No fewer than 17 people were killed in various acts of electoral violence in Delta, Lagos, Rivers, Cross River, Niger, Akwa Ibom, Osun, and Benue states as violence, apathy, and disenfranchisement of voters marred Saturday’s governorship and state House of Assembly elections.
Explaining the low turnout of the voters, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), in the February 25 presidential poll, Mr. Peter Obi, argued that Nigerians did not come out in large numbers because the results of the presidential poll did not reflect their wishes.
Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, also noted that the people were discouraged because they did not get what they wanted in the presidential poll.
LP has also described Saturday’s poll as the worst ever conducted in the country.
Despite the security architecture the Lagos State Police Command and other sister agencies supposedly put in place, sponsored hoodlums overran the state as they unleashed violence on voters and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
From Surulere to Oshodi, Mile 12, Ejigbo, Bucknor, Oke-Afa, Bolade Oshodi, Surulere, Amuwo Odofin, Berger, Ojo, Agiliti, Ago Palace Way, Okota, Mushin, Igando, Ibeju Lekki, Alimosho, Ijegun, Ijesha, Ikeja, Magodo, Elegushi, Fadeyi, and many other areas, these thugs ran amok unchecked.
Backed by local militia and touts, the hoodlums brutalised and maimed voters who were not out to vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
While three people were suspected to have been killed in different parts of the state, including 68-year-old man, who was allegedly killed at a Somolu polling unit, hundreds of others, including celebrities, were brutalised, with their properties destroyed, before they were prevented from voting.
An unidentified suspected hoodlum was also feared killed by a security agent after he allegedly snatched ballot papers at Startime Estate, Jamtok, Ago Palace Way.
However, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Idowu Owohunwa, has debunked a social media report that a thug was shot dead in a polling unit, saying there was no such incident in the state.
Before the attacks on voters by hoodlums, CP Owohunwa, gave an assurance that the police had made adequate deployment throughout the state and assured the voters of their safety.
The Lagos CP said: “We have deployed officers and men to areas where there were problems during the last presidential and National Assembly elections.”
But despite this assurance, thugs had a field day, snatching BVAS, disenfranchising voters, and unleashing violence on those suspected of sympathising with the state’s opposition parties.
The thugs also attacked and brutalised the crew of ARISE NEWS Channel, including the cinematographer, Opeyemi Ademihun, who was operating the drone.
Ademihun and other crew were brutally assaulted at Ikate around Elegushi’s Palace.
CP Owohunwa has, however, disclosed that the police had made some arrests and recovered weapons and sensitive election materials.
Owohunwa said this while speaking with journalists after monitoring the elections in the state.
The police commissioner said some persons were also arrested over various electoral offences in different parts of the state.
Expectedly, the violence elicited widespread condemnation.
In their separate reactions, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and the candidate of the LP, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, expressed displeasure over the violence which engulfed the election in the state.
Governor Sanwo-Olu said: “I want to reiterate that this contest is about peace and prosperity for our people. Everyone should have a right to express themselves peacefully.”
On his part, Rhodes-Vivour raised the alarm that thugs were attacking LP supporters and preventing them from voting.
He also lamented the late arrival and, in some cases, the non-arrival of election materials in LP strongholds.
Also reacting, a former Nigerian Education Minister, Oby Ezekwesili, expressed outrage at the coordinated criminal gangs responsible for the violence and mayhem that plagued the Lagos State elections.
She wrote in a series of tweets on her Twitter handle: “In your desperation for power, you designed a coordinated web of criminal gangs to kill and maim your citizens who did no wrong whatsoever, and tomorrow you’ll go into a Church to call the name of God? I assure you that chewing concrete as a salad would be child’s play.”
In his message of peace, the paramount ruler of Iwoland, Oba Abdul-Rasheed Adewale Akanbi Telu1, in a statement made available to THISDAY, condemned the acts of violence, insisting that “law enforcement agencies should make sure Lagos is safe and secure with zero tolerance to lawbreakers and inciters of violence.”
However, in its reaction, the spokesperson of the state APC, Seye Oladejo, called on the security agencies to note what the party described as Rhodes-Vivour’s threat to set Lagos on fire.
“Should there be any breakdown of law and order in any part of our state, law enforcement agencies should know who to grab – Mr Rhodes-Vivour. We are compiling reports of how APC supporters were harassed and attacked today. Some of the reports are really scary,” Oladejo added.
Meanwhile, following their inability to vote in some polling units in the state, INEC has postponed the governorship and state assembly elections in 10 polling units in the Victoria Garden City (VGC), Lekki, to Sunday, March 19 (today).
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Segun Agbaje, announced this when he addressed reporters at the VGC.
In Osun State, the APC and the PDP were trading blame over the killing of a member of the ruling PDP in the state.
While the PDP accused a member of the APC of killing one of its state officials in Ila Orangun, the Chairman of the Ila Orangun LGA chapter of the APC, Mr. Joseph Adedokun, said in a statement that it was a PDP thug that mistakenly killed the PDP member when he fired at APC members who were protesting the over-voting recorded in one of the polling units in Ward 4.
In Delta State, there was violence in Mosogar, Ethiope West Local Government Area, as two persons were reportedly shot dead, and the house of a former Chairman of the local government area, Dr. Wilson Omene, was set ablaze.
They were shot dead by military personnel as they allegedly tried to flee a polling unit with snatched ballot boxes.
One of the two persons who disrupted the polling exercise at Utagaba-Uno in Ndokwa West Local Government Area was also reportedly killed.
During Saturday’s elections in Niger State, a middle-aged man was shot dead in the Sauka-Kahuta area of Minna, the state capital.
According to an eyewitness, the man was shot when he and others were throwing stones at security operatives deployed to the area to ensure the orderly conduct of the elections.
In Busu, Lavun LGA of the state, thugs reportedly invaded the Gbadagbadzu polling unit, destroying ballot boxes and scattering the votes already cast.
The thugs also injured three people who had cast their ballots and were waiting for the votes to be counted.
In Rivers State, no fewer than five people were feared killed in separate incidents.
Three persons were feared killed in Ogbakiri Community, Emohua LGA of the state, when the gunmen invaded Elibrada Community, shooting sporadically.
The Chairman of the APC, Chief Emeka Beke, disclosed this after casting his vote at Ward Three in Elibrada Community, Emohua LGA
Beke noted that the three victims, with a sitting lawmaker in the state, had hijacked ballot boxes before the military arrived.
He said the three were killed while attempting to make away with the sensitive materials.
Two other persons were killed during a heavy shooting at Bori, the headquarters of Khana LGA in the state, when voters trooped out en masse to protest alleged irregularities.
The voters alleged that materials were transferred to the homes of top politicians, while materials meant for Ikwerre LGA were sent to them.
No fewer than 22 Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines were reportedly missing in Rivers State.
In Cross River State, a member of the APC was also shot dead at Ogoja in the northern senatorial district of the state.
The victim, who was simply identified as Joe, was allegedly shot dead by a soldier for causing a crisis at a polling unit.
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Irene Ugbo, said, “that is the information we got.”
In Akwa Ibom State, two persons, whose identities were unknown, were reportedly shot dead by security operatives while approaching the INEC office at Oko Ita headquarters of Ibiono Ibom LGA for an undisclosed mission.
The governorship candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Senator Bassey Albert, told journalists at his country home that the corpses were immediately taken away in an official government vehicle.
Senator Albert from Ibiono Ibom LGA expressed shock over the incident and called on security operatives to properly investigate the killing.
However, the state Governor, Udom Emmanuel, while speaking with journalists after voting in his area, Awa Iman, ward 1, unit 1, Onna LGA, decried the invasion of the state by fake police personnel.
Emmanuel said he knew of a woman who came to the state as Commissioner of Police with a truckload of fake policemen to disrupt the elections.
In Benue State, a suspected ballot box snatcher was gunned down at a polling unit in Gboko LGA.
An eyewitness said the young man was shot dead while another sustained gunshot injury when they tried to snatch a ballot box at a polling unit in Gboko South.
Chairman of Gboko LGA, Isaac Mtom, said he got information that one person was shot while trying to cart away electoral materials.
Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP. Catherine Anene said she was yet to receive the report.
Some men who allegedly dressed in Army uniform also beat up a member of the House of Representatives, representing Buruku Federal Constituency in the state, Kpam Jimin Sokpo.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Sam Egwu, has, however, announced the postponement of the governorship and state assembly elections in Kwande LGA of the state.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has confirmed the arrest of scores of suspected thugs in the Nsukka axis of Enugu State.
The spokesman of the Enugu State Command of the corps, Danny Iwuchukwu, who confirmed the arrest, said that the operation was carried out in the early hours of yesterday.
He said that the thugs, numbering over 100, were arrested by officers of the Nigerian Army providing security in the Nsukka axis after an intelligence tip-off at a popular hotel in Nsukka.
He noted that the thugs, who were arrested with AK-47 rifles and other dangerous weapons, including axes, clubs, and matchets, have since been handed over to the Nigeria Police in Nsukka
In Taraba State, hoodlums stormed the distribution centre of INEC in Akate and Asibiti Wards of Donga LGA, where they vandalised the electoral materials.
In Kano State, security personnel averted attempts by thugs to disrupt the voting process at polling unit 02 Charanchi Ward, where the state Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Abbas, was casting his votes.
In Imo State, INEC confirmed the kidnapping and rescue of 19 members of its ad hoc staff while on their way to conduct the elections in Ideato South Local Government Area of the state.
INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner for Imo, Prof. Sylvia Agu, disclosed this in a statement in Owerri; however, they noted that the election materials, including BVAS machines, were still missing.
In Kaduna State, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, who lamented the low turnout of voters, also noted cases of intimidation of voters in the southern parts of the state.
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State also lamented that the turnout of voters was below expectation.
In Kogi State, the Senator-elect for Kogi West Senatorial District and a two-term member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Sunday Steve Karimi, also stated a low turnout of voters compared with the large turnout witnessed at the presidential and National Assembly elections.
Low turnout also marred the exercise in Kwara State yesterday.
In an interview with ARISE NEWS Channel, the Vice President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima, also noted that the turnout of voters was not as impressive as was expected.
Nigerians Discouraged by Presidential Poll’s Outcome, Say Obi, Wike
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the LP, Obi, who voted at his Amatutu polling unit in Agulu, Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, at around 11:20 am, said that he observed voter apathy and “transactional politics,” unlike in the February 25 presidential polls.
He also condemned a situation where politicians buy votes at all costs.
He said: “The electorate was discouraged from coming to vote because of what happened in the last poll that did not reflect the people’s wish.”
Obi said: “People have felt that their votes did not make sense after the previous one they voted for. A situation where over 90 million voters but only about 30 per cent come out to vote shows that they believe their votes will not count.
“Vote buying will not solve the problem of Nigeria. I don’t do transactional politics, but because people no longer see money in the banks, they should collect the money corrupt politicians give them and use it to eat.
“We are talking about our country and how to save it because it is already collapsing,” Obi added.
On his part, the Rivers State Governor, Wike, noted that the people were discouraged because they did not get what they wanted in the presidential election, adding that nobody can force anyone to vote.
“When the first election came and went – if people didn’t get what they want, they’re discouraged. And you can’t force people to vote,” Wike said.
Yiaga Africa, CDD Raise the Alarm over Violence, Vote-buying
Yiaga Africa, a pro-election civil society group, in its preliminary report, said yesterday’s elections were marred by vote-buying, intimidation of voters, and thuggery across the states.
In its preliminary report released in Abuja, Yiaga Africa said, “party agents also attacked election observers in Kano and Ebonyi states. Party agents attacked Yiaga Africa observers for observing the election in Kano State.
On its part, CDD has raised doubts over the credibility of Ssturday’s elections following alleged cases of the sale of votes, violence, and intimidation of voters.
While the group commended improvements in the conduct of the elections, especially in the deployment of logistics leading to the prompt arrival of INEC officials, the group noted that there were still occasional issues of non-functionality of the BVAS machines.
Briefing journalists, the Executive Director of the group, Idayat Hassan, said data from its 1,500 observers deployed across the country showed there were more cases of vote-buying compared to the presidential poll of February 25.