A PREMIUM TIMES journalist who was harassed and banned from the polling unit of the outgoing governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha, has been further advised by the police to “stay away from the area”.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the journalist, Ebuka Onyeji, duly accredited to cover the polls, was harassed and briefly detained by the thugs in polling unit 1, ward 1 in Ogboko village of the LGA around 10:14 am.
“Call who sent you here. Anybody can print this your tag,” one of the thugs said. He ordered that the journalist’s laptop, gadgets and other materials be seized.
“You don’t know you are in Rochas Okorocha’s polling booth and you say you want to observe elections?”
Mr Onyeji reported the incident to the State Police public relations officer, Orlando Ikeowku, who advised him to report to the nearby Ogboko Police Area command.
The Area Commander of Ogboko condemned the harassment and asked the reporter to make an official complaint so he could be escorted by security personnel to the centre.
After taking his statement, the security official advised the reporter to stay away from the centre for his own safety. “Save your life first and go to other centres,” said the official who did not give his name.
No security was eventually provided for the journalist, prompting him to take the advice of the police officer to “avoid the centre.”
Apart from the fact that voting commenced behind schedule in most parts of the state, security personnel were inadequate in most other polling units around Ogboko village.
At Ward 001, polling unit 004 in Ogboko, though the election process was ongoing, there was little or no presence of security officers.
There was a low turnout of voters in this centre. Though there are 1004 names in the voter’s register, only 46 voters cast their votes, according to INEC officials in the centre.
The situation was the same at nearby centres, despite the fact that the police command was only a short distance from the area.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that Mr Okorocha voted around 12.00pm in his centre where the journalist was banned.
Mr Okorocha is from Ogboko Village.
The outgoing governor is facing his first battle for political survival in the state.
He is angling to replace Hope Uzodinma, the senator of Imo West who, in turn, is angling to replace Mr Okorocha in the governorship race coming up on March 9.
Running under the APC, Mr Okorocha is up against an old rival, a former senator of the zone, Osita Izunaso of APGA and a member of the House of Representatives, Jones Onyeriri of the PDP in what is expected to be a tight race.
Apart from being the largest senatorial district made up of 12 LGAs, Imo west has since 1999 retained the governorship seat of the state for 16 years through Achike Udenwa (1999 – 2007) and now Mr Okorocha (2011 – 2019) who ruled two terms each.
The zone is famed to have produced most of the notable names from the state.
Elections are holding in all the 13 electoral wards of the 12 LGAs that made up Imo west.
A party agent of Action Alliance, (AA) attributed the delays in starting the process to confusion in accrediting the party agents of the two APC factions in the state.