Residents and witnesses reject police’s denial of responsibility for the shootings at a council election.
A “mystery” shooting that left one person dead and others injured at a council election in an Abuja suburb has remained unresolved three months after, with police denying knowledge of the attack and the attacker.
The Police claim it has no report of any shooting in the border town, Abaji, where the attack took place; however, residents and witnesses blame the the police for the killing, and have narrated how how officers drafted to keep order at the polling centers turned their guns on voters, allegedly to intimidate them and secure their support for a particular candidate.
“I personally beg to disagree that the election was free and fair, the security forces were everywhere intimidating people. They were so armed to the teeth, shooting in the air, shooting at people,” said Sunny Monidafe, a former chairman of the Abuja chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria.
The current chairman of the party in Abuja, Mohammed Bello, backed the claim, alleging that armed “thugs,” led by the an official of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, were apprehended in the council and handed to the police, but were released after 30 minutes.
Several residents confirmed the ACN claims in interviews with PREMIUM TIMES.
However, when the spokesperson at the FCT Police Command, Altine Daniel, was contacted, she denied any police knowledge of the killings, or the arrest of a party official with guns in Abaji. “Such an incident has not been reported,” she said.
How it happened
On March 9, the people of Abaji North East Council Area came out in numbers to exercise their voting rights during the local council elections. Voting took off early and peacefully as residents of the area cast their votes for their chosen their candidates and parties.
At the Ayaura polling unit, there was a particularly large turnout of women and young people.
However, toward the end of the exercise, according to witnesses, gunshots rang out in the air, leaving the gathered electorate scampering for safety.
Days later, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, accused security agents at the polling station of intimidating their party supporters and of killing a man simply identified as “Jafaar” in the area, and injuring two others, Chinedu and Mohammed, in a bid to ensure that the election went in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
PREMIUM TIMES recently visited Abaji to speak to the families of the deceased and the injured victims. We spoke to Mohammed, the brother of Jafaar, the man who was killed during the shootings at the Ayaura polling unit.
All those interviewed point fingers at the police, accusing the force of killing Jafaar, a fish seller from Kano, injuring others and arbitrarily arresting some more.
“During the election, he was lying down over there (pointing), close to the place where the voting took place,” Mohammed said of his brother, Jafaar. ”At the time the votes were being counted, there was, suddenly, the sound of gunshots and everybody ran for their life. It was then that Jaafar got shot.
He said the family failed to realize Jafaar had been struck by a bullet until hours later when they were informed by a witness.
At the hospital,Mohammed said, they were chased by police who arrested them before they could see Jafaar’s body. “Before we were released by the police, the corpse of Jaafar was brought back to the community from the hospital and he was buried.”
Lamenting the injustice meted out by the police, Mohammed said, “We don’t believe we can get any justice from the police so we left everything to Allah. He is our brother we knew he was actually sleeping that night under that tree when the shooting started. He was not part of those at the voting center; he never had a voter’s card and was not involved. All I know is that he sells fish close to the polling unit and was shot by the sporadic shootings of the police that day.”
One of the injured victims, Mohammed, also recounted his ordeal and how a deadly intrigue upset the elections that was nearing completion.
“I was at the polling unit where electoral officers and agents were waiting for the ballots to be counted then suddenly some people came in with another set of ballot papers all voted PDP.
He said the men were stopped by some youths who questioned the origin of the new ballot papers. He said while that argument continued, policemen who escorted the team started shooting in the air.
When they realized that in spite of their intimidation, the youths were willing to stand and protect their votes, the police started shooting randomly at the people, Mohammed said.
After Jafaar was struck, he said, many ran for their lives. “I was also running when I felt a bullet strike me and I could not move my legs again. I fell down right there and the police, now in their vehicle and still shooting, drove by me as I lay there on the ground still bleeding. Then, somebody on a motorbike stopped by and took me to the General Hospital,” he said.
While heading for the hospital, the police cornered the duo and questioned the “Good Samaritan” carrying Mohammed on his motorbike before beginning to beat him.
After a week at the hospital, he was discharged, but briefly detained by the police who questioned him on how he got shot.
However, the police demanded that he report to the station every Monday to sign a register.
After Mohammed was shot, his family, who had been informed of his shooting by a witness at the polling unit, went looking for him at several hospitals around the area, finally locating him at General Hospital, Abaji. When they got to the hospital a day after the shooting, they were told that their brother had been taken to the police station.
The ACN chieftain in Abaji, Mr.Bello, said he went to the police to file complaints the next Sunday.
The police Public Relations Officer, FCT Command Abuja, Altine Daniel, insists that the police has no record of a shooting in that area.
“On the day of the election, I was there with the area army commander, state security service, air force commander and naval unit commander, we moved all about all the polling units from when it all began and we left after the counting of the ballot papers,” she said.
“We do not have any report of any shooting or killings from that day till date. Besides I’m so sure that the election was peaceful because if there was any shooting, our attention would have been called to it but no one called us till we all left there. So, how is it possible that there would be a shooting and no police person was called?”
Amid the continuing controversy over the killing, no candidate has yet been sworn in for the post since.