March 19, 2016 was an intense day in Rivers State. Legislative rerun elections were billed to hold in 23 local government areas in the oil rich state in the South South geo-political region of Nigeria.
The elections, in which the country’s main opposition party. People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won by a landslide was marred by reports of violence and irregularities. The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP have traded blame on who was responsible for the incidences of violence in an election in which was held to fill 3 senatorial seats, 12 seats on the house of representatives, and 22 seats in the Rivers House of Assembly.
In a report presented at a international press conference on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at Juanita Hotel in Port Harcourt, foreign observers, domestic and civil society organisation who covered the March 19 presented a damning report was presented which outlined the key issues surrounding the preparations, conduct, and the outbreak of violence and irregularities during the polls.
Champion Of Violence: Rotimi Amaechi
The non-partisan report outlines acts of violence and illegalities by Amaechi, who is also a former governor of Rivers State. He is indicted for hijacking election materials in Ward 7 of Ubima, his hometown, in the company of 50 soldiers.
“In ward 7 (Ubima) of Ikwerre LGA, a very senior citizen [Amaechi] with soldiers over 50 in number matched all the electoral material out of their units with the gun wielding soldiers escorting the pool officials to their programmed destination. This result was eventually not accepted,” the report, obtained by The Trent at the press conference, highlights.
Amaechi is also incriminated in the report in the scandalous case of a compromised INEC collation officer, Mrs. Ekwi Adebisa who was arrested by the police with $100,000 at Novotel Hotel in Port Harcourt and taken to Mile 1 Police Station on Sunday, March 20, 2016.
The report states: “In Port Harcourt ward 10, the Collation Officer [Mrs. Ekwi Adebisa] was abducted by a political party with the result sheets. She was arrested by the Police and she confessed on camera to having been compelled to fill the result sheet. While she was in Police custody at Mile 1 station, members of a political party led by top government officials [Rotimi Amaechi, Ibim Semenitari, MD of NDDC, and Dakuku Peterside, DG of NIMASA] with retinue of soldiers stormed the Police Station to forcefully get the lady released unconditionally. However, the presence of the A.I.G in charge of the election in the State aborted their plan.”
The Trent reported the saga surrounding the abduction, arrest of Mrs. Adebisa and subsequent attempts by Amaechi to force the police to release her to him. You may read all about the incident HERE and HERE.
Dakuku Peterside: Amaechi’s Side-kick in Violence
The group of INEC approved election observers also indicted another chieftain of the APC and top government official in the Buhari administration, Chief Dakuku Peterside, the recently appointed director general of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for his role in hijacking election materials and an election day murder.
According to the report, Dakuku stormed the Ikwerre Ward 7 in the company of 50 soldiers in a failed attempt to rig the result of the poll.
“In Ikwerre ward 7 over 50 soldiers and senior members of a political party brazenly and impiously hijacked the materials for election. The attempt to bring result for collation was assisted by the military but eventually failed,” the communique revealed. Our investigations revealed that Dakuku led the team on the criminal operation.
The report also confirmed that an orderly of the chief of staff to Governor Wike was shot dead by security men attached to the NIMASA DG. The observers also condemned Sahara Reporters, which first reported the APC propaganda twisting the facts, for biased and sensational reporting of the incident, saying that “media houses owned by politicians” slanted their “reporting in favour of their directors”.
“It was observed that some media exaggerated matters and infact distorted the facts. This was initially noticed amongst media houses owned by politicians. Their reportage was mainly tilted in favour of the political party of their directors.
“A case in point is the report on the killings of the orderly of the chief of staff to the Governor [Wike]. The report in most newspapers was that the chief of staff attempted to assassinate a governorship candidate [Dakuku], whist in reality it was the orderly of the chief of staff that was killed by security men attached to the governorship candidate,” the report, obtained by The Trent, says.
Amaechi’s Murderous Armed Gang: The Nigerian Army
The election observers noted with disappointed the inglorious role of Nigerian soldiers who were receiving command from Rotimi Amaechi. The soldiers orchestrated an election day campaign of abduction of an INEC official, intimidations, kidnapping, and killings in Rivers State.
The communique documented incidences, spread across the state, in which soldiers were responsible for hijacking election material, aiding politicians in the APC in election fraud, intimidating voters and instanced in which the soldier bullets killed National Youth Service corps members and innocent voters including a pregnant woman in Tai LGA.
Itinerary of Criminality: Documented Crimes of Nigerian Soldiers
“In Okirika LGA 21 polling units in ward 6 had their materials hijacked and escorted by military gun boats to the sea where same was filled and returned, but the INEC officials cancelled the result,” the election observers noted. Citizen reporters have tracked down a female Youth Corps member, Justina Kobani who working as an ad-hoc INEC staff at Okrika. According to her eye-witness testimony, she was almost killed in the operation as she resisted the soldiers and refused to sign the election documents. You may read her story HERE.
According to the report, “in Etche the materials for ward 1, 11 and 13 were hijacked and loaded in Military vehicles to unknown destination and results brought for collation which led to the cancellation of the election in the LGA.“
Again, “in Eleme LGA materials were hijacked in all wards with the aid of soldiers which led the cancellation of the election,” the group revealed.
Other instances of crimes committed by soldiers during the elections are:
“In Khana, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Kenneth Kobani, who resisted the use of soldiers to hijack materials and the use of fake results sheets, was arrested by the Army and forced into an armored personnel carrier (APC). He was released the following day after the elections.”
“In Buguma, Asari –Toru Local Government Area, a senior politician [Flag Amachree-Ojukaye] with the aid of thugs attempted to hijack materials but he was successfully resisted by the voters and in that incident, he shot and killed his Uncle and 3 other persons also died.”
“In ward 8 Ikwerre Local Government Area, an agent of the PDP was shot dead by political thugs.”
“In Ikwerre Local Government Area, senior politicians [Azubuike Nwajoku] including candidates of a political party chased and hit the truck of the INEC Electoral Officer (E.O) of the Local Government Area, the E.O was feared dead and the commission withdrew its staff from the field. The E.O resurfaced after two days.
“A pregnant woman [Mrs. N’baby Nzugha] was killed in Tai LGA by soldiers attached to a politician [Rotimi Amaechi].”
“A member of NYSC [Samuel Okonta] was killed in Ahoada East by soldiers under the command of a politician as he refused to do their bidding to release election materials in his custody.”
The Election Observers & The Report
The communique was issued by the group of election observers made up of the West African Network of Election Observers, Justice and Equity Organisation, Civil Society Network, National Association of State Legislators, African Initiative for Sustainable and Positive Development, and Restoration for Truth and Rights Initiative.
Some of the leaders of the organisations who spoke at the press briefing were Herbert General Lordmator, Mr B. Bafunsho, Emma Nweke, Chief Adolphus and WANEO co-ordinator for Rivers, Ambassador C. Onutemeka.
In addition, the observers also decried the poor voter sensitization in the state prior to the elections, the low number of accredited election observers, biased media reporting in favour of the APC and its politicians, and the fact that INEC employed members of the APC in the state as ad-hoc staff.
You may download the report HERE.