Violence, Voter Suppression Claims Mar Governorship Polls

What several voters saw as an opportunity to exercise their franchise turned sour as violent attacks, ballot box snatching, delays and more tainted the governorship and state assembly elections across the country on Saturday.

Africa Today News, New York reports that while the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) seemed to impress voters, relative to the February 25 federal elections, and the exercise kicked off on time at many polling units, a number of others experienced disruptions and delays.

One well-known case was the affluent Victoria Garden City (VGC) in the Ajah area of Eti-Osa Local Government Area (LGA), Lagos State, where the exercise failed to be conducted.

After the situation gained attention online, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Segun Agbaje, was forced to appear in person at the polling location to address the situation.

“We have eight polling units here with 6,024 registered voters and out of which 5,624 people have their PVCs,” he told journalists at VGC, adding that two other polling units at the estate’s main gate were also affected.

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“Eight here (in the estate) and two outside. After due consultation and further directive from the national headquarters that we should remobilise here tomorrow (Sunday) morning by 08:30 am to conduct the elections.”

Similarly, elections did not hold in Asari-Toru LGA of Rivers State, following the insistence of voters to sight electoral officers and collation officers.

It was gathered that a heated disagreement broke out at the Registration Area Centre (RAC) in Buguma over the absence of INEC electoral officers and result sheets, which required the intervention of security agents to bring under control.

Meanwhile, videos widely shared on social media showed Lagos-based voters with cuts and bruises, claiming to have been subjected to severe flogging and gruesome stabbings by hoodlums wielding canes and various sharp objects.

One of such victims was Nollywood actress Chioma Akpotha who took to Instagram to share her ordeal at the hands of men armed with knives and bottles.

The film producer, in a livestream, narrated to her followers how moments after she was accredited at her polling unit in Eti-Osa LGA, armed thugs scared her off and damaged her vehicle.

‘They destroyed my side mirrors, hit my car. I don’t even know the extent of the damage to the car, but I just ran out for my life because they were bringing out knives; they wanted to stab me. Thank God I came with some people to help me,’ she said.

Numerous other voters in Lagos reported instances of thugs threatening voters with assault – even death – if they did not cast their ballots for the ruling party. Multiple cases of property damage were also recorded.

‘We came to cast our votes as good citizens,” one female voter told Channels Television at a polling unit with 150-200 other eligible voters in Ago Palace Way, Lagos.

‘But then, we had thugs come in here with bottles, canes; they were chasing people away. They kept on saying things like, ‘If you’re not voting APC, get out of here. We’re going to kill you. We’re going to beat you.’ They started scattering everything. They were threatening people.

‘They were breaking glasses, throwing stones, causing a mess. People started running from place to place because they were scared for their lives.’

Voters were not the only victims of violence at Saturday’s vote.

Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also shared in the horror resulting from security breaches around the country.

The electoral officer for Isu LGA of Imo State, Mrs Achibie Ogbonne, was abducted by gunmen, along with the returning officer and some collation officers for the state assembly election in the area.

According to the INEC spokesperson in Imo State, Chinenye Chijioke-Osuji, the election went smoothly and peacefully until the time for collation when unscrupulous elements invaded the LGA office under the pretence of being staff members, driving everyone away with tear gas and guns.

Africa Today News, New York

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