By Clement A. Oloyede (Abuja), Titus Eleweke, Praise Ajibade (Owerri), Labaran Tijani, Baba Martins, Abbas Jimoh (Lokoja), Bassey Willie, Friday Peter & Victor Edozie (Yenagoa)
The off-season governorship elections conducted yesterday in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states were marred by low turnout, vote-buying and pockets of violence.
This was despite the huge deployment of security agencies, as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).
The polls also witnessed late arrival of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at polling units in some parts of the states.
The low turnout, observers noted, was attributed to the low level of confidence Nigerians have on the security agencies to effectively ensure violence-free polls, as well as the dwindling confidence on the integrity of the electoral umpire.
In Bayelsa State, armed thugs invaded polling units in Southern Ijawa and Sagbama local government areas and hijacked election materials. Some of the areas affected were Agorogbene in ward II and Ogiadama ward 9 of Southern Ijaw.
Sporadic gunshots were also reported around the Abuja/Imbikiri area of Brass ward 2 and Oginibiri in Brass Local Government Area of the state, among others.
In Kogi, a young man identified as Umoru Iduh was shot dead at the Agala-Ogane polling unit in Anyigba metropolis, Dekina Local Government for allegedly attempting to snatch electoral materials.
Also, James Onoja, the council chairman of Igalamela Local Government was arrested but later released by security operatives after he was allegedly accosted with bag loads of cash and caches of ammunition.
In Imo, sporadic gunshots were reported at Amaimo Central School, Ikeduru Local Government, the polling unit of the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, Samuel Anyanwu. The shooting, it was gathered, started when the electorate umpire raised alarm over alleged hijack of election materials and INEC officials.
Also, there was fight at the Umuodu Community Primary School, Ezinihitte Mbieri in Mbaitoli Local Government as some INEC officials were abducted alongside result sheets during the collation of the results.
EFCC seizes N11m cash, arrests vote buyers
EFCC operatives arrested 14 suspected vote buyers in Otueke, Adawari playgrounds in Bayelsa and at various polling units in Imo and Kogi.
The spokesperson of the commission, Dele Oyewale, in a statement, noted that the suspects were arrested in intelligence-driven operations that commenced several days before the ongoing governorship elections in the three states.
“Also, a total sum of N11,040,000, comprising N9,310,00 intercepted from suspected vote buyers and sellers in Bayelsa, and N1,730,000 intercepted from electoral fraud suspects across Imo State, were recovered from them.
“Also, two vehicles were intercepted from the suspects. They will be charged to court as soon as investigations are concluded,” he said.
CDD, TMG issue preliminary reports
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), in its preliminary report, highlighted factors it said undermined the elections in the three states.
It said its Election Analysis Centre (CDD-EAC), chaired by Professor Adele Jinadu, observed the off-cycle elections in the states through the over 150 fact-checkers and observers deployed to monitor the polls.
Jinadu explained how delays in voting and deployment challenges, election irregularities, election violence, disinformation, BVAS functionality and vote-buying and trading characterised the elections generally across the three states.
On his part, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) said despite the pockets of glitches and violence recorded in the off-circle polls, the INEC and the security agencies played their parts towards the successful conduct of the elections so far.
In its preliminary report signed by its chairman, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, the TMG said its observers reported adequate deployment and functionality of BVAS across polling units in the three states of Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi and that security official conducted themselves “in a very civil and professional manner.”
He said they observed “pockets of violence in few of the polling units observed across the states. “Political thugs were reportedly killed by the military in Ayingba and Idah town in Ida Local Government Area of Kogi State. He said vote trading was observed across the states, with politicians seen “doling out cash gifts ranging from N5,000 to N30,000, food items and clothing materials (wrappers) in some of the polling units observed.”
Meanwhile, at least 70 per cent of the results from the polling units from states gubernatorial elections have been uploaded on the INEC Results Viewing (IReV) portal, confirming the electoral umpire’s promise to ensure real-time uploading, Daily Trust on Sunday reports.
It was observed from the IReV portal that for Bayelsa, of the 2,244 polling units, 1,788 had submitted their results before 8:30pm, signifying a 79.68 per cent upload with Kolokuma/Opokuma out of the eight local government areas, the first to ensure a 100 per cent upload.
For Imo, 3,333 polling units out of 4720 had uploaded their results at the same time, representing 70.05 per cent completion, with results still being expected from all 27 local government areas.
For Kogi, 2,648 out of the 3,508 polling units being expected had uploaded their result sheets as at the time of filing this report, representing a 75.48 per cent completion. Results were still being expected from 20 local government areas, except Yagba West, which had completed its uploading.
Top candidates in Kogi called for the cancellation of election in the five local government areas of Kogi Central, alleging widespread electoral fraud, including the emergence of result sheets before the commencement of the poll.
The forged result sheet was seen while voters were still in queue awaiting the commencement of the accreditation process at polling unit 04, Eni ward of Ogori/Mangogo area of the state.
But INEC said it was investigating the incident.
The commission suspended elections in parts of Kogi State and said it would not accept the results of some polling units in Adavi, Ajaokuta, Ogori/Magongo, Okehi and Okene local government areas due to reported irregularities.
Its national commissioner, Mohammed Haruna, in a statement noted that the commission received reports from its officials in Kogi on incidents of electoral malpractices, particularly the incident of result sheets completed before voting.
“Reports indicate that the incidents occurred in Adavi, Ajaokuta, Ogori/Magongo, Okehi and Okene local government areas. The most serious incidents occurred in Ogori/Magongo, affecting 9 of 10 registration areas.
“This is entirely unacceptable. Any result not emanating from the commission’s process in the polling units will not be accepted,” Haruna said.
He said INEC was determined not to reward bad behavior, and that appropriate sanctions would be applied where necessary.
“Consequently, the election in the 9 wards in Ogori/Magongo Local Government Area (Eni, Okibo, Okesi, Ileteju, Aiyeromi, Ugugu, Obinoyin, Obatgben and Oturu) is at this moment suspended.
“The incidents in the other local government areas are being thoroughly investigated, and the outcome, including the way forward, will be announced in the next 24 hours.
“Meanwhile, as the processes continue, we follow the audit trail of personnel and materials to ascertain those who may have been complicit in undermining the process,” Haruna said.
Uzodimma, Anyanwu differ on Imo poll
The Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Samuel Anyanwu, expressed different views on the conduct of the Saturday governorship election in Imo State.
Speaking after casting his ballot at PU 032, Ekwenja Ukwu-Ozu ward, Omuma community in Oru East Local Government Area, Uzodimma said reports he received showed that the election was peaceful in most parts of the state.
“The election, contrary to what they said on the social media, is going on free, fair and very peaceful. You can see how freely I have gone out to cast my votes and also how INEC was able to process my accreditation under few minutes.
“It is evident for all of us in the country to know that the patriotic people of the state are desirous of having Imo State blossom. Some of us are in politics to serve the people and are in politics for the interest of the people,” he said.
Uzodimma commended INEC and security agencies for ensuring proper deployment of material and personnel for the election.
But Anyanwu expressed worry over reports of alleged ballot box snatching in some areas of the state, but boasted that regardless of the number of ballot boxes snatched, he would win.
He alleged that materials and votes were catered away at seven wards in Orlu.
He also said similar incidents were reported at Orsu and parts of Oru West, wondering why opposition parties would not allow free and fair election in the state.
Senator Athan Achonu, the Labour Party candidate, after casting his vote in Ibenkwo Umunumo, Ehime Mbano Local Government Area, said the turnout in his community had assured people of his unflinching focus and readiness to take over leadership from Uzodimma.