The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has said that over 25 of its personnel are in hospital following the supplementary election held in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State, on Saturday.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Rivers State, Aniedi Ikoiwak, told newsmen in Port Harcourt on Monday that the officials were attacked and wounded by the residents of the villages where they had gone to conduct the election.
“This is one area that Nigerians should ask questions: over 25 INEC staff members are in hospital today because the people of Rivers State decided to either kill or wound them,” Ikoiwak said.
“They were all beaten up because they went to those villages to conduct an election. Let the people of Rivers State tell us the offence of any of them.
“What did they do? They were bringing materials for the election; they decided to descend on them, beat them up, collect their personal belongings and run away,” he lamented.
The REC noted that the victims were on official duties and ought to have been provided a peaceful atmosphere to carry out their work, adding that it is time Nigerians took the issue of electoral violence serious.
“It is very sad. None of them was beaten up in his home but where they went to conduct an election.
“Why shouldn’t Nigerians discuss that? Why should people sent to conduct an election be beaten up and their belongings taken away from them?” he asked.
About 700 INEC staff were deployed for the supplementary legislative election in Etche, which was eventually won by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Recall that the commission had conducted re-run elections, in December 2016, into three senatorial districts, eight federal constituencies and 10 state constituencies in Rivers State, after the court annulled the March 2015 legislative elections held in the state.
The December exercise was also characterized by massive irregularities and violence, as a senior police officer was beheaded alongside his orderly.
The National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, had withdrawn from assisting INEC in the election due to security issues, following the death of a corps member, Samuel Okonta, during the re-run election in the state in March 2016.