The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were locked in a shouting-match  last night over the conduct of the governorship election in Bayelsa , Kogi States and the senatorial poll in Kogi West.

Outgoing Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State called for a review of the gubernatorial election in the state which, in his opinion, was characterized by ballot snatching and violence.

Two persons were reportedly killed in Kogi East after some men drove to a polling unit and opened fire on people.

An alleged fake policeman, dressed in SARS uniform, was subsequently arrested.

The election started as early as 8.00am across Kogi State and progressed peacefully until unknown gunmen began to shoot intermittently in Lokoja, the state capital.

Governor  Yahaya Bello voted in  his Agasa, Okene local government polling unit at about 8.50 am, while the PDP candidate, Musa Wada voted at his Odu Ogbeyaga Market Square polling unit 001 in Dekina local government area.

Senator Dino Melaye, who wants to return to the Senate following an Appeal Court judgement nullifying his March election, voted at about 10.00am at his Aiyetoro Gbede polling unit 1 in ward 4 of Ijumu local government area.

He called the process peaceful

However, about 30 minutes after casting his votes, pandemonium broke out at the polling unit located beside the Apostolic Church headquarters in the area when suspected thugs began to snatch ballot boxes.

As the electoral officers made attempt to pack up the electoral materials for safety of their lives and the electoral materials, the thugs, driving in a black Toyota Hilux van with no registration number, and a Honda Civic car, arrived in full speed causing panic as the people ran for safety.

One of the thugs alighted from the Hilux, smashed one of a box which was apparently the one containing votes for the senatorial election and made away with the other box, while journalists and election observers as well as the electoral officers ran for safety.

Residents of area accused the APC of engineering the attack, stressing that it was out of fear that the PDP was going to win the election in the area.

Another resident who claimed to be present at the town hall polling unit when the thugs arrived there said Senator Dino Melaye had come to the place apparently to see what was going on and was challenged by one of the voters who wanted to know what he was doing there since that was not his polling unit.

When things had calmed down in the area and journalists, some of youths who appeared to be Senator Melaye’s supporters attacked them, smashing the back windscreen of one of the Sienna space bus they were traveling in.

Reacting to the development, Senator Dino Melaye accused Governor  Yahaya Bello and his party, the All Progressives Congress of desperation to hang on to power at all cost.

He was however silent on the attack on journalists by his supporters soon after the thugs that snatched the ballot box left.

He merely said those who snatched the box had been arrested and the ballot box recovered.

The Senator said despite the violence and thuggery that   characterised the election, he was confident of winning the election, adding that those who led thugs to attack his polling unit had been arrested by the police and made confessional statements.

He asked  the security agencies and INEC to  “respect their promise that where ever ballot boxes are taken away, it cannot be recorded and that votes in that unit will be cancelled.

“All these areas they have taken ballot boxes and ballot papers away should not be entertained to all at the collation centre.

“So that only valid votes will count because once a ballot box has been taken away, the integrity of those votes is completely questionable. So, INEC should respect their promise and not allow these election riggers to have their way.

“For me, the election in my unit went over half way before the hoodlums came and started shooting.  The bad thing is that one of the boys was shot and was taken to the hospital by the police.

“I am happy they have been apprehended and that our cry that Yahaya Bello wants to be governor by all means is already established. All those arrested are all APC members and they have all confessed who sent them. We must see the end of this matter because we will not allow it to be buried.

“This is not an election. An election that is militarized, an election where ballot papers and ballot boxes are easily carted away by gun men is not an election. If you conduct this election 100 times, I will win.

“If they are popular, they will not introduce violence. All the ballot papers that were scatted were all PDP which show my popularity and acceptability. The difference between me and Smart Adeyemi is the difference between darkness and light.”

Zonal Chairman of the PDP for Kogi West, Barrister Kola Isa told The Nation at one of the polling units that his supporters were being prevented from voting for the PDP at Okoro Gbede area of Ijumu local government, few minutes’ drive from Senator Melaye’s village

The traditional ruler of the town, Oba Abdulganiyu Isa dismissed the claim, saying nobody was denied such an  opportunity.

One of the agents of the PDP at the polling unit accused the local government Chairman of spear heading the disenfranchisement of his members, alleging that “he came here and said anyone who will not vote for APC should leave the line.

The exercise was largely peaceful in Kogi Central where Gov. Bello voted.

The governor commended INEC and the security agencies for improving on their performance during the last general election. But there was sporadic shooting in Lokoja by gunmen believed to be political thugs around the Lokongoma Phase 2 area of the capital.

They carted away ballot boxes and threw on the ground polling materials as a police helicopter hovered above.

A report said an INEC official was abducted at SUBEB polling unit, where ballot box snatching was also reported.

Voters scampered for safety

Ballot boxes were snatched at the Lokoja Club, St. Mary by Paparanda Square and Fehintolu (Adankolo New Layout) polling points.

Two persons, namely  Umoru Shuaib and Faruk Suleiman, were feared killed in Abocho community in Dekina local government area.

The Governorship candidate of the PDP, Musa Wada who voted at the Odu Ogboyagha market square polling unit described the process as peaceful so far.

He said: “having voted, the election looks peaceful for now, although for APC their stock in trade is to snatch ballot boxes.

“There was an attempt by one of their hooligans,  but he was repelled.

“You know they will always go to regroup and come back.  I have advised the voters to stay and defend their votes very well,” he said.

He expressed confidence he would emerge the winner of the election.

Sounds of sporadic gunshots were also reported in Emewe Okapda, part of Ajiyolo communities in Dekina local government area of the state.

In Aikpele-Ajaka polling unit 002, Igalamela-Odolu local government, masked armed men shot sporadically into the air, disrupting the exercise as voters and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) scampered for safety.

In Ayingba, political thugs stormed some polling units, snatching ballot boxes despite the highest level of security presence in the entire local government.

However, there was a large turnout of voters in several polling units in Kogi East Senatorial District in the governorship elections in Kogi State.

At Ogbelo 001, Aloji Ward polling unit, which has two voting points A and B, where a large crowd had come out to exercise their franchise, the presiding officer, Ibilike Victor, said the exercise went on smoothly.

He however complained that result sheet for the second voting point B was hey yet to arrive at about 10am.

A policeman believed to be fake was arrested by men of the Nigeria Police Force at the Igala Unity Square area in Anyingba.

The suspect , dressed in a black T-shirt and a pair of black trousers with a black jacket with SARS inscribed on ,it was accosted by a team of Special Anti-Robbery Squad officers who were on patrol in the area.

CDD, YIAGA Africa decry violence, intimidation, vote buying

The Centre for Democracy and Development and Yiaga Africa condemned widespread incidents of thuggery, voter intimidation and harassment, stressing that security operatives and electoral officials were compromised in some parts of the state.

It said suppression, vote buying and intimidation of observers and journalist  characterized  the elections.

Idaya Hassan, Director, CDD, added that the election witnessed poor logistics arrangement, as materials and voting began late.

She lamented the fact that armed thugs were moving in vehicles despite the official restriction of movement, saying that she  remained at a loss as to the authority under which the thugs were allowed to move.

She said that the CDD expressed its concerns before the election, explaining that the observed shortcomings cast a dent on the Kogi election, after several years of the practice of democracy in Nigeria.

She said that despite several early warnings to INEC and the influx of security agencies, the state still failed to move from being violence prone.

Also addressing pressmen yesterday in Lokoja, the Chairman, YIAGA Africa, Dr Hussaini Abdu, said he witnessed vote buying first hand at several polling units, while the police looked the other way saying “it appears our politicians are trying to normalise it.”

His words: “Reports on voter inducement and vote buying were observed across the LGAs. Specifically, YIAGA Africa received reports of voter inducement and vote buying in Adavi (PU 001 Afinorere), Ankpa (PU 010 Ward 01), Ibaji (PU 007 – Itale Iyanu Ward), Idah (PU 001 – Ugwod Ward), Yagba East (PU 01- Ward 08), Kogi KK (PU 005 – Ukwu Ward) and Ajaokuta (PU 005 – Deregulation Ward) LGA.

“Voters were paid as much as N5,000 in some cases in exchange for their votes. At Aluaja,  Iyano Ward in Ibaji LGA, INEC officials were given N15,000 and security agents N5,000, to compromise the process.

“Unknown men and party agents of some identified political parties were found to be attacking and intimidating voters in polling units of LGAs in Dekina (PU 017 – Ward 12 and PU 001 Yashi), Lokoja (PU 001 – Ward Council) Ofu (PU 005 – Ugwalawo Ward), Ankpa (Ojojwu Ward 3) and Igalamela/Odolu (PU 022 – Ward 8) LGA. WTA observers were beaten and their observation checklists destroyed and, in the process, degenerated to sporadic shooting in PU 027 – Ayingba Etiaga, Dekina LGA