• We’ll petition against intimidation, threat – APC gubernatorial candidate

From Tony John, Port Harcourt

Intimidation, vote-buying, ballot snatching, and destruction were recorded during the governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State, along with widespread voter apathy. The election did not hold in the entire Asari-Toru local government area, leading to demonstrations. Protests also occurred at the INEC RAC in Buguma, Asari-Toru LGA, over the absence of INEC Unit Collation Officers and Returning Officers, with voters chanting “We no go gree!” and “We no go vote!” even after INEC officials arrived.

At Ward 5, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Port Harcourt township, agents of the ruling party allegedly removed votes cast for the All Progressives Congress (APC), Social Democratic Party (SDP), and Labour Party (LP) and burnt them publicly, taking the ballot box containing some votes cast. Voters in Alode Ward 2, Eleme local government, defied threats by suspected thugs of a prominent political party to cast their votes and an announcement by town-criers asking those who wouldn’t vote for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to stay at home. In Ebubu Ward 4, Eleme LGA, suspected armed thugs hijacked election materials in several units.

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The OSPAC, a local vigilance group, reportedly carted away all election materials, including BVAS machines, in Elele Wards 3 and 4, Ikwerre local government area of the state. In Soku, a coastal community, a popular political party engaged in massive vote-buying, with voters paid between N5,000 and N15,000 depending on their bargaining power. Officials of the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) and security personnel were unable to stop the development.

There was heavy shooting by suspected party gangs around Abonnema Ward 6, Units 7 and 8, and all electoral materials were reportedly carted away, with people running to safety. In PHALGA Ward 3, Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 32, 33, 36, 37, 38, in Ogbum-nu-Abali Town Market, suspected party thugs beat up other parties’ agents. In Etche, Ward 14, Unit 7, a former LGA chairman used thugs to stop others from voting except those willing to vote for the APC. A fight also erupted between APC and PDP agents in Unit 22 Boms Hall, Elekahia, PHALGA Ward 19, over vote-buying, with any voter who turned out becoming an object of merchandise among the two parties.

Voters in Bori, headquarters of Khana Local Government Area, staged a protest when they discovered that both the memory and SIM cards meant for the BVAS machines were removed, along with the machines’ power banks. Meanwhile, one of the governorship candidates in the election, Tonye Cole of the APC, noted instances of vote-buying and intimidation during an interview shortly after casting his vote. Cole expressed his intention to write a petition against units where there was intimidation and threat, stating that they were taking notes of these things and the units where they were reported.