguarded while the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission seemed overwhelmed by the crowd.
At the Okoro/Gbede in Ijumu council area of Kogi West, the zonal coordinator of the Peoples Democratic Party in the area, Kola Ojo, alleged that in Odokoro, where the sole administrator of the council area came from, ballot papers were allegedly snatched from INEC officials.
When one of our correspondents visited the Odokoro polling unit 002, the PDP party agent at the polling unit, Razak Arekemase, alleged that an influential native of the community stormed the place with personal security men.
The man, he alleged, said those who were not going to vote for a particular political party should leave the queue.
But the traditional leader of the area, Olu of Olokorodo, Oba Isa Elemenimeji, who also spoke to one of our correspondents at the unit, denied intimidation of voters by anyone.
He said he was on the ground to ensure that peace reigned in the area.
He said, “I was told that the PDP members were not allowed to vote. It is a mere gimmick and fallacy. I held a meeting with all the political party leaders and told them that they should give everybody freedom to make their choices. It is a lie.”
Shooting at Dino Melaye’s polling unit, journalists attacked
But at Ayetoro town where the PDP candidate in the Kogi East Senatorial election, Dino Melaye, cast his vote, it was not only about accusation and counter-accusation of rigging, guns were freely used and violence reigned supreme.
About an hour after Melaye voted at ward 01, unit 004 and left, suspected thugs numbering about 10 in two Toyota Hilux vans and a Honda Civic stormed the polling unit, firing gunshots into the air to scare voters to run for safety.
In the commotion, the attackers made away with the ballot boxes and electoral materials and in the process of escaping from the scene after youths made efforts to resist the attack, a young man who was passing by was shot and badly wounded. He was rushed to a nearby hospital.
Some journalists covering election at the polling unit were attacked by the angry youths while attempting to get their reaction.
A Toyota Sienna belonging to Splash FM was badly damaged in the attack.
Violence thrives in Kogi East
Elsewhere in Kogi East, where the PDP governorship candidate in the election, Musa Wada, voted, men dressed in the uniform of officials of the NSCDC were apprehended by voters in Ayingba as they attempted to disrupt the accreditation and voting.
One of our correspondents, who covered election in the senatorial district, observed that electoral materials were hijacked in wards 01 and 02 in Odu and Community High School in Ayingba by thugs.
It was learnt that the thugs came in a Volkswagen Gulf car, shooting sporadically into the air, stole the ballot boxes and drove away as voters, electoral officers and observers ran for safety.
Also in the CMM Primary School, Eti Aya ward 01 in Anyigba, thugs made away with ballot boxes while voters and other people at the polling unit fled.
Journalists, election observers escape death
Also, the Executive Director, Search for Common Ground, Gift Omoniwa, who was monitoring the election was attacked by hoodlums at Ganaja polling unit in Kogi East.
Sunday PUNCH correspondent in the area said the hoodlums insisted that Omoniwa must stay away from the polling unit until election was concluded.
The hoodlums alleged that when she monitored election in the area during the last election, thugs came and disrupted the election and carted away ballot boxes after she left.
They also said that the thugs that snatched the ballot boxes in the area came in Toyota Sienna similar to the one that brought Omoniwa to the polling unit.
Omoniwa stated that it took the intervention of the security operatives and some good Samaritans who rescued her after they overpowered the hoodlums.
Some journalists include Sunny Omachi of Radio Kogi, Sam Egwu of the Leadership and some staff of the DAAR Communications Limited, INEC ad hoc staff and some voters were also attacked in Dekina.
It was gathered that Egwu and Omachi were in a private vehicle around the Unity Roundabout in Ayingba when they were attacked by the hoodlums. They sustained injuries while their vehicle was damaged.
Also at Polling Unit 006, Ajatachi in Dekina, some AIT journalists covering the election were attacked by thugs, who hijacked the ballot box and drove away with it after they harassed and intimidated the journalists, electoral officers and observers.
Thugs kill two youths in Dekina
There were also reports that two people identified as Umoru Shuaib and Faruk Suleiman were feared killed in Abocho community in Dekina council area. They were said to have been attacked by men in police uniform while voting was going on at the Barrack Polling Unit 01.
A source said, “Some able-bodied men on a bus who dressed as policemen came to the polling unit while voting was going on. Many people in the polling unit did not suspect them. The bus went too close to two young men who were discussing while the occupants of the vehicle suddenly shot them and left.”
Sources also said there were sporadic shootings in Emewe Okapada, Ajiyolo communities as well as the Egume Police Station Polling Unit in Dekina.
It was learnt that some masked armed men stormed a polling unit in Aikpele-Ajaka Polling Unit 002, shot sporadically into the air and disrupted voting while INEC officials and voters fled.
It was also learnt that there were ballot snatching and abduction of INEC officials in Lokoja Club House, Ajayi Crowther Memorial College, Ward 07 in Lokoja, Locogona, Barrack area, Takete, Feyintolu, Mopa-Moro council area and in SUBEB area.
It was also learnt that there was violence and general insecurity in Ganaja area.
We arrested 20 for electoral offences in Kogi – Mba
However, the Force Public Relations Officer, Mr Frank Mba, said 20 suspects were arrested in Kogi State over electoral offences.
Speaking during a Channels Television programme on the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections monitored by one of our correspondents on Saturday night, Mba said the police also impounded vehicles and recovered ammunition from some suspects.
He, however, said the percentage of violence and thuggery was minimal during the polls.
He noted that it was not impossible that the police would have been impersonated by some of the people who perpetuated the illegal acts.
CSOs score election low, say INEC staff, security agents take bribe
Meanwhile, a civil society organisation has decried ballot snatching, vote-buying, and voter intimidation.
The Director, the Centre for Democracy and Development, Idaya Hassan, said there were voter suppression, vote-buying, intimidation of journalists and election observers during the election.
Speaking during a media briefing in Lokoja, she said the election witnessed poor logistics arrangements, adding that voting materials arrived late while accreditation and voting commenced late in many polling units.
Hassan also said even with the large deployment of security operatives, thugs moved around in vehicles without being challenged.
Also the Chairman, Yiaga Africa, Dr Hissaini Abdu, during a media briefing said there were voter inducement and vote buying.
He said, “Specifically, YIAGA Africa, received reports of voter inducement and vote buying in some polling units in Adavi, Ankpa, Itale, Idah, Yagba East, Kogi West and Ajaokuta LGAs.
“Voters were paid as much as N5,000 in some cases in exchange for their votes. At Aluaja, Iyano Ward in Ibaji LGA, INEC officials were given N15,000 and security agents N50,000 to compromise the process.”
He also said the CSO received reports of accredited voters who were not allowed to vote, non-use of the card reader for accreditation, intimidation and harassment and disruption of the polling unit process.
Ballot snatching, violence, protests mar Bayelsa gov poll
In Bayelsa State, election was marred by snatching of electoral materials, violence, protests and late arrival of materials at polling units across the eight local government areas of the state.
In some polling units, thugs took advantage of the security lapses to unleash mayhem on voters, party agents and Independent National Electoral Commission officials.
In other polling units, heavy security presence, it was learnt, also had its adverse effect on the election as some of the voters were not allowed to vote.
Soldiers stopped me from voting –Tricycle operator
A commercial tricycle rider in Yenagoa, the state capital, Simon Ogu, said he was prevented from getting to his polling unit at Ekeki by some soldiers, who told him to come out of his tricycle and trek a distance to where he was to vote.
Corps member feared missing as thugs attack polling unit in Bayelsa
In Opolo, there was panic among corps members over the disappearance of their colleague during the election.
The corper, who has yet to be identified, was said to have gone missing when a group of thugs loyal to one of the two major political parties, attacked a polling unit in the area.
Some of the corps members explained that the hoodlums stormed the polling unit at 1pm and began to threaten INEC officials.
One of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some of them were saved by some agents of another a political party, who called the attention of security operatives to the incident.
At Bishop Dimieari Grammar School in Opolo, a police officer, Edohie Ordu, ordered the arrest of a party agent for trying to fight at the point where security personnel planned to find a solution to a report of a missing ad hoc INEC staff member.
All entreaties on the police to release the party agent fell on deaf ears as they (policemen) forced the party agent into a waiting Hilux van, which later sped off to a nearby police station.
Thugs brandish weapons in Bayelsa community
Still in Opolo, youths suspected to be loyal to one of the two major political parties brandished weapons which scared voters away from their polling units, even as the development delayed the distribution of materials to other communities in the area, including Etegwe and Biogbolo.
Some journalists and election observers fled when they saw armed youths coming close to them in Opolo.
Voting materials set ablaze in Jonathan’s LGA
Angry residents set voting materials ablaze in one of the wards in the Ogbia Local Government Area, Otuoke, where former President Goodluck Jonathan comes from.
Anambra State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, who is in charge of the Bayelsa State governorship poll in the Ogbia LGA, disclosed this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Orji said apart from the ugly incident, the polls in the area were peaceful.
Women protest, allege disruption of voting
Also, a group of women protested in Yenagoa, alleging that some thugs working for the All Progressives Congress disrupted the exercise in some parts of Yenagoa.
One of the placard-carrying protesters, identified as Miss Oboh, said her younger brother, Mr. Kafu Oboh, was abducted by thugs loyal to the APC.
I’m disappointed in our electoral system – Jonathan
Expressing his disappointment over the late arrival of INEC officials and election materials in Otueke, Jonathan said he was at his polling unit in Ward 13, Unit 39 at Otazi Playground at 8.19am without anyone to attend to him.
He stated that Nigeria had no reason not to get her electoral processes right, adding that many African countries had been able to maintain a good electoral system.
He said, “We must conduct ourselves if we want to bring real people to rule us either as president or governors. Nigerians are always blaming people in authority and the leaders, so here they must blame themselves.
“I was around at 8:19am, but the materials have yet to arrive in the polling unit. I have led election monitoring teams to other African countries; we used to go there 30 minutes before the time and in our reports, we indicated the exact time when the vote started.
“So, for election to start after that time, it is an indictment of the electoral body that manages election. There is no reason the election here should not start by 8am.
Dickson wants INEC to cancel elections in areas thugs hijacked materials
Governor Seriake Dickson, on his part, accused the security agencies of conniving with the APC to rig the governorship election and called on INEC to cancel the results of the elections in areas where voting materials were allegedly hijacked by APC thugs.
He listed the areas as Nembe and the Southern Ijaw. He stated, “They (APC) also have the Nigerian Army and rogue elements of the police force working in concert with them to deny the citizens of these communities their right to vote. So as we are speaking, in our country, in this day and age, gun-wielding militia men, with the aid of security forces, have overrun the election officials and most of the electoral officials in the Southern Ijaw.
“These officials, as we speak, have been kidnapped and held hostage. This has been what we have been managing since 2015 with the APC at the centre, not caring about the lives and dignity of our people. The APC at the centre are too hungry and determined to make Nigeria a one-party state.”
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to do something. Dickson stated, “This is not democracy. What is going on in Bayelsa in the name of an election is not democracy.
GOC connived with APC to rig Bayelsa poll –Dickson
Also, the governor said that because of the desperation of the Federal Government, the GOC 6 Division, Port Harcourt, Gen. Jamil Sarham, was deployed in Bayelsa State to ensure that the state was delivered to the APC whether the people voted or not.
Dickson said Sarham had been transferred to the Nigerian Defence Academy as commandant.
He stated, “I wonder what lessons he will be giving to those young cadet officers. Gen Sarham has defied his transfer order and has stayed back to complete his mission of rigging Bayelsa for the APC.
Reacting, the acting Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Major Charles Ekeocha, challenged Dickson to provide evidence of his claim.
Ekeocha said, “If you are in Bayelsa, did you see the GOC there? But the thing is let the person tender evidence so that you will know whether to agree or not to agree.”
Allegations against us false – Bayelsa APC
The state acting APC Chairman, Mr Ebierein Etubo, denied the allegations levelled against the party by the PDP as false, adding that they had no thugs that would attack anybody during elections.
He stated, “We know the antics of the PDP and they cannot go through suppression anymore. So, the people came out en masse to vote.
“We didn’t attack anybody. We don’t have thugs. Nobody went out to attack any PDP person. We campaigned and the people have seen that we are coming to develop Bayelsa State.
Election better conducted than 2015 Bayelsa gov poll –Sylva
Also, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, decried the situation in the Sagbama and the Ekeremor local government areas, just as he added that the 2019 governorship election was better than the exercise conducted four years ago.
Speaking after voting at his polling unit at Okpoama in the Brass Local Government Area, Sylva said, “I have voted and it is a peaceful election in Ward 4, Okpoama. As you can see, I have been confined to my ward and election has been smooth so far.
“I heard that there are a few skirmishes here and there in Sagbama and Ekeremor. I have not heard of any other problem here in Bayelsa State. As for INEC, they have been progressively improving and every year, the processes are improving.”
In his remarks after voting at Olugbobiri in the Southern Local Government Area, the APC governorship candidate, David Lyon, described the election process as peaceful, saying INEC did a better job.
Cancel election in troubled areas -Diri
But the Bayelsa PDP governorship candidate, Senator Douye Diri, called on INEC to invoke its powers and cancel elections in areas where electoral fraud and violence occurred.
Diri also cautioned the security agencies to remain neutral and be professional in their duties to ensure a free, fair and election.
He stated “I can only speak about my ward, unit and the reports I have received in my local government area. The election is going on smoothly. Here I have just voted and the voting process is orderly.
“However, I have reports of pockets of electoral fraud committed by the APC, coming on with thugs to hijack electoral materials and preventing the PDP members from voting.
“I have raised the red flag about Nembe-Bassambiri and the report I have is that no PDP agent is allowed to go to Nembe-Bassambiri. At Enewari, the report I have is that the APC went with thugs; at Opolo the report I have is that the APC went there with thugs. We are monitoring the process.
“We are calling on the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, to be alive to its duties because we have received reports from other wards and local government areas. Where they need to invoke their powers, they should invoke their powers of either not accepting cooked up results or where materials have been hijacked.”
Boat conveying journalists capsizes
Meanwhile, a boat conveying journalists across flooded parts of Sampou community on Nun River in the Kolokuma Opokuma Local Government Area capsized on Saturday.
The boat was carrying four journalists covering the governorship poll in the state. The journalists were returning from a polling unit when the incident happened. They were rescued by residents.