At least six persons were killed in Rivers State Saturday, as the state’s gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections turned violent amid cases of ballot box snatching and other irregularities, witnesses and officials said.
Despite the over 17,000 policemen deployed to provide security in the state, violence was reported in many areas including Gokana, Kana, Asari Toru, Ikwere, Obio Akpor, Ozuoba, Bomu, Norwa, among others.
Armed thugs invaded a collation centre in Buguma, Asari Toru Local Government Area, killing at least five persons, a witness said. The attackers also set fire on some houses in the area.
The witness, who pleaded that his identity be protected, said gunmen invaded Kalabari National College, Buguma in the early hours of the day and demanded that electoral materials be handed to them.
The school was used for the distribution of election materials to some polling wards in Asari Toru.
He said the gunmen pursued electoral officials including members of the National Youth Service Corps deployed to the area while shooting sporadically in all directions.
By the time electoral officials surrendered the materials at their disposal to the gunmen, five persons lay dead from gunshot wounds.
The Chairman of the council, Ojukaye Flag-Amaechree, said as at 1:40p.m., no accreditation took place in Buguma, saying the people could not return to the polling centres because of fear of attack.
The thugs also torched the home of the state Commissioner of Women Affairs, Joe-eba West, in Buguma town, witnesses said.
It was gathered that political thugs threw explosive substances suspected to be dynamite at Mrs. West’s residence and waited for several minutes to ensure that the house went on flames before they withdrew.
Similarly, on the eve of the polls, a policeman was shot dead at Rex Lawson Street located in the Old Port Harcourt Township.
Gunmen also shot the All Progressives Congress Youth leader in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, Mr. Felix Orukokwu, at Idu community.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the youth leader was killed by unidentified attackers who invaded Idu community while INEC officials were still carrying out accreditation of voters. That claim could not be independently confirmed.
The APC governorship candidate, Dakuku Peterside, however, alleged that seven persons were killed in total.
Even the state Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, was not spared the attacks in Rivers State Saturday as he was barred by angry youth from two polling units in Port Harcourt.
Recounting his ordeal, Mr. Amaechi said he had stopped to rescue people at Umagwa and Rumueme, when irate youths attempted to attack him.
The youth, suspected to be supporters of an opposition party in the state, resisted the governor’s attempt to intervene on grounds that he was not legally entitled to be at the area while the election was going on.
When the youth rushed at the governor, his security aides blocked them and immediately called for reinforcement before whisking Mr. Amaechi out of the area to safety.
“I had to stop at a polling unit to rescue people. I saw that harassment and I heard somebody has been beheaded in Buguma. Two foreign pressmen headed off to Buguma but they were not allowed into the area. It was not the police,” Mr. Amaechi said.
“It was not the police or the Army but thugs. We found that the police and the army have completely broken down the security system,” he said.
The governor accused the military and the police of allowing the Peoples Democratic Party to hire thugs who he said went about killing and maiming people.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the military arrested some fake policemen in Alesa-Eleme in Eleme Local Government Area of the state.
But not long after the soldiers left with the fake security operatives, armed youths arrived at the area and attempted to hijack electionl materials.
The attempt was resisted by some voters who wrestled the material from the youth and ensured that election went on in the area.
Repeated attempts by PREMIUM TIMES to speak with the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Ahmed Mohammed, failed as he did pick or return calls.