the legislatives rerun election in Rivers State, on Saturday, was again marred by violence and ballot box snatching, while one person was killed in the Gokana Local Government Area.
At Saint Pius, Ward 3, in Bodo, men suspected to be operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad stormed the polling units, shooting sporadically, killing one 25-year-old Meebara Kormaga.
Kormaga, who only left his residence to cast his vote, was shot in the neck, while his assailants carted away some election materials.
One of our correspondents, who was at the place after the shootings, observed that officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission and hundreds of voters deserted the vicinity after the operatives left.
One of the voters, who identified himself as Michael Emabe, told newsmen that at about 11.45am, while voting was ongoing, a Hilux van was driven in to the area with SARS officials who began to shoot indiscriminately into the air.
He said, “The election was going on peacefully and we saw two Hilux vans with SARS officials. At a time, they just shot in the air and packed all those things (election materials) away. Report coming to me now is that somebody died.
“They were telling us that the election will be peaceful, but one person is dead and four persons in critical state. They said the police are here to guard us; I don’t know that they are coming here to kill us. They were people from Federal SARS.”
Another voter at Saint Pius, the 10th, Ward 3, in Bodo, Gokana LGA, told SUNDAY PUNCH that operatives of SARS were responsible for the shooting that led to the death of Kormaga.
The voter, who preferred not to be mentioned, said, “They were voting in Ward 3 (here) at Saint Pius, the 10th College in Bodo, suddenly, some SARS men came and started shooting. If you enter the compound, you are going to see the ‘work’ of the bullets all over the wall.
“They came to hijack the boxes. They sprayed the bullets in such a manner that if you cannot lie down, you would be injured. So, a lot of people escaped. I think a greater number of people have voted, except a few. Somebody was hit just along this road. They targetted him and shot him dead.”
Speaking on the incident, the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Kenneth Kobani, described the killing of Kormaga as unfortunate, adding that the SARS operatives that carried out the act also came to Ward 1 in Bodo, but were stopped by soldiers on the ground.
“What we witnessed in Gokana today was a military assault on the peaceful people of Gokana. A team of SARS came in and began to shoot sporadically. I foresee a nightmare scenario with what is going on.
“Let them go and announce the cooked-up result. The killing of the 25-year-old man is a murderous act. This election is worse than the inconclusive elections,” Kobani said.
But the All Progressives Congress senatorial candidate of Rivers South-East, Senator Magnus Abe, commended the conduct of the State and National Assembly rerun elections in his senatorial district, particularly in the Gokana Local Government Area.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after casting his vote at Ward 16, Unit 10, Bera, in the Gokana LGA at about 11.55am, Abe said although he had got reports about a few cases of late arrival of materials and ballot box snatching, the situation was promptly responded to by security operatives.
Explaining that the conduct appeared to impressive, Abe commended the law enforcement agents for their vigilance, lauding President Muhammadu Buhari and the service chiefs for providing adequate security for the election.
He said the people turned out en masse to cast their votes without fear or favour because of the adequate security.
“We are getting report of hoodlums still having the audacity to come out to attack and try to hijack materials in some areas. But in all, the security responses have been prompt and adequate.”
The exercise was, however, peaceful in some areas, even as armed political thugs engaged snatched election materials in some parts of the Ikwerre LGA, the home town of the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi.
The gunmen shot several times in the area, causing tension and chasing voters away before hijacking voting material into the bush around 2pm.
A former governor of the state, Sir Celestine Omehia, who voted at the unit and left before the incident, expressed worry that there were no soldiers at the units.
It was, however, gathered that Amaechi led a team of security personnel in search of the hoodlums, who snatched election materials.
There were also reports of ballot box snatching in the Ogu/Bolo LGA and heavy shooting in Ubima in the Ikwerre Local Government Area.
The State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Nnamdi Omoni, told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview that he had not received any report that a life was lost during the Saturday’s election.
Omoni stated, “To the best of my knowledge, no such report has reached me. DIG Joshak Habila led a team of security agencies to some parts of the state.
“We were in Kpor in Gokana, Bori (Khana), Sakpenwa and Tai and we saw visible presence of policemen and nobody confronted us with any report that somebody was shot dead.”
Wike, Peterside disagree on poll
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, and the former governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the state, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, disagreed on the conduct of Saturday’s rerun in the state.
While Wike expressed misgiving over the conduct of security operatives during the election, Peterside said the governor was blackmailing the leaders of the APC, security agencies and INEC in order to hoodwink unsuspecting members of the public.
Speaking through a statement signed by Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, his Special Assistant on Electronic Media; Wike accused the Nigerian Army and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police of killing PDP agents, hijacking electoral materials and working to deliver a particular candidate in Rivers South-East Senatorial District.
Wike added that no matter the use of the Nigerian Army and SARS personnel by the APC government, Rivers State would never be “conquered.”
He alleged that there was heavy shooting by the Nigerian Army and the Police in Khana, Gokana, Akuku-Toru and the Etche LGAs on Saturday, saying security agencies were deployed in the state to manipulate the results of the polls.
He said, “I anticipated it. I tried to let the world to 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 to the last. That is what is expected when you are fighting for freedom. You must make sacrifices.
Peterside, who is the current Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, said in a statement by his media team that no amount of propaganda and lies would save Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party from rejection by Rivers people.
He expressed displeasure over the way known sympathisers of the PDP and serving government officials had been spreading falsehood and publishing fake results both in the traditional and social media.
Reacting to the allegation by the governor that operatives of the Army killed PDP agents and hijacked election materials, the Assistant Army Public Relations Officer, 2 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Lt. Olayemi Shokoya, said he had yet to receive such report.
“It is an allegation and we need to investigate it. So far, I have not received such report,” he said.