A PREMIUM TIMES journalist, Kunle Sanni, was on Saturday morning abducted by political thugs for taking pictures of underage voters at a polling unit in Plateau State.
Mr Sanni, who was monitoring the elections in the area, was accosted by an agent of the ruling All Progressives Congress who had spotted him while photographing several young children as they lined up on the queue to vote.
The journalist took photographs of the children and their voter cards before APC agents at the centre instructed thugs loyal to the governing party to surround the polling unit and bar the reporter from exiting.
The stalemate lasted hours as this newspaper worked its contacts in the area to try to ensure Mr Sanni’s safety.
Eventually, after the journalist emerged, he unknowingly walked into an ambush and was promptly forced into a taxi and driven to an unknown destination where his abductors forced him to delete the images.
Mr Sanni said the incident occurred at the polling unit of Governor Simon Lalong, Polling Unit 15, Ward 04 of Shendam local government area of the state.
“After observing and taking pictures at the government polling unit, I was on my way out when some APC party agents ambushed me and forced me into the car and drove off, the journalist said.
“The men collected my phone which was dead at the time, parked in a bush and plugged the phone to see who I was sending the pictures. When the men confirmed I had deleted them, they offered me money in return,” he said.
Mr Sanni said their countenance changed when he declined the offer.
“I had to accept it so that they did not harm me because the place was bushy and I could get killed,” he said. Mr Sanni said he was given N20,000.
While recounting how he was taken from the polling unit, Mr Sanni said the whole thing happened in the presence of the chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalist, Plateau State chapter, Paul Jatau, and the police.
“They could not stop them although the NUJ chairman approached me and asked me to delete the pictures,” he said.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had earlier warned underage voters not to go near polling units in Plateau State ahead of Saturday’s governorship and state assembly elections.
The head of department for Voter Education and Publicity, INEC Plateau State, Osarentin Imahinyereobo, said underage voters should stay away from the polling units because the security (team) would arrest them.
The minimum voting age in Nigeria is 18. Underage voting has been a major issue in Nigeria’s political discourse since the return of democratic government in 1999.
While underage voting is prominent in some regions of the country, it is hardly noticed in some other parts.
Underage voting has become a national challenge and a threat to Nigeria’s democracy. However, the electoral umpire, INEC, has not done much to curb the problem.