Tension continues to mount in Rivers State, as the oil-rich state prepares for re-run elections for Senate, House of Representatives, and state House of Assembly, this weekend.
Rivers, once a hotspot of the Niger-Delta crisis, has witnessed brutal politically linked killings, including beheadings, in the past few months.
The All Progressives Congress says its members were targets of the killings which it blames the Rivers government and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party for.
The state government denies, saying the assassinations were carried out by cult groups fighting for supremacy.
Doueyi Fiderikumo, a legal practitioner in Port Harcourt, told PREMIUM TIMES that there was general fear in the state because of the election.
“There’s a general perception that Saturday in Rivers is going to be very bloody,” Mr. Fiderikumo said. “It has always been bloody. It was bloody in 2015 elections.
“In my children’s school, the end of the term is supposed to be on Friday where they were supposed to have fun-time, but they (the school) have suddenly sent us text messages that they are going to close on Thursday because of the election. The school feels that the day before the election may not be very safe.”
Fiderikumo said his church, apart from cancelling the early morning prayers for this Saturday, has advised its members to stay indoors on the Election Day.
Security has been stepped up in the city especially in areas where senior politicians live.
Meanwhile, leaders of PDP and APC in the state have continued to engage in war of words.
The state government, in an apparent display of lack of confidence in the federal government of Nigeria, has requested the intervention of the United States, China, and other countries, including the African Union, for a free, fair, and peaceful elections.
In a letter sent to about 50 countries on Monday, the Rivers government requested world leaders “to urgently initiate and maintain pressure on the Federal Government of Nigeria to allow free, fair and violence-free elections in Rivers State on the 19th of March 2016”.
The letter, signed by the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Austin Tam-George, accused the former governor of the state, who is the federal Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and the APC candidate in last year governorship election in the state, Dakuku Peterside, of openly inciting violence against the PDP.
Mr. Tam-George alleged that there were plans to use the military to rig the elections, to enable the APC-led federal government control the state.
“This absolutist politics of the APC is not only a direct threat to democracy in Nigeria, but seems to be a manifesto for the open politicization of the security forces of the country,” Tam-George wrote.
He added, “Mr Amaechi has himself publicly threatened to ‘flood’ every polling unit in Rivers State with soldiers.
“The homes of key leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party are being routinely raided and vandalized by Mr Amaechi’s goons. And plans have already been perfected to arrest all leaders of the PDP in Rivers State 48 hours to the elections on the 19th of March.
“With a population of 4.5 million people, Rivers State is the oil and gas metropolis of Nigeria. The eruption of violence in a State with strong multi-ethnic fault lines could cripple Nigeria’s ailing economy, and reverberate across the country’s borders.”
The state government said President Buhari has refused to respond to its repeated appeals to call Mr. Amaechi to order.
While the state government was asking for international intervention ahead of the Saturday elections, the acting National Chairman of APC, Segun Oni, and the National Working Committee of the party were in the state on Monday to commiserate with the families of the victims in Omoku killings.
Mr. Oni said what happened at Omoku was “genocide against APC members in Rivers State”.
He said, “It is strange that people will kill their fellow human beings, cut off their heads and take them away as if they were souvenirs.
“The Federal Government needs to do something quickly to save this situation, because it is a shame to allow a part of Nigeria to degenerate into this mess.
“The brutal killings of APC members in the state must stop; our people must not continue to die because they identified with a political party.”
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the APC on the allegation that they were planning to use the military to rig the elections, the party’s Publicity Secretary in the state, Chris Finebone, said the allegation was unfounded.
“Soldiers are not allowed to go into the polling booths, we all know this,” Mr. Finebone said.
“If in ordinary times, people are being killed and beheaded in Rivers when the police are there, how do you expect the situation to be during elections? It makes common sense that the police need the support of the army during the elections.”
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