Rivers Poll: Youth bar Amaechi from Polling Units as soldiers, police harass journalists

Governor Rotimi Amaechi

Angry voters on Saturday stopped the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, from accessing polling units in Ward 11, Rumueme, Obio Akpor and in Omagwa, Ikwere local government areas of the state.

The governor, who was on his way to his hometown Ubima in Ikwere Local Government Area of the state, had stopped by at the polling unit located at the Community Primary School, Rumueme.

A youth who pleaded not to be named for security reasons said trouble started when the governor stopped by the primary school in the early hours of the day.

According to him, Mr. Amaechi attempted to walk into the polling units located in the school after addressing security operatives who were guarding the area.

“This area is the stronghold of the PDP and home to the former Chairman of Obio Akpor Local Government Area, Timothy Nsirim,” said the source.

“So when Amaechi tried to walk into the gates of the school apparently to encourage the APC agents in the two polling units located here, the PDP supporters resisted and asked him to leave.”

He said the youth reminded the governor that the Electoral Act does not permit him to go round the state with armed escorts to monitor the election and shouted at him to go to his unit in Ubima.

A similar scenario played out in Omagwa, host community to the Port Harcourt International Airport.

A security agent who pleaded not to be named because he lacked powers to speak on the matter told PREMIUM TIMES that there was a misunderstanding between supporters of the APC and the PDP in the area.

“We were trying to calm down the two sides to the argument when the governor arrived in a convoy and stopped by a polling unit along the Airport Road,” the source said.

“But just as he came out of his vehicle, some youth sprang and formed a barricade to prevent the governor from entering the polling unit.

“They shouted at him and asked him to go away but he (Amaechi) continued speaking to us (security agents) and asking us to ensure that every voter is allowed to come and vote without intimidation.”

While going round parts of the state, including Port Harcourt City, Obio Akpor, Eleme, Okrika, Tai, Gokana, Khana and Ikwere local government areas, PREMIUM TIMES found there were pockets of violence especially in the Ogoni communities.

The situation in Okrika Local Government which has always been on edge was curiously calm as residents freely moved round with some conveying passengers on motorbikes.

A PREMIUM TIMES’ editor, Ibanga Isine, was however harassed at a major military checkpoint in Okochiri, the hometown of ex-militant leader, Ateke Tom.

Even with clear INEC badges showing his accreditation to cover the polls, heavily armed soldiers brandishing automatic rifles atop a brand new armoured tank, searched him, demanding to know why he was taking photographs in the area.

Not satisfied with his INEC and official identity cards, one angry soldier seized his phone and deleted all the pictures taken in the area before returning the phone.

Residents of Okrika complained about the influx of soldiers and other security agents to the area, saying the presence of more armed security personnel has further intimidated the people.

In Tai Local Government Area, electoral materials where yet to be distributed as at 11am when PREMIUM TIMES visited the headquarters of the council in Sakpenwa.

Hundreds of voters waited at various polling units along the major highway linking at least three local government areas in Ogoni land including Tai, Khana and Gokana.

Supporters of the APC and PDP were said to have fought at Nweol/Giokoo/Barako ward leading to INEC officials fleeing the area.

PREMIUM TIMES found a vehicle that was used in sending materials to the area parked inside the INEC office at the council headquarters in Kpor.

Armed police officers at Gokana Divisional Police headquarters chased away PREMIUM TIMES’ Mr. Isine and a colleague journalist, as they tried to access some polling units where PDP and APC supporters clashed and disrupted the election.

In spite of pleas by our staff, the policemen blocked the road leading to Barako community, cocked their riffles and ordered the driver to go back.

At a polling unit located outside Mr. Amaechi’s country home, voting commenced at exactly 2p.m. with the governor being the first to cast his vote.

Speaking to journalist after dropping his ballot, Mr. Amaechi described the election as a sham, adding that enough security was not provided for his party supporters to go out and vote.

“I hope they have not stolen the collation result sheet but at least at the unit level, I have seen the result sheet and I have voted. Secondly, as I was coming here, I saw a corpse at Omagwa and I saw people attacking people and shooting people,” Mr. Amaechi said.

“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.

“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. Have you seen any police here?” he asked even as there were many policemen guarding him and the polling unit outside his late father’s home.”

The governor accused the military and the police of allowing the PDP to hire thugs who he said went about killing and maiming people.

Continuing, he said, “Based on what the police and the army told us, PDP made arrangements for thugs and they are killing people and there are no police and the army around.

“This election is a complete sham, I am not a political party to decide whether to accept the result of the election but I am saying that it is a sham.”

Attempts to speak with PDP chieftains in the state failed as none of them took calls or responded to text messages sent to them.

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