The rescheduled National Assembly and State House rerun and supplementary elections in Rivers State will finally hold today under a very tense atmosphere.
The Independent National Electoral Commission will conduct the elections across three senatorial districts, eight federal constituencies and 10 state constituencies.
Following court rulings that invalidated the 2015 federal and state legislative elections in the oil-rich state, INEC had conducted rerun polls on March 19, 2016. But the exercise was marred by violence mainly between armed supporters of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and those of the All Progressives Congress, APC; forcing the electoral body to suspend the polls midway.
Governor Nyesom Wike is the PDP leader in Rivers while his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi, leads the APC. The race for the legislative seats is expected to be a two-horse race between both parties, although other parties are also participating in the elections.
Apart from the three senatorial districts, the eight federal constituencies in which elections will hold are Akuku-Toru/Asari Toru; Degema/Bonny; Okrika/Ogu-Bolo; Etche/Omuma; Ikwere/Emohua; Khana Gokana; Eleme/Tai/Oyigbo and Opobo/Nkoro/Andoni.
The state constituencies where elections will hold are Eleme, Gokana, Asari-Toru I, Asari-Toru II, Andoni, Khana II, Etche II, Ikwere, Bonny and Degema.
For the elections, 10,294 electoral staff were deployed, INEC said. The police spokesperson in the state said 28,000 officers had been deployed. The huge deployment of police officers – aside military personnel deployed by the Army and the Navy – is commensurate to the risk assessment taken, PREMIUM TIMES understands.
While elections will hold afresh in some places, INEC will only collate and declare results, and make returns in other areas, the Commission said. A total of 927,769 voters, representing 37 percent of 2,537,320 being total number of registered voters in the state, are eligible to cast vote across 1,840 polling units and 2,203 voting points where the rerun and supplementary elections will hold today.
PREMIUM TIMES’ Hassan Adebayo is in Rivers State to bring you live, minute-by-minute updates as they unfold in the constituencies where the elections will hold.
7.00: 200 PDP supporters, chieftains arrested, party says
Shortly before the crucial elections get underway, the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State has cried out over alleged arrests of “200” of its supporters and chieftains, including chairmen of Gokana local government area and the state’s commissioner for Local Government Service.
The PDP’s spokesperson, Samuel Nwanosike, told PREMIUM TIMES the arrests were carried out men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, allegedly cooperating with Minister for Transport and All Progressives Congress leader in the state, Rotimi Amaechi.
Mr. Nwanosike, also the chairman of Ikwerre LGA, added attempts had been made to arrest him and that Mr. Amaechi “stormed Ikwerre now (late last night) to with armed security men to hijack materials.”
He said the Minister was repelled by youths. He sent four amateur photographs purportedly being scenes of the standoff.
“Amaechi has been rejected but he wants to use security to rig this election; we will resist this by all means; people must be allowed to vote,” Mr. Nwanosike said.
The Police could not confirm the arrests as at the time of filing this report. Police spokesperson, Omoni Nnamdi, said he was not aware but would contact the concerned DPOs. to confirm. When he was called back 15 minutes afterwards, he didn’t pick his calls.
7.17: Amaechi denies ordering PDP chieftains’ arrests
Minister for Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, has denied being behind the alleged clampdown on PDP supporters and chieftains.
The Minister’s spokesperson, David Iyofor, said, “We don’t know what you talking about. Amaechi is not the police neither does he work for the police or any of the security agencies. Please find out from the police or any of the Security agencies if they made any arrest. Kindly leave Amaechi out of this.”
On the claim by the chairman of Ikwerre LGA that attempts had been made to incarcerate him by security officials allegedly compromised by Mr. Amaechi, Mr. Iyofor, dismissed it as untrue; adding “it is not difficult to arrest him if anybody had wanted to do so.”
8.06: By now, all the 20 local government areas where elections will hold have had materials needed for the polling, an INEC official told PREMIUM TIMES. The last batches were deployed yesterday.
8.55: The INEC office on Aba Road is now dry. Last batches of officials, including supervisors and collation officers among others, just moved to their respective places of assignments, heavily guarded by policemen. For all vehicles leaving the premises on election duty, a truck-load of armed policemen has to lead.
9.18: We have confirmed there is bitter disagreement between PDP and APC at ward 9, Unit 3 of the Ogu LGA over result sheet. The result sheet is missing, leading to counter accusations of snatching the vital material.
9.20: Elections have started across the state. We have confirmed developments Port Harcourt, Ikwere, Ogu, and Bonny.
9.47: Election going on smoothly in Asari/Toru LGA, observers said. The area is calm and people are showing right attitude.
Heavy security presence may have helped the situation.
Election not stalled at ward 9 unit 3, Ogu LGA where result sheet is missing.
“Voters just stand without voting,” a resident told PT on phone.
10.25: Election is got holding in Tai LGA at all. INEC decided not to conduct the election there, following a controversial court ruling during the week.
It then follows elections are being conducted in 20 LGAs.
10.27: Turnout impressive, election peaceful in Bera, Gokana LGA
The Rivers legislative rerun election has commenced peacefully in the state with a massive turnout of voters in Gokana Local Government Area of the state.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the exercise in being conducted in the three Senatorial districts for senatorial seats.
The rerun is also held in eight Federal Constituencies for the House of Representatives seats and 10 State Constituencies for state assembly seats.
In Bera Ward 16, Gokana LGA, the turnout was early and massive while the election materials arrived at 8.30 a.m.
NAN also reports that card readers are working well in all the 16 polling units of Bera Ward 16 in local government area visited.
The accreditation and voting started simultaneously at exactly 9.11a.m in all the units of Bera Ward 16.
NAN further reports that all the polling units in the local government were organised in the Community Secondary School, Bera.
The agency reports that voters were coordinated but under the heavy presence of the security operatives.
All Progressives Congress (APC) and All Progressives Grand Alliance agents were seen in each of polling units in the Ward 16.
10.30: Materials just being moved to polling units in Gokana LGA. The materials and election personnel are being escorted by soldiers and policemen.
Voters are said to be turning out enthusiastically.
10.41: BREAKING: INEC just announced cancellation of election in ward 9 unit 3 of Ogu/Bolo LGA after hoodlums carted away result sheets and bitter disagreement between PDP and APC.
10.41: Buguma in Asari/Toru fully taken over military operatives, bringing tranquility to the place otherwise known for electoral violence, observers told PREMIUM TIMES.
The exercise is underway under a calm atmosphere.
10.55: The exercise is underway in Khana LGA.
“No, no no, there’s no violence; everything is going on smoothly and peacefully,” an observer Nwagu Ezenwa of Partners for Electoral Reform just spoke with PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Ezenwa had been to Eleme earlier. In Eleme he said the exercise did not start until 9.30 am although situation there was calm as at the time he was there.
12.34: Late arrival of materials delay voting in some polling units, wards
As Rivers people vote in the legislative re-run elections, late arrival of materials has delayed commencement of voting in some wards and units in the state.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent reports that voting was yet to commence at 10.45 a.m. in some wards and units due to delayed arrival of voting materials.
NAN gathered that the wards and units affected include; Eleme, Ahoada-West, Etche, Bonny, Tai and Ikwerre Local Governments Areas.
Voters and party supporters were seen milling around polling units in Alesa and Ogale communities in Eleme council area awaiting the arrival of election materials.
Reports also showed that both materials and polling officers were yet to be seen at polling centres in Mbiama in Ahoada West council area as at the time of the report.
Ezenwa Nwagwu, an accredited Election Observer, commended the timely commencement of the elections in areas but heavy presence of security personnel in polling units in the Ogoni axis of the state.
“So far, voting has not commenced in the areas I have visited, but there is huge security presence,’’ he said.
12.22: BREAKING: PDP Accuses Army Of ‘Stealing Materials’ For APC In Eleme
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate for Rivers South East, Olaka Nwogu gas accused soldiers deployed to the area of collaborating with the APC to rig election in Eleme part of the district.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES minutes before now, Mr. Nwogu, said, “soldiers are just stealing materials and giving them to APC in ward 8, Eleme here.”
He said he would mobilise efforts to “control the situation”.
However, apart from the case of alleged theft of materials by soldiers, he said “the election is going on well.”
“I think there are some who are not corrupt and not interfering with process but there are bad eggs. And it is shameful that some are shaming the institution,” he said.
12.56: At unit 1 and 2, Ward 1 of Eleme LGA, the process is going on smoothly.
“It’s been okay,” the presiding officer for unit 2 said; adding “there’s not been issue of violence.”
12.58: In Rotimi Amaechi’s Ubima, Ward 8, Ikwere LGA, there’s no voting. Voters are “just hanging”, having had their rights breached by political actors. There’s theft of result sheet.
We have confirmed this from multiple sources.
13.51: “Storm the place…” – PDP candidate giving orders.
Mr. Nwogu, PDP’s candidate for Rivers South East senatorial district, who just accused soldiers of cooperating with APC to steal result sheet, was overheard asking somebody through phone: “Don’t you have enough boys to storm the place and hijack this thing for me?”
Later, he was telling aides sitting by his side that, “the situation demands I should go to the field myself.”
14.01: PREMIUM TIMES independently confirmed theft of result sheet at Abonchia, Ward 8, Eleme LGA.
14.47: No voting in Amaechi’s unit over disappearance of result sheet
His media office sent this to PT:
“Presiding office(PO) in the Minister, Rotimi Amaechi’s unit, Ward 8, unit 14 in Ikwerre LGA has been detained by security agents following the disappearance of the the result sheet for the unit. The SPO confirmed that the result sheet was given to PO. As a result, voting has not commenced in the Minister’s unit. The same story playing out in several other units in Ikwerre LGA.”
17.22: EXCLUSIVE: Voting took place inside APC’s Magnus Abe’s compound in Gokana
Voting exercise too place inside the compound of the All Progressives Congress’ candidate for Rivers South East senatorial district, Magnus Abe, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.
Mr. Abe’s house is located at Bera, Gokana LGA.
The materials used for the voting exercise held in his residence are believed to be those meant for his unit 10, Ward 16, Bera, Gokana LGA.
It appeared voters cooperated with the politician as they were thronging the compound to vote at one corner of the expansive compound.
As the voting was going on, three were scores of security operatives, including soldiers and policemen, in the compound.
People whose identify as INEC legitimate staff were in charge of the exercise, while those who were confirmed to be INEC staff just hung around the compound holding trivial discussions with aides of Mr. Abe.
Among them, there was a corps member and two others who even wore INEC shirts.
As the voting underway inside Mr. Abe’s compound, dramatically armed men led two buses and a pick-up truck to the compound.
The vehicles were loaded with already used voting materials including boxes. INEC personnel were also there.
The materials were hijacked with guns.
“I told I go bring them (the materials), dem say I no fit, now we don carry them come,” a fiercely looking young man was boasting, apparently taking pleasure in leading criminal action of hijacking voting materials.
Attached are pictures of INEC personnel inside Mr. Abe’s compound, looking away as politicians held the role of conducting election.
17.47: Voting has ended in most units across Rivers State. But as the process moves to another collation stage, political actors have started started accusing one another malpractices.
18.32: Wike, PDP Call For Cancellation Of Elections In Gokana, Khana LGAs, Accuse INEC, Military Of Working For APC
PDP and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike have separately alleged foul play in the conduct of the elections in Gokana and Khana LGAs, accusing the military and INEC of working for the APC.
PDP’s chairman, Felix Obuah, said there were widespread irregularities in Khana and that security operatives collaborated with APC chieftains to snatch voting materials.
Mr. Wike, who spoke through the state’s commissioner for information, Austin Tam-George, said in both Khana and Gokana INEC and the military were compromised by the APC, thereby calling for cancellation of elections in the two areas.
“The security agencies have played a very despicable role in the rerun elections in Rivers State today. Like common criminals, they stole electoral materials in many wards and units across the State in support of the APC, while armed to the teeth.
“In the coming days, we’ll offer a comprehensive account of the shameless banditry of the Nigerian security forces during this election, as well as the desperate collusion between INEC and the APC,” Mr. Tam-George said, speaking for the Governor.
He however commended “the resilience and determination of the Rivers people, unarmed men and women, who stood courageously in defence of their sovereign right to choose their own leaders.
“And in most cases they have triumphed.”
21.38: The police in Rivers State said they ‘put up good good outing’ in the Saturday’s national and state assemblies rerun and supplementary in the state, thereby scoring self high despite wide reports malpractices aided by security operatives, including policemen.
The police spokesperson for River State, Omoni Nnamdi, gave the self-appraisal while speaking with PREMIUM TIMES hours after the elections had ended across the constituencies.
“So far so good, we have given account of ourselves and put up a good outing,” said Mr. Nnamdi.
28 thousand policemen were deployed for the elections that held in three senatorial districts, eight federal constituencies and 10 state constituencies. The huge deployment of police officers – aside military personnel deployed by the Army and the Navy – is commensurate to the risk assessment taken, PREMIUM TIMES gathered.
But there were credible reports of cases where police officers, especially men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, and soldiers worked in cahoot with political actors to perpetrate malpractices.
PREMIUM TIMES independently confirmed cases of malpractices aided by police officers and soldiers. For instance, voting coordinated by politicians held inside the compound of All Progressives Congress’ candidate for Rivers South East senatorial district, Mr. Abe in the full glare of scores of security and military men, while INEC personnel looked away.
Observers also said SARS and Civil Defense Corps operatives stormed a unit in Bodo, Gokana LGA, shooting sporadically and carted away election materials. One person was said to have been killed in the wake of the violence.
Apart from cancelling elections in Atoku-Toru LGA, the Independent Election Commission complained of violence in Gokana, Khana, Andoni and Tai.
Against the background of these disturbing reports, police spokesperson, Mr. Nnamdi said ‘for what it is worth” the police tried to ensure the exercise was free and secure.
“We deployed 28 thousand officers and that was deliberate to give people confidence that they could come out to vote freely.
“The deployment was led by DIG Operations, Habila Joshak and we toured Eleme, Khana, Tai and other places. There was no report of security breach. We saw people show readiness to vote.
“So, I don’t have knowledge of all these cases,” said Mr. Nnamdi.
Also, Mr. Joshak said the exercise was ‘generally peaceful’ despite reports of violence.
But he INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Rivers, Aniedi Ikowak said ‘rumours of skirmishes’ would be investigated.
Messrs Ikowak and Joshak spoke at Rumuigbo, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. But some residents hailed police officers and soldiers, expressing conviction the security bodies helped ensure safe exercise in some places.
10.52: Collation of results underway
Counting votes has ended in most of the 1839 units where elections held today, INEC’s spokesperson in Rivers, Tonia Nwobu told PREMIUM TIMES.
“We are still stock but it (counting) has ended in most of the units,” Mrs Nwobu said.
Having ending counting of votes in most of the units, collation of votes at different levels – ward, LGA and constituency – is now underway at various collation centres across the state, Mrs. Nwobu said.
She disclosed that INEC would declare results and make returns in each constituency involved in the election.
The collation centres for the three senatorial districts of Rivers East, West and South are City Council Hall, Port Harcourt, Council Hall, Ahoada and Council Hall, Bori respectively.
As at this moment, there has not any official result declared by INEC and no return has been made.
Unlike other elections where results at unit level were readily available online at the end of counting exercise, Rivers rerun brings a different case. This may not be unconnected to high risk involved in some areas where counting or collation is ongoing for Journalists, observers and ordinary citizens.