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How violence rocked Rivers rerun elections

The national and state assembly re-run elections were held in Rivers State last Saturday but the polls were marred by widespread killings, and maiming. President…

The national and state assembly re-run elections were held in Rivers State last Saturday but the polls were marred by widespread killings, and maiming. President Muhammadu Buhari described violence that claimed several lives, including that of youth corper, as “barbaric and unacceptable.”
Samuel Chukwudumebi Okonta lost his parents at a very tender age. Okonta who hails from Illah in Oshimili North local government area of Delta State passed through thick and thin to acquire university education. He did all kinds of menial jobs and was able to sponsor himself at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, where he obtained a degree in Political Science and was posted to Yobe State for the one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme but was redeployed to Rivers State as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency.
But Okonta’s fear of killings in the North-east was his nemesis in Rivers State. He was shot dead by gunmen at Ukpeliede town in Ahoada West local government area of the state where he participated as an assistant presiding officer 1 for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the March 19 national and state assemblies rerun elections.
The circumstances that led to his death were indeed pathetic. The deceased was trailed and killed after he had submitted the election results to the local government office of INEC in Ahoada West. Anana Aniekan Udoetor, Okonta’s colleague was with him when the gunmen shot at them from an unmarked vehicle.
According to him, after the elections were conducted, they proceeded to the INEC collation centre to submit the results but on getting there, the situation was tense as both supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were restless. He said as such, they decided to return to Ukpeliede.
He explained that they took a taxi from Mbiama junction to Okeogbe junction where they had hoped to walked to Ukpeliede but shortly afterwards, they saw a vehicle coming towards them without headlights and somebody inside it was pointing a torchlight at them. As the vehicle got closer, Udoetor said the occupants starting shooting at them, even as they ran into the bush but Okonta fell to their bullets.
The death of Okonta was one out of several deaths recorded in the Rivers State rerun elections. Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike condemned the killing and paid condolence visit to the NYSC secretariat. He said the state government would assist the police to investigate the killing of the corps member and called for a post mortem to ascertain the weapon used in taking his life.
In Nowa town, Tia local government area, a young man identified as Tambari was also killed by gunmen. Witnesses said Tambari, an agent of a political party was shot in the head as he tried to resist some political thugs from carting away electoral materials just as a businessman, Chief Gabriel Amachree in Buguma, Asari-Torlu local government council was also shot. Witnesses said the deceased was allegedly shot as he questioned the hijacking of electoral materials meant for the area.
The PDP has accused an APC chieftain and a former council chairman in the area of being responsible for the killing but the suspect absolved himself of the killing.
In Kpite Tia, a pregnant woman was killed as a National Assembly candidate was trying to cart away electoral materials. Witnesses said the deceased was hit by a stray bullet from security agents attached to the politician as they tried to escape with the materials.
But Theophilous Ndamati has every reason to be grateful as he escaped death by the whiskers. He was an APC agent in Rumudamaya, Obio Akpor local government area. He was stabbed in the chest with a broken bottle by a supporter allegedly of PDP.
Ndamati who narrated the incident to a team of security agents that were on patrol of the area said:  “I was at the polling unit and was watching how the accreditation exercise was going on. Suddenly, a young man who is a PDP supporter came and started pushing me around. He wanted me to leave the polling unit but I resisted. Before I could alter a word, he stabbed me in the chest.”
But the suspect said Ndamati was first to stab him in the head before he retaliated. Soldiers immediately intervened to avert a breakdown of law and order.
At Elele and Ubima, pockets of violence were witnessed in the area. Both PDP and APC supporters were said to have engaged themselves in a war of supremacy but the presence of soldiers saved the situation.  At Ubima, the home town of the minister of transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, some supporters of PDP accused APC of disenfranchising them. Some of them who spoke with our reporter said only APC members were allowed to vote at some polling units.
The violence that marked the last Saturday’s rerun election was an off-shot of the war of political supremacy between Wike and Amaechi. The duo once very close, as the governor standing behind his predecessor throughout his political travails and worked with other stakeholders to ensure Ameachi reclaimed his mandate in 2007. Amaechi compensated Wike when he appointed him his Chief of Staff and later nominated him as a minister, but the two later parted ways over unresolved political differences.
Their differences later manifested into a fierce political war that involved former president Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience. This forced Amaechi out of PDP to the APC.
The rerun election was a fall-out of the 2015 polls. Amaechi and his group headed to election tribunal. While his team was able to upturn the 22 state assembly seats, 12 House of Representatives seats and those of three senatorial districts, they were not able achieve the same feat in the Supreme Court as the apex court ruled in Wike’s  favour.
In the rerun, the PDP won all nine National Assembly seats released so far by INEC. However, elections were cancelled in eight local government areas. INEC has also suspended further release of the remaining results.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Aniedi Ikowak, said the suspension of the results was to enable the commission review its activities in the affected areas. He also denied that the electoral agency used fake result sheets during the polls.
Both the PDP and APC are trading blames at the violence during the elections. While PDP accused APC of using soldiers to unleash violence on voters, APC blamed PDP for the violence that occurred during the elections.
The governor on Thursday set-up a six-member judicial commission of inquiry, headed by Justice Monima Wenike Danagogo, to investigate the violence, killings and other related acts during the rerun elections.
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed sadness over the killings, adding that he has ordered security agencies to deal with those involved, irrespective of their party affiliation.

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