© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Violence, Electoral Fraud, Voter Apathy Mar Guber Polls
Voter apathy, malpractices and violence marred the conduct of Saturday’s governorship and state House of Assembly elections in many states.
Elections into governorship positions took place in 29 states of the federation while the state assembly elections held in all 36 states. There was no governorship poll in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Kogi, Anambra and Osun since the tenures of their incumbents are yet to end.
A total of 760 political gladiators contested for 29 governorship positions while some 5,290 candidates contested for positions in the state houses of assembly.
While the elections, which came two weeks after the APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, beat the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party,PDP, in the presidential polls, were generally peaceful, they were attended by violence and malpractices in many states.
In some states like Rivers, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Plateau, Ondo, Lagos, Delta, and Katsina, there were reported cases of violence that necessitated the intervention of security operatives or speculations that INEC would cancel the results of the exercise
In Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State, suspected political thugs snatched ballot boxes in Rumuoluneni area, abruptly bringing the exercise to a halt. Violence also was reported in many parts of the state. In Buguma, the INEC Registration Area Center, in Kalabari National College, Buguma, was burned down while the home of the state’s women affairs commissioner, Joeba West, was also set ablaze.
The arsonists were said to have burnt a police patrol vehicle also in the town.
There were reports earlier in the day that some youths in Obiakpor had alleged that they saw some persons carting away election materials very early in the morning.
The youths then insisted there would be no election in Obiakpor because what they had been provided with are fake election materials.
In what is reminiscent of what happened during the presidential poll in the state, a Channels TV cameraman, Maurice Bassey, was beaten in Rumomasi, Port Harcourt, by political thugs. Initially held for several minutes, the cameraman was however released after being seriously beaten. He sustained severe bruises during the ordeal.
However, Rivers state police commissioner, Hassan Karma, denied the reports of arson in Buguma. He noted that only a mild incident where dynamite was thrown by hoodlums was recorded but admitted that three buses were burnt by the explosion and an INEC official injured in the arm.
In Ebonyi State, one life was lost as the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Ishielu local government area, Emeka Nworie, was killed by suspected political thugs in the early hours of Saturday.
Police Spokesperson in the state, Chris Anyanwu, confirmed that Nworie was attacked in his house in Ezzagu where he was shot several times until he died.
According to Anyanwu, the incident took place at around 3.00 a.m. He said the attackers had asked for money from their victim, which was given to them, after which they still went ahead to kill him.
Ebonyi State has had its share of political violence in the run-up to the 2015 elections. Only recently, two people were killed in Ikwo following a clash between the supporters of the PDP and Labour Party.
In Ondo State suspected political thugs and hoodlums kidnapped INEC officials in Ugbo, in Ilaje local government after snatching all electoral materials meant for the conduct of elections in the area.
A source in INEC confirmed the incident but added that the kidnapped staff had been freed though the materials were yet to be released.
Information is that INEC might cancel election in the area and that any voting or results from the area would be rejected.
In Plateau State, a 21-year-old man was reportedly killed by a soldier at the Ali Kazaure polling unit in Jos North local government area. The man, identified as Salim Nasir, who was a supporter of one of the political parties, was shot dead by the soldier after he engaged a supporter of another party in a scuffle.
It was gathered that Nasir, in the course of the scuffle, drew a knife against his opponent, but as a soldier tried to take the weapon from him, he was said to have struggled with him also. Another soldier then fired at him, killing him in the process.
In Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, voters took to their heels when armed thugs carted away ballot boxes in Ward 1, Unit 1 at Ndiya, Nsit Ubium LGA.
Also in Uyo, a former NYSC director, Edet Akpan, a retired Major General and 10 corps members were arrested by members of the Directorate of State Service, DSS, in Nsit Atai Ward for allegedly thumb printing ballot papers.
In Calabar, capital of Cross Rivers State, presiding Officers attached to polling units 001, 002, 003 and 004 in Constituency 1, Calabar South, had to alert security agents to then possibility of thugs snatching ballot boxes after voting had been concluded.
One of the ad-hoc staff, who prefers anonymity, said they were contacted by one of the agents of one of the parties in the election that they should pave the way for the easy snatching of ballot boxes. The official said they were offered some money as bribe but that hey turned down the offer.
“They have offered us money to allow them snatch the ballot boxes when the time comes, but we turned it down. We have sent messages for more security beef-up,” he said.
Edo State also witnesses its own share of hooliganism and violence. In Edo Central senatorial district, suspected thugs invaded polling units 7and 8 in Ewohinmi and carted away ballot papers, with a similar incident also reported at Opoji.
There was also a clash between PDP and APC youths at Units 27 and 27, in Ugboko, Orhionmwon Ward 5, at about 11am when the former Minister of State for Works, Chris Ogienwonyi, accused a PDP leader in the ward of confiscating over 40 PVCs belonging to some voters.
Tempers also rose in Orhionmwon local government area where a PDP chieftain, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, accused agents of the APC of carrying out attacks on his party’s supporters at Urhomehe Ward, an accusation vehemently denied by the state deputy governor, Pius Odubu.
The turnout of voters in many states, particularly in the North and North central was low. This was the story in Kwara, Nasarawa, Bauchi, Yobe, Gombe and others.
The turnout of voters in Gombe State was not impressive, compared to the presidential election.
Our correspondent said that election officials reported as early as 7:00am local time but voters came out very late for accreditation, yet not many of them showed up for the actual voting.
In the North east state of Gombe, there were two reported cases of ballot box snatching at Dandaura polling station of Herwagana ward and Gabukka polling units all in Gombe, the capital city.
At Dabdaura, some unknown thugs made away with the box while voting was still on. At Gabukka polling unit, local vigilantes chased away the thugs that attempted to snatch the ballot box.
In Kwara State, particularly Kwara North senatorial district, although electoral officials came out on time, the voter turnout was low. And many people did not return to vote.
Despite the hitches, however, many people have expressed satisfaction that there was a marked improvement in the exercise compared to the presidential polls which was marked by widespread irregularities even though local and foreign observers gave it a relative pass mark.
Although there were a few incidents of card reader failure, the machines worked well in most parts of the country and many people gave credit to INEC for this. There were a few exceptional cases of failure tough.
In Kebbi State, despite the early arrival of voting materials in polling units in Zuru local government area, the malfunctioning of the card readers stalled the process there. At two voting points of Zegdari polling unit, card readers failed to read the fingerprints of voters. Manual accreditation using the incident form had to be used for the voters.
In Edo State, despite improvement in logistic arrangement by INEC, as voting materials arrived at the 18 local government areas between 8:00 am and 8:30 am, the exercise was marred in many places by the failure of card readers.
The Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, \criticized INEC over the failure of the card readers used for the conduct of elections in the state. He noted that the low voter turnout was because of the frustration they experienced with the card readers.
Speaking to journalists shortly after casting his vote, Oshiomole said that he had received reports from Esan West, Ward 3 Unit 7 where some it was alleged that some PDP thugs snatched a ballot box. The governor also said he also received reports of ballot box snatching in Ikpoba again by PDP thugs and a similar incident in Okada.
In Yobe, voters came out in their thousands to vote and the balloting was peaceful. Some of the voters who spoke to our correspondent praised INEC for preparing better for Saturday’s election than the March 28 presidential polls.
Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State also commended INEC and security operatives for their professional handling of the election process in parts of the state.
He, however, expressed sadness over the reported cases of violence in parts of Ondo East senatorial district, where he alleged a particular unnamed politician “unleashed mayhem and violence on innocent residents.”
Mimiko said that security operatives were already on the trail of the hoodlums who fired all through the night in an attempt to scare away voters.
In Oshodi, Lagos State, a party agent almost disrupted the accreditation process when she brought packaged rice that was branded with the pictures of a governorship candidate to polling unit 01/026 in Orile area of Oshodi. There was a mild clash between the APC and the PDP supporters over the incident but security operatives calmed the situation
In Borno state, elections may have to be concluded in some local governments on Sunday due to the bad weather condition that affected the transportation of ballot papers, the INEC in the state said.
It was gathered that there were delays in the distribution of ballot papers for Saturday’s polls as a result of the inability of an airplane to land at Gombe International Airport because of the thick “harmattan haze and poor flight conditions” that persisted in the North east sub-region of the country at the weekend.
It would be recalled that ballot papers had to be reprinted for the governorship election in the state as the logo of Labour Party was omitted from the initial one produced.
This compelled the commission to make a last minute effort at getting new ballot papers from Abuja that ran into hitches.
The Borno State Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Samuel Madaki, speaking to journalists on Saturday morning at the commission’s headquarters in Maiduguri said there was non-delivery of ballot papers to 12 Internally Displaced Persons, IDP camps in Maiduguri and some registration areas of Shani, Bayo, Kwaya/Kusar, Damboa and Hawul.
The commission’s public affairs officer in the state, Tommy Magbuin, said that with the exception of Maiduguri Metropolitan Council, MMC, Jere, Magumeri and Gubio councils, all the IDP camps, and nine local government areas in southern Borno, were yet to collect their ballot papers.
He said that voting in the affected areas, could be delayed till Sunday as the Electoral Act of 2010 allowed the commission to extend the voting hours for reasons of late delivery of ballot papers.
At the polling units of Gubio, Magumeri, Jere and MMC, the electoral officers and voters did not encounter the problems associated with
card readers during the last presidential and National Assembly elections.
The governor of the state who is seeking re-election on the platform of All Progressives Congress, APC, Kashim Shettima shortly after casting his vote at about 4:15 pm commended the INEC for a better organised exercise.
He said despite the reprinting of the governorship ballot papers, they were able to deliver them to 23 out 27 local government areas of the state.
Collation of results was still going on across the states at the time of filing this report but results are expected to start coming in early Sunday.