Residents of Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states, on Saturday, filed out to cast their ballot during the off-season governorship elections amid violence and alleged manipulation of the system.
DAILY POST reports that about 5,169,692 eligible voters collected their Permanent Voter’s Card, PVC, for the election.
The exercise, which was held in 10,470 polling units across the three states, was, however, marred by thuggery and cries of manipulation.
Before Saturday, INEC had alerted Nigerians that the exercise would not be held in two polling units in Bayelsa and 38 in Imo. This may not be unconnected to security issues bedevilling the areas.
Aside from the outbreak of violence recorded in several polling units, there were reports of attempts to manipulate the outcome of the polls.
DAILY POST recalls that some INEC officials were allegedly caught with pre-recorded result sheets in PU 020, Eika/Ohizenyi, Okehi LGA of Kogi State.
Senator Dino Melaye, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state, also raised the alarm that all polling units in Ogori/Magongo local government areas of the state had their result sheets tampered with or prefilled.
Responding to the irregularities, INEC in a statement on Saturday night, suspended the election in nine wards of Ogori/Magongo Local Government Area.
Prior to the commencement of the election on Saturday, an INEC official in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State was kidnapped by suspected thugs.
In a statement on Friday, Wilfred Ifogah, head of INEC voters’ registration in the state, said the electoral official was kidnapped while waiting to board a boat at the jetty.
During the election, a violent clash between supporters of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Famgbe, Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, led to the killing of a yet-to-be-identified man.
The clash, which involved suspected political thugs, resulted in gunshots that led to the death of one person.
Our correspondent gathered that one Ovie Ogbara, a younger brother to Benjamin Ogbara, a former Bayelsa State House of Assembly aspirant under the APC was allegedly one of those shot during the incident.
Similarly, election materials were reportedly carted away by armed thugs who broke into polling units in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and shot sporadically into the air.
DAILY POST gathered that voting materials were destroyed at Agorogbene, units 6, 7, and 8 in Ward 11 of the Local Government.
Sources said that when the electorates attempted to confront the armed men, they were met with a barrage of gunfire.
More worrisome was the attack on an ad-hoc staff of INEC and a corps member by thugs suspected to be working for the APC.
DAILY POST gathered that the thugs also carted away the election materials, the BIVAS for Ward 1, Unit 23, located at Onopa in Yenagoa Local Government Area of the state.
A bag and other belongings of the corps member were also taken by the armed thugs.
Also, in ward 11 of Opume and Emakalakala in Ogbia Local Government area of the state, armed APC thugs descended on unit 14,15 and 19, disrupting the election process. But before the process was disrupted, some results were recorded.
The exercise was disrupted at Amaimo Central School, Amaimo ward, Ikeduru LGA, Imo state, following reported sounds of gunshots by security operatives.
Across the state, security operatives, especially the police were being accused of aiding thugs and INEC officials to manipulate the process for the APC.
A case in point is where NSCDC officials alleged that they were disarmed by policemen under the supervision of an aide to Governor Hope Uzodinma.
Similarly, thugs allegedly working for APC, carted away ballot boxes and other election materials at Umuchoko Umuohiagu Junction Polling Unit, Ward 11, in Ngor Okpala LGA.
There were also reports of suspected armed robbers in Owerri North Local Government Area, who carted away the sum of N1.5 million earmarked for vote buying.
DAILY POST gathered that the daring robbers stormed the area where four polling units were located, shot sporadically and demanded money from the APC officials.
Under intense gunfire, DAILY POST witnessed individuals, including journalists and police officers, scamparing for safety.
A police officer was also brutalised by community youths after the officer allegedly snatched election materials at a polling unit.
DAILY POST learnt that the officer, alongside others who were beaten by the irate youths, was attached to a chieftain of APC, in Ikeduru Local Government Area.
Although the Police Public Relations Officer in Kogi State, SP William Ovye Aya told DAILY POST prior to the election that the state command made necessary moves to ensure a peaceful election, the exercise was characterised by violence.
Contrary to the assertion of the PPRO that the command had “engaged party leaders and relevant stakeholders to talk to their supporters to stop the violence”, there were reports of incidents aimed at snatching electoral materials.
DAILY POST recalls that military operatives on election duty in Igalamela local government area of the state intercepted and arrested the council chairman and several party supporters for being in possession of ammunition and cash.
The soldiers seized the cash, as well as a large cache of ammunition. The video of the operation has been trending on social media.
Several AK-47-wielding men, suspected to be fake policemen, were also arrested in the State.
Recall also that the governorship candidate of the Action Alliance, Olayinka Braimoh was also arrested in Kabba after some materials were allegedly found in his car.
Speaking to DAILY POST, a public affairs analyst, Sam Amadi, berated the electoral umpire and security agencies for allegedly failing to meet expectations.
According to him, INEC’s performance in the gubernatorial election was worse than how it handled previous polls.
Amadi, who condemned the electoral violence recorded in some parts of Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa, alleged that incumbent governors of the states pocketed the security agencies.
He said, “So far, what we have seen is a continuation of electoral manipulation. This is a sham election. The only difference is that the level of manipulation has gone deeper.
“The level of violence and violation of rules superseded what we witnessed in the February and March general elections.
“The way governors are going around with security operatives intimidating their opponents is just too bad.
“Violence disorganised the election and vote buying in this election is even higher than what we witnessed in the previous elections.
“The story is simple, both INEC and security agencies are not encouraging.
“INEC has done worse than what it did during the general elections; for example, see reports from Kogi State, election results were written before the exercise started.”