© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
How violence marred 2019 presidential poll
THE just concluded 2019 Presidential and National Assembly (NASS) election has been a mixed bag of the good and the bad.
There are those who described the election as “peaceful” and those who believe it was characterised by worse violence than what was experienced in 2015 elections.
For example, international observers comprising the US government, European Union Election Observer Groups, Canada and other notable international bodies have described the election as “predominantly peaceful’.
But several media and citizens reports have also shown that the election was enmeshed with killings and kidnapping in states such as Lagos, Rivers, Kogi, Bayelsa, including Borno.
Victims of brutal attacks during the election include the voters, INEC staff, party agents and unarmed security operatives at the 119, 973 polling units.
Though Nigeria’s elections usually have been dogged with violence, the situation appeared to be worse in the just concluded election.
Findings by The ICIR, for instance, revealed that about 58 Nigerians were killed prior to the general election in 2015. The tension was high such that international observers had thought the nation would split.
The ICIR highlights those who paid the ultimate price in the affected states in the just concluded elections.
Kogi – The late Daniel Usman and Mohammed Hammani
Kogi State, one of the stronghold of the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) is generally identified as a fragile state due to usual occurrences of violent attacks, even when there are no elections.
During last Saturday election, Daniel Usman, 300 Level undergraduate of the Kogi State was killed in Ajetachi, Dekina Local Government (LGA). On the eve of the election, the deceased shared on his Facebook page why Nigerians should vote in a peaceful manner. He had no premonition of his death until gun wielding hoodlums attacked his polling unit.
Usman was not the only one whose life was cut at prime, Kogi State Police Command also confirmed death of two others including a police inspector, Mohammed Hammani, killed on Friday in Okene.
The was the reason elections in the Kogi East Senatorial District and Dekina/Bassa Federal Constituency were declared inconclusive by the electoral commission.
During the Saturday election, not less than 35 people were reportedly killed. This is based on reports from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that took part in the poll as election observers. One of the major victims is an alleged member of the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), who was accused of leading thugs to disrupt the election. Identified as Demola, the tall and hefty man narrowly escaped death after he was mobbed by angry voters. He was visibly being stoned and almost got burnt in the process. At some point, he was motionless. Surprisingly, he survived.
Clement Nwankwo, convener of the Situation Room, a coalition of CSOs representing over 70 groups, claimed that 16 people were killed during the election across eight states, and 35 others as claimed by SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based consulting firm.
But the Police Force Headquarters denied this when contacted through the Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba. The spokesperson dispelled the allegation saying there was no single death recorded in Lagos.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police told The ICIR of the need to conduct thorough findings, verify necessary death claims and authenticate them before releasing the figures. He cited an instance of a thug that was mobbed at Okota, Lagos with claims that he was dead only to see that he actually survived.
“In Lagos, there was no single situation of death in Lagos. The only incident that would have gone horrible was the thug that the people got angry and attack around Okota area and the guy never died.
“….we need to be sure of everything. We don’t release any figure of the body we have not seen. So, if for example, somebody told us someone was killed in Lagos, we need to know the family of the person, where the body is, we need to verify. Ultimately, we will brief Nigerians. It is only when we have done these that we can say, yes, one person was killed in Lagos. For now, we have to collate, verify and authenticate the information because life is expensive and precious,” Mba stated.
Lives were lost today at ABONNEMA for the fact that we want to do a presidential election. We need to learn how to conduct peaceful elections in this country. From Lagos to Rivers today were something else.
It is well. @inecnigeria
— Portharcourt Specials❤ (@ph_specials) February 23, 2019
The violence that occurred during the election in Rivers State was widely reported in the news. There were incidents of gunshots where an ad-hoc Staff of the INEC, Ibisekin Amachree, died. An unverified report claimed she was a mother two, shot dead by a stray bullet while returning from election duty. The incident also has generated reactions from both local and international observers.
Some of the hot zones in Rivers are Ahoada LGA, Eleme, Gokana, Bonny and Khana from the 23 LGAs in the state.
IBISAKI AMACHREE was gunned down during the Presidential Election by Nigeria Soldier, on a National Assignment with INEC in Rivers https://t.co/4f2Javrdwq‘s quite a pity, loosing this vibrant Post Graduate holder to One Nigeria.The Amachree’s have indeed lost a beautiful daughter pic.twitter.com/cLl99YtGRI
— harry Airforcer (@harry_airforcer) February 24, 2019
In Abonnema, Akoku-Toru LGA, Rivers, six gunmen were killed by the military, two civilians also died in the process while a military lieutenant reportedly got killed during an exchange of gun battle between the two parties.
In Bayelsa, the military arrested 15 hired persons who served as thugs for a politician in Southern Ijaw LGA of the state while a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Okunola was molested by thugs.
A highly ranked police officer being dragged like a common thief by angry electorates in Bayelsa.
— Port-Harcourt People (@AskPHPeople) February 24, 2019
In Akwa-Ibom, INEC officials and Ad hoc staffs were reportedly abducted by hoodlums at Unit 1, Ward 8, Itu LGA, Ikot Ekang, Akwa Ibom. Election materials were seized and carted away.
A Policeman, who was on duty during the presidential and national assembly poll in Ogun State, identified as Sunday Idoko, was also killed in Ilaro. According to a source in the state Police Command, he was allegedly ambushed alongside other corps members while conveying INEC materials to the collation centre. Idoko, allegedly attached to the INEC was shot in the chest and ribcage. He reportedly died after he was rushed to the hospital.
The ICIR attempted to verify the validity of the claim from DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, but did not return calls. He later issued a press release reporting the incident.
Virtually all the election observers have condemned the level of insecurity in the states urging security operatives to improve on their services. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman also flayed the incidents and all forms of intimidation including burning of INEC vehicles in Bayelsa. He said a comprehensive report on the incidents have been forwarded to the security agencies for investigation and prosecution of the suspects.