• GOC accuses PDP leaders of lying
• Wike says army, police connived with APC to rig poll
• Peterside says it’s propaganda
Just as experienced during the 2015 general elections and the March 19 rerun, yesterday’s legislative rerun in Rivers State was again marred by killings, bomb blasts, gunshots, thuggery, violence and snatching of ballot boxes and other electoral materials.
The Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, alleged that two agents of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were shot dead in Bodo-Ogoni in Gokana Local Government Area of the state, allegedly by security agents.
Bodo-Ogoni is the hometown of the Secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG), Chief Kenneth Kobani, while the shooting mostly took place at St. Pius College of the crude oil and gas-rich town, when accreditation and voting were about to commence.
The deafening gunshots in Bodo made the electorate and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to scamper to safety.
There were also bomb blasts in Abonnema-Kalabari, the headquarters of Akuku-Toru LGA of the state, with elections in the area postponed till today.
Hoodlums equally engaged security personnel in heavy shootout in Bori, the traditional headquarters of Ogoniland and the seat of Khana LGA of the state and other parts of the council, with gunshots also recorded in Etche LGA of Rivers.
The electoral commission announced the cancellation of the polls in Unit 3, Ward 9 of Bolo in Ogu/Bolo LGA of the state, over snatching of electoral materials by hoodlums.
INEC’s electoral materials for the rerun in Unit 10, Ward 3 of Oyigbo, the headquarters of Oyigbo LGA of the state were snatched by hoodlums.
The Rivers Chairman of the PDP, Chief Felix Obuah, raised the alarm on the arrest and killing of many members of the party, allegedly by soldiers in Tai-Ogoni and Gokana-Ogoni LGAs of the state.
He said: “PDP in Rivers State condemns Nigerian Army’s arrest and killing of members of PDP in Tai and Gokana LGAs. The soldiers arrested over 200 PDP members in Tai LGA, 12 innocent PDP members were shot and one member of the party was killed in Tai LGA.
“Barako community in Gokana LGA was also invaded by soldiers; scores of PDP members were arrested.”
The General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the newly-created 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt, Maj.-Gen. Kasimu Abdulkarim, described as false, the alarm raised by Rivers PDP chairman.
Maj.-Gen. Abdulkarim, yesterday in a telephone interview, admonished all right-thinking Rivers people and other stakeholders to ignore the lies of Obuah and other leaders of the PDP.
The GOC said: “It (Obuah’s allegation) is not true. Let them not create conflict within a conflict. Nobody should raise any alarm. I have just returned to the office in Port Harcourt, from monitoring the elections, which have been peaceful and the voters are orderly.
“I was with the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Operations), Habila Joshak, when the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, called him to know the security situation on the ground and he (DIG) told IGP that everywhere was very calm and the electorate exercising their franchise. I do not know why they will cry wolf, where there is none.”
Bulk of the voting yesterday took place in seven LGAs of Andoni, Akuku-Toru, Bonny, Etche, Ikwerre, Khana and Gokana, while the rerun was planned for 1,840 polling units in the 23 LGAs, across the three senatorial districts of the state, before violence erupted in some parts of the state.
The polls were to elect three senators, eight of 13 members of the House of Representatives and nine (not 10) of 32 members of Rivers House of Assembly, excluding Degema constituency, being occupied by an ex-militant leader, Farah Dagogo, based on favourable judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja penultimate week.
To ensure free, fair, credible and peaceful rerun, there was heavy deployment of soldiers, policemen, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security agents in the hitherto volatile Niger Delta state.
The Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), could not vote yesterday at his Ubima hometown in Ikwerre LGA, because the result sheet was missing, with the presiding officer of his Unit 14 later arrested by security agents.
Gunmen also carted away all the electoral materials in Unit 16, Ubima, shortly after another indigene of the town, Sir Celestine Omehia, a former Rivers governor, but of the PDP, voted.
Heavy shootout was also witnessed at Ubima till late in the evening yesterday, with the electoral materials of Unit 3, Ward 8 in the town also carted away by hoodlums, while the ballot boxes of some units in Ward 3, Elele, in the same Ikwerre LGA, were snatched.
The Rivers governor, later in an online statement yesterday evening by his Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, accused the Nigerian Army and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police of killing the two PDP agents, hijacking electoral materials and working to deliver a particular candidate in Rivers Southeast Senatorial District.
He claimed that no matter the use of the Nigerian Army and SARS personnel by the APC-led Federal Government, Rivers state would never be conquered.
Wike stated that he was reacting to the mass shootings by soldiers and policemen in Khana, Gokana, Akuku-Toru and Etche LGAs of the state during the rerun, alleging that the security agents were deployed in Rivers to manipulate the results of the polls.
He alleged that true to the claim by the APC governors and leaders of the party that they would use federal might against Rivers people, he claimed that the military had been used to rig the elections in parts of the state, even when INEC was still collating the results at the LG level.
The governor claimed that in Khana LGA, the election materials for the entire LGA were hijacked by soldiers and SARS personnel.
He noted that in Gokana LGA, soldiers hijacked electoral materials for Wards 2 and 3 in Bodo, where the military men killed the two PDP agents, allegedly in the process of fleeing with the materials.
Wike stated that out of the 19 wards of Etche LGA, soldiers and SARS operatives hijacked electoral materials for four wards.
He stressed that the unfortunate onslaught by the military and SARS personnel started in the night of December 9, when Amaechi backed by a battalion of soldiers and over 20 SARS personnel, allegedly attempted to hijack electoral materials from the Isiokpo INEC headquarters in his Ikwerre LGA (Amaechi is from Ubima), but was resisted by the youths.
The Rivers governor noted that in Opobo-Nkoro LGA, where the governorship candidate of the APC during the 2015 election, Dr. Dakuku Peterside (he is from Opobo Town, the LG headquarters), hails from, soldiers allegedly hijacked electoral materials and took them to the home of a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the APC, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja.
Wike said: “I anticipated it. I tried to let the world know that these are the plans of the security agencies.
“In all my political career, I have never experienced this kind of invasion by security agencies. What causes violence is when you give certain persons undue advantage.
“Be assured that we are resisting it. It may take our lives, but we will resist it to the last. That is what is expected, when you are fighting for freedom. You must make sacrifices.
“It is unfortunate that we are congratulating the opposition for winning in Ghana, but here the military men are directly involved in rigging and hijacking of electoral materials.”
“They say they want to give Rivers State Governor problems, but you are not giving Rivers State Governor problems, you are giving Nigeria problems.”
Rivers governor also stated that he had informed an unnamed National Commissioner of INEC and the Resident Electoral Commissioner of the commission in Rivers State, Aniedi Ikoiwak, of the problems in Khana and Gokana LGAs, with an assurance that action would be taken.
The Rivers Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Nnamdi Omoni, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), was contacted at 6:51 p.m. yesterday to react to Wike’s allegations, but he declared that the Rivers police command was not aware of what the governor claimed to have happened during the rerun.
Peterside, who is also the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), however, declared that no amount of propaganda and lies could save Wike and his PDP from being rejected by Rivers people.
The APC chieftain, while speaking yesterday, after visiting his Andoni-Opobo/Nkoro federal constituency, where he said voting went on smoothly, lauded INEC and its officials for the impressive performance, in spite of the challenging situations.
He accused the governor of embarking on all manners of propaganda and blackmail against the leaders of the APC, security agencies and INEC, in an attempt to hoodwink unsuspecting members of the public.
Peterside, a former member of the House of Representatives, expressed displeasure at the manner known sympathisers of PDP and serving Rivers government officials were spreading falsehood and publishing fake results both in the traditional and social media.
He said: “Rivers people are tired of Wike and his PDP propaganda, which defy any form of civility and sense of decorum. The governor has made all manner of cries and wailing, in an attempt to be seen as the victim and attract sympathy, even he is busy hatching evil plans by the day.
“The truth is that is the Rivers governor and his PDP members have been plotting all manner of evil and are desperate. Wike is only crying, because all his plans have been checkmated by the presence of security agencies and determination of Rivers people to reject him, because of his deceit.”
The NIMASA boss also called on Rivers people to ignore results being circulated on the social media and mischief of PDP members, who he insisted had been stopped in their known tracks. (The Nation)