- Thugs ‘kidnapped’ Nigeria election officials
- ABOVE: Amaechi, Wike trade blames
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released the results of nine state constituencies and one federal constituency in which rerun elections were held in Nigeria’s oil hub, Rivers State, on Saturday, but the commission was forced to suspend the electoral process in all other constituencies in the state where results were not announced due to the widespread violence that marred the elections.
However, based on the results released yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) consolidated its control of the state by emerging victorious in eight of the nine state constituencies and one federal constituency seat, while the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) won one state constituency seat.
But as results were announced, the state continued its descent to anarchy as the violent battle for control of the state was exacerbated by the exchange of gunfire between security men in the convoys of the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, and the Chief of Staff to the Rivers State governor, Mr. Emma Woke, in Port Harcourt yesterday, resulting in the death of Woke’s personal assistant. Sporadic shooting was also reported at the Abonema area in Akuku Toru Council, few kilometers to Port Harcourt, the state capital.
This came as Governor Nyesom Wike and the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, squared off against each other at the Mile 1 Diobu police station over a collation officer, Mrs. Ekwi Adebisa, who was purportedly abducted Saturday night by the former governor in company of soldiers.
Confirming the outcome of the rerun polls, the Director of Voter Education Publicity of INEC, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, informed THISDAY that the results were released in nine state constituencies and one federal constituency in the state.
He said PDP won in eight of the state constituencies, while APC won one seat.
PDP, he said, also won one federal constituency but did not give the names of the state or federal constituencies in which results were declared.
Osaze-Uzzi also revealed that the release of further results were suspended due to reports of violence, attacks and even the deaths of INEC officials and ad hoc personnel in the state.
He said all INEC personnel were relocated to Abuja yesterday due to the escalation of violence in Rivers State.
Also in a statement yesterday, he said INEC conducted the polls in Rivers State pursuant to the orders of the Court of Appeal, but “rather unfortunately, some of these elections witnessed the disruption of the process, including the barricading of some of the INEC local government offices and Registration Area Centres (RACs) used for the distribution of electoral materials which led to the late commencement of the exercise in some places and consequently, its smooth take off.
“Of more serious concern was the level of threats, violence and intimidation of election officials and voters by well armed thugs and miscreants allegedly acting on behalf of some politicians, which marred the elections in some areas.
“There were reports of numerous attacks resulting in fatalities, kidnappings, ballot snatching, diversion of officials and materials, amongst others, which necessitated its suspension in 8 local government areas.
“Regrettably, such deviant behaviour has continued today (yesterday). Several permanent and ad hoc staff engaged by the commission have been attacked, again resulting in fatalities, while some have been forcibly abducted and taken to unknown destinations.
“Under such difficult circumstances, the Returning Officers were only able to collate and declare results in one federal and nine state constituencies where the disruption and malpractices were not so widespread.
“Having reviewed the situation, the commission is compelled to suspend all further action concerning the exercise in all the other constituencies in the state pending the receipt of a comprehensive report from its field officials and monitors.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it should be noted that the suspension does not affect the constituencies where the exercise has been completed and the results declared by the Returning Officers,” he said.
However, unconfirmed results obtained by THISDAY from the various collation centres for 11 state constituencies showed that PDP won 10 constituencies, namely: Akukutoru I (Major Jack), Omuma (Kelechi Wogu), Degema (Farah Dagogo), Ahoada East II (Edison Ehie), Ahoada East I (Martins Manna), Emohua (Sam Ogeh), Akukutoru II (Tonye Alalibo), Obio/Akpor I (Martin Amaewhule), Obio/Akpor II (Michael Chindah), Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni (Christopher Ahiakwor).
The candidate of the APC won in the Opobo/Nkoro state constituency, while Betty Apiafi of the PDP won the Abua Odua/Ahoada East Constituency to the Federal House of Representatives.
Speaking on the shootout between the security detail attached to Woke and Peterside, which occurred yesterday evening at the UTC junction, Azikiwe Road, Port Harcourt, Wike told journalists that Peterside, who was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last governorship election in the state, had gone to INEC Registration Area Centre (RAC) in Isiokpo, headquarters of Ikwerre Local Government Area and allegedly snatched the election result sheets for the council.
According to Wike, Peterside, who was with his running mate, Honourable Asita and the APC state chairman, Dr. Davies Ikanya, were then pursued by Woke, who was the PDP agent for Ikwerre.
“The shooting happened because they were chasing them (Peterside and Asita) from Isiokpo,” Wike said.
He said when the security detail of Peterside saw that the PDP agent was still following them as they got to the junction leading to his (Peterside’s residence, they opened fire leading to the death of Woke’s aide.
But in his own account of the incident, Peterside said it was an attack on his life, adding that he was attacked by gunmen in two sports utility vehicles when he was on his way home from the Port Harcourt International Airport.
According to a statement he issued last night, “Two SUVs belonging to Emeka Woke, Nyesom Wike’s Chief of Staff, carrying two unknown gunmen trailed us to UTC Junction and opened fire on my car.
“Our car however did a detour to the DSS office gate where we drove to seek refuge, but the unknown gunmen opened fire again at the SSS men on guard.
“The exchange of fire between the DSS men and the assailants lasted for more than 30 minutes. This is a very ugly experience but I thank God that my colleagues and I escaped unhurt.
“Today’s experience is not only terrifying but also shows the parlous state of security in Rivers State. If I can be engaged openly by gunmen for nearly an hour in the heart of Port Harcourt, only God knows the fate that will befall members of our party and those sympathetic to our predicament.
“What is happening today in our dear state is not only horrible but also constitutes a serious national security risk.”
Before the shootout, however, Wike and Amaechi, squared off against each other at the Mile 1, Diobu police station in the state capital over a collation officer, Mrs. Adebisa, who was allegedly abducted by the minister, Saturday night.
The development, which led to the suspension of collation of results in the constituency, led to a standoff between the leaders of the PDP and APC yesterday.
Adebisa was allegedly taken to Novotel Hotel where the duo of Amaechi and Peterside and the acting Managing Director of NDDC, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, were lodged and results doctored.
The electoral officer was said to have been placed in protective custody by Amaechi and Dakuku.
However, when PDP leaders including Wike got wind of the fact that she had been placed in protective custody at the Mile 1 police station, they rushed to the station seeking an explanation.
Wike later alleged that Adebisa is the girlfriend of the APC candidate for the Port Harcourt Federal Constituency who framed her abduction alongside other APC leaders. He went further to claim that she had compromised the results placed in her care in favour of the APC.
When Wike and some other PDP leaders stormed the station, more than 400 soldiers arrived the station with Amaechi, Peterside and Semenitari and directed that Adebisa be released to them.
The former governor, Peterside, Semenitari and the AIG Zone 6, Calabar, Mr. Baba Adisa Bolanta, were said to have eventually left with her.
But reacting to the report, the Special Adviser (Media) to the acting Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of NDDC, Bekee Anyalewechi said there was no iota of truth in the story that was peddled by the PDP-led Rivers State Government.
“We have received, with bemusement, the attempt by the Rivers State Government and its image managers to retell the facts of the incident of Sunday, March 20 which occurred at the Mile 1 Police Divisional headquarters in Port Harcourt when Rivers State governor, Ezebunwo Wike, in the company of a retinue of aides, invaded the police station and held the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) collation officer for Port Harcourt Ward 10, Mrs. Ekwi Adebisa, hostage.
“Whereas it is not in our style to join issues with any tier of government, it is imperative that we state the facts because of the need to safeguard our electoral process and strengthen the confidence of our people in their leaders.
“Mrs. Ekwi Adebisa, the Port Harcourt City Ward 10 Collation Officer, for the March 19 rerun legislative election in Rivers State, was moved by force to the police station. The result she had collated was separated from her.
“While at the police station, agents of the Rivers State Government, brought her under duress to write a statement that she had been abducted and made to falsify the ward result by agents of All Progressives Congress (APC).
“That they forced her to the police station and kept her under traumatic conditions was in itself criminal. But that they had forced the result she had lawfully collated out of her custody was more criminal,” Anyalewech said.
According to him, “Governor Wike had arrived the police station accompanied by Sen. George Sekibo, Mr. Austin Opara, Azubuike Nmerukini, as well as other aides of the governor.
“As a leader in APC, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, acting Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), being in attendance at the meeting, was among those delegated to go and see what the actual development was.
“When Semenitari and others arrived the police facility, they confirmed the report. In conclusion, we state therefore, that it was shocking to read a statement issued by Mr. Simeon Nwakudu, Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media, linking Semenitari to facts contrary to the truth as stated here.”
Reacting to the performance of his political party, the PDP, Wike said the rerun elections in the state had shown clearly who is on the ground and is accepted by the people.
He said the rerun elections had proved that the control of INEC, the federal might, military, police and other security agencies cannot translate to electoral victories, as the people will always resist agents of rigging.
Wike blamed the military for the deaths recorded in Saturday’s election, alleging that the victims were killed by the military and not by politicians or residents of the state.
He also said most soldiers deployed for the elections were used by the APC leaders to hijack materials, illegally arrest PDP members and manipulate the process.
He said the people resisted the attempt by the military to subvert the electoral process.
He said the number of troops unleashed to intimidate and harass Rivers people was regrettable, even as they failed to tackle security challenges in the country.
In a related development, the Nigerian Army explained yesterday that it arrested the Secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG), Chief Kenneth Kobani, for allegedly disrupting the last Saturday’s rerun elections in the state.
This is as the Nigerian Police, Zone 6 Command, said a total of 24 persons were arrested from different parts of the state for various allegations of criminal and electoral offenses during the rerun elections.
The Commander, 2 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Brigadier General Stephenson Olabanji, who spoke to newsmen at the police headquarters in Port Harcourt yesterday, said: “Many people were arrested yesterday (Saturday) for disrupting the electoral process and the law is not meant for just the lower cadre alone. No matter who you are, if you go against the law, you will definitely face the music.
“So there is nothing like being the Secretary to the State Government, many people were arrested as you have been told. A lot of people were arrested.”
The army commander denied claims by the state government that some of its commissioners and other top officials were manhandled by men of the Nigerian Army during the rerun elections.
He said: “If you say arrest, we can say yes, but there was nothing like manhandling. We are meant to protect civilians, not to manhandle them.”
In his remarks, the AIG in-charge of Zone 6 said those arrested during the rerun elections were currently undergoing interrogation at the State Criminal Investigations Department (SCID), Port Harcourt.
“It is pertinent I let you know that we have 24 suspects comprising 22 males and 2 females in police custody, who were arrested from different parts of the state. They are presently undergoing interrogation on allegations of criminal or electoral offences or both,” Bolanta said.
Bolanta insisted that four deaths were recorded in the state during the polls, pointing out that two persons were killed at Buguma in Asari-Toru Local Government Area, while two others were killed at Nonwa-Tai, and Omuanwa communities in Tai and Ikwerre Local Government Areas, respectively.
He said: “I am startled this morning after seeing outrageous figure of deaths associated with the elections as dished out by the media. To put the records straight, four deaths were recorded with two in Buguma, while Nonwa-Tai and Omuanwa each recorded one.”