The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday suspended elections in six local government areas in the Rivers State re-run elections.
This came as at least six persons were killed in election violence in three local government areas.
The state governor, Nyesom Wike, also chided INEC for shoddy arrangements that led to late kick-off of voting in most centres, just as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged the arrest of Secretary to State Government, Kenneth Kobani, and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Projects, Cyril Dum Wite by soldiers at Kpor and Bori in Gokana and Khana Local Government Areas respectively.
The areas where INEC suspended elections are Eleme, Khana, Gokana, Andoni, Bonny and Tai. Apart from Bonny, the remaining areas are in Rivers South East Senatorial District where Senators Magnus Abe of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Olaka Nwogu of PDP are locked in fierce contest for the senatorial seat.
Speaking to journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday in the course of the elections, Rivers State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Aniedi Ikoiwak, said the commission was forced to suspend elections in the affected areas because interested parties prevented its officials from distributing election materials and also because of violence in the areas.
His words: “Actually, we had deployed, as we told Nigerians, from Thursday and I did mention it clearly that if by act of commission or omission, we are not allowed to occupy the Registration Area Centres (RACs), we cannot actually guarantee that we can deliver 100 per cent.
“Today, we have had the experience where most of our materials were not even allowed to move in; some were returned on the way. Even when we tried to deploy to the RACs in some of the places this morning, certain people with excuses also tried to prevent us from doing so.
“There were accusations of not believing in the materials we brought and so on and so forth. There were issues of violence; there were issues of insecurity of lives. After all, we let the people know, but at the end of the day, we were still prevented from moving out. From 12 noon to 1pm, we did not see that it was necessary for us to continue to press to go to the field.
“Even some of our people who were able to get to the field, they were turned back with sporadic shootings. So, it was better for the life of the personnel to be preserved than trying to conduct the election, even when the environment is not conducive.”
He said: “So we need to let everybody be aware that election is suspended in Andoni, Khana, Gokana, Bonny, Tai and Eleme LGAs. The commission is watching developments in other local government areas and we will brief the press accordingly.”
On the issue of fake election result sheets, Ikoiwak said, “I don’t think there was anything like fake result sheets; I think I have said that times without number. You can imagine what you think but what we know in the commission was that only a result sheet was produced and you cannot say a thing that does not have a duplicate is fake because fake must be compared with the original. So what we had was the original; the fake may be in the imagination of those making such an allegation.”
Casualties of the elections included four persons killed in Eleme; a PDP agent in Tai, Tambari Ntoto; and a staff of Nigeria Immigration Service in Abonnema, Akukutoru Local Government Area of the state.
One person, Lucky Igweh, was shot by soldiers at Rumuokwuta in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the the state, where Wike hails from.
He was rushed to the hospital by policemen deployed to the area.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ahmad Muhammad (DSP), however said only one person was killed at Eleme during the elections.
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