The abduction and release of four officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Bumodi-Gbene in Yenagoa and Ologi in Ogbia Local Government areas of Bayelsa State yesterday marred the conduct of the Governorship election in the state.
Also recorded in some local Government councils were alleged hijack of ballot papers, violence, sporadic shooting, vote buying and issue of late arrival of election materials.
Our correspondent gathered that officials of INEC on election duty were abducted in Bumodi-Bgbene community in Ekpetiama clan of Yenagoa Local Government Area.
It was gathered that the officials were rounded up by some irate youths suspected to be thugs and taken to a building within where they were locked up and held incommunicado.
In Angiama community of Southern Ijaw, election materials meant for the area were intercepted and hijacked by suspected thugs.
According to one of the ad-hoc staff, who is also an NYSC member (names withheld) and who managed to escape from the scene, one of the police personnel, a woman was pushed into a creek but is alive, while three officials whereabouts are unknown.
At Ologi (Ward 03) of Ogbia Local Government Area, a senior electoral official announced the cancellation of voting due to the violent incident that included “seizing” of an electoral official.
The official, Ukuachukwu Orji, who is the INEC supervisory resident electoral commissioner for Ogbia LGA, said members of the Ologi community forcibly prevented election in the riverine area, “As our people (electoral officers) were coming into the community after crossing the river, they seized them and the materials and burnt all the materials.They chased our people away and seized some but the military rescued them.”
Mr Orji, who is originally the REC for Anambra State, spoke in Otuoke (Ward 13 of Ogbia LGA) where President Goodluck Jonathan and his family voted. He said election in the community was then cancelled as a consequence of the violence.
He expressed satisfaction that election has been smooth in other communities that form the LGA, except in Ologi. The governorship election in Bayelsa State is being held in all the eight local government areas of the state.
The APC in Bayelsa State has raised alarm over the high level election violence and material hijacking in parts of the State in today’s election. Amos Jotham, Chairman, APC Bayelsa State.
While speaking to newsmen, Amos Jotham decried the high level of election violence and hijacking of materials been perpetuated by the PDP. He specifically noted the widespread violence in Yenagoa the State capital, precisely in YELGA Ward 2, Onopa community and Opolo where materials were hijacked by PDP thugs loyal to Hon Oforji Oboku, a member representing YELGA constituency 1 in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly while shooting sporadically to disperse voters.
The State APC Chairman who used the occasion to call on all security agencies to take note of the situation, noted that the PDP which is currently drowning in the State because of the lack of popularity and acceptability of its candidate, has decided to resort to hijacking of election materials as the only way out.
Other areas where election materials have been hijacked by the PDP are Sagbama Ward 6, 7, 11 and 14. The Chairman lamented over such high level of electoral misconduct in Sagbama, the LGA of the incumbent governor, Henry Seriake Dickson.
The State APC chairman while calling on all APC supporters to maintain peaceful conduct throughout the process, noted that, it is very glaring that the APC is coasting to victory because of the popularity and acceptance of its flag bearer David Lyon who is poised to transform Bayelsa State from its current state of quagmire the PDP led administration has taken the State into.
At Ogbia, one Hon Gibson Munalayefa, a member representing Ogbia constituency 2 in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly was also spotted with a group of thugs shooting to disperse voters while carting away with election materials meant for the Area.
Former President, Goodluck Jonathan, has expressed disappointment over the late arrival of election materials to his polling unit, 39, in Otuoke under ward 13 of Ogbia Local Government Area in Bayelsa State.
Jonathan, who was expected to cast his vote early morning, met only journalists on ground, when he arrived his polling unit about 8:30a.m. Arriving the polling unit he said to a reporter: “are you an electoral officer,” and when the journalist replied that he is a reporter, Jonathan then asked “where are they?
He further said “well, this is where I will vote, but since they are not here yet let me go back inside. You see now, youths of nowadays, you need to do more,” he stated. Attempt to have him grant an interview to the media proved abortive, as he declined further comments.
Eventually, Former President Goodluck Jonathan emerged with his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan to cast his vote in the presence of Ukuachukwu Orji, who is the INEC supervisory resident electoral commissioner for Ogbia LGA.
According to Jonathan, “My wife and I were able to cast our votes today as soon as the polling booth at Unit 39 Ward 13 in Otuoke opened just before noon. I urge Bayelsans and voters in Kogi State to go about performing this important civic responsibility in a peaceful manner. I am encouraged by the determination and yearning of Nigerians for good governance to believe that we will soon get to a point where we will adopt the right attitude and innovation that will strengthen our democracy”.
The Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson who voted at Oruerewari, Polling Unit 005, Toru Orua in Sagbama local government area, called on the Indepedent National Electoral
Commission to cancel the election in some parts of the state, where the exercise was characterized by alleged brigandage, hijacking of electoral materials and personnel.
Governor Dickson, also called for outright cancellation of the elections in Nembe local government area where over twenty PDP faithful were massacred by armed APC militia during an aborted campaign rally of the PDP, “I call on the Chairman of INEC to issue an order canceling the process in all the wards, in all the local government areas affected, in all the wards and units, where materials have been stolen or hijacked, where officials have been kidnapped and held hostage to enable the APC cook up non existing figures.”
Governor Dickson reiterated that the APC is an unpopular party, describing what is happening in the state as an alleged well-orchestrated plan by the APC-led Federal Government to foist a one party system on the country.
According to the governor, rogue elements in the Nigerian Army connived with the APC thugs to perpetrate electoral fraud and insecurity in some parts of Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor and Ogbia and even the state capital, Yenagoa.
Governor Dickson, who highlighted the gruesome killings during the PDP campaign in Nembe, noted that what is going on in Bayelsa is a charade and not a democracy.
He said some of the PDP supporters who were attacked during the campaign in Nembe are still gasping for breath on their hospital beds and called on the APC-led federal government to live up to its primary responsibility of protecting lives and property of Nigerians.
“Materials meant for Eniwari community, Opuama ward, most locations in Southern Ijaw as we earlier predicted were hijacked. As everyone knows, the APC has no foothold in Bayelsa to win an election but they have an armed militia, surveillance contractors who kill and maim for the APC. They also have the Nigerian Army and rogue elements of the Police Force working in concert with them to deny the citizens of these communities their right to vote”.
“So as we are speaking, in our country, in this day and age, gun wielding militia men with the aid of security forces have overrun the election officials and most of the electoral officials in Southern Ijaw. These officials as we speak, have been kidnapped and held hostage. This has been the lot, this has been what we’ve been managing since 2015, with APC at the center, not caring about the lived and dignity of our people. The APC at the center are too hungry and determined to make Nigeria a one party state”.
“The president has to wake up and do something. What is going on in Bayelsa in the name of election is not a democracy. I call on the President to call on the security agents particularly the Army to stop desecrating Democratic governance and subjecting the image of the country to ridicule. I call on the Inspector General of Police to be true to his professional calling and direct the DIG and all the security operatives to protect the people of Bayelsa”. I do not want to be pushed to call on them to defend and protect themselves.”
FORMER Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, has lauded the people of Opokuma in Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State for their peaceful conduct during the governorship election in the area.
Though there was some level of voters’ apathy in the area ostensibly due to the ravaging flood, which has displaced several families, the people were orderly in their conduct.
Alaibe in an interview shortly after casting his vote at his Igbainwari unit in Opokuma said, “what we have started out here is to ensure that the electioneering process is free, fair and credible and it has happened here again.
“You can see there is no ballot snatching, nobody is fighting anybody, it has been a peaceful process that should be emulated across our state.
“As a peace advocate, I am happy when I see things happened seamlessly. INEC has managed to do the right thing today. So, in this unit where I voted it is peaceful and seamless. We thanked INEC and all the bodies including the media and civil societies for a peaceful conduct.”
On the near voters apathy recorded in the area he said, “I think there is a level of voters apathy especially from this side and I am still trying to know why. But some of the physical reasons are clear the flood has affected a lot more of our families, communities and we sympathise with them.
“Some of the polling centres have been moved to other places where people can vote. Nobody will be happy to be casting his or her vote in a situation where you don’t even have a place to lay your head.
“So these are the environmental challenges that we suffer here in the Niger Delta especially in Bayelsa State that is carrying the whole body of water to the ocean.”
In southern Ijaw and Ekeremor, there are reports that election materials have been allegedly hijacked and destroyed by unknown men suspected to be political thugs who invaded the RAC centre in Ekeremor Town.
According to reliable sources, the materials belonging to Koluama 1&2 communities in constituency 4 of SILGA were destroyed after several hours of arguments by agents of the two top political parties.
The likes of the State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Cleopas Moses, the Director General of the PDP campaign, Nimibofa Ayawei and the Former Chairman of the APC, Tiwei Oruniniegh hail from the troubled Koluama 1 and Koluama 2.
Though the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Hon. David Lyon, who is from Olugbobiri community in SILGA, voted peacefully in his ward, some of the voters were seen patiently waiting for commencement by officials of INEC.
Some communities are yet to see INEC officials or voting materials as at 12:30 pm. When journalists visited some of the RAC, electoral official, Ad hoc staffs and security agents were seen scattered around.
Meanwhile in Ewoama ward 3, a member representing Brass constituency 2, Hon. Timi Omubo Agala, commended INEC for the early sorting and development which led to early commencement of voting.
He said the early slow start of voting might be due to some of the voters coming in from neighbouring communities but as it progresses the turnout will be more.
Agala, said the area is the stronghold of the APC and there was no doubt for victory, adding that apart from the politics of party they are all brothers and will remain together even after the elections.
According to the former Special Adviser to Bayelsa state governor on talent development and gender, Hon. Helen Bob, said she was there to perform her civil responsibility because she understands the importance of leadership.
She commended the turnout of voters early to their polling units, and their peaceful disposition adding that she believes the tempo will be maintained till the end of the exercise.
The Executive Chairman of Brass Local Government Area, Hon. Victor Inodunimi Isaiah, who is of the PDP, also exercised his democratic right at his Polling unit 001, Ewoama (Ward 3).
Speaking with newsmen, Hon. Victor Isaiah said, the election so far in his unit has been peaceful with an appreciable voter turnout and commended the people of Ewoama for conducting themselves very peacefully.
Rating the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Brass Council Chairman, applauded officials of INEC for starting the voting process early. He however,called on the electoral commission to improve on logistics and operation, which according to him, will better the election process and boost voter confidence and commitment.
Furthermore, he urged the security operatives on election duty to avoid being used by wicked and desperate politicians but be proactive especially in response to matters of security breaches and electoral violations or improprieties.
The governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) , Senator Douye Diri has raised alarm over pockets of alleged electoral fraud in some parts of the state in the on-going governorship elections.
Diri who voted in Unit 4 ward 6 at his community Sampou, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area said while the election was peaceful and orderly in his area, the same cannot be said in some parts of the state.
According to him members of the All Progressive Congress (APC) are having a field day in Southern Ijaw, Nembe, Ogbia and Yenagoa where they are using security agents to intimidate PDP supporters.
He called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials not to accept cooked figures as results.
Diri also tasked security agents to protect the electorate.
A Federal House of Representatives Member representing Brass-Nembe Federal Constituency, Hon. Israel Sunny-Goli cast his vote at Kemmer-Ama, Brass Ward II of Brass Local Government area of Bayelsa State.
Sunny-Goli described the election as peaceful and commended the INEC for the quick arrival of election materials to units and wards of the state.
At Ogbolomabiri, Nembe, INEC ad-hoc staff arrived the Registration Area Centers (RAC) centre at Nembe National Grammar School, about 7:00 am where materials were sorted and arranged for easy distribution to the various units.
Especially in Ward1 Unit 1, Ward 2, Unit 1 and Ward 2, Unit 8 all in Ogbolomabiri, materials and INEC ad-hoc staff arrived about 7.45am to setup the Units as prospective voters waited patiently.
Meanwhile, in Ogbia LGA, the INEC was yet to dispatched both sensitive and non-sensitive materials to the RACs in Ward 12 and 13 both located in Otuoke and Otuokpoti Communities about 9:45 am.
Speaking on the development, Mr John Ebiladei, the RAC Manager of Ward 13 and Mr Festus Abulema, the RAC Manager of Wards 12, confirmed that materials have arrived the various polling units and centers, promising that voting would soon commence.
But in Southern Ijaw, there are reports that election materials have been hijacked by unknown gunmen, while materials were said to have been destroyed by hoodlums at the RAC in Ekeremor Town.