Two journalists covering the rerun elections in Essien Udim, Akwa Ibom state, have been molested by thugs.
Among today’s election is that of the senate rerun for the Akwa Ibom North-West District involving Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
Godwin Sunday, a cameraman with a television station, sustained some cuts near his eyes and had his camera destroyed when some thugs attacked him Saturday afternoon at the Independence High School, Ukana.
Journalists, including officials of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Akwa Ibom, were this morning temporarily prevented from entering the school which is the location for polling unit 9 in Ukana West Ward 2, Essien Udim.
“Akpabio’s boys attacked me. I am a cameraman, I didn’t expect this in the election,” Mr Sunday said at Ukana.
He said his attackers told him “the unit belongs to Akpabio” and “that we were not supposed to be there”.
Another journalist, Edidiong Udobia, said some persons dragged him by his shirt and attempted to forcefully collect his phone where he was covering the elections at the village hall, Ikot Etan Unit 6, Ukana East Ward 9, Essien Udim.
“Akpabio’s aide, Emmanuel Inyangettor, ordered them to collect my phone from me because he thought I was videoing him,” Mr Udobia told PREMIUM TIMES.
The journalist said he handed over the phone to a police officer who checked through it and informed Mr Inyangettor and others that there was no video of him on the phone. He was then allowed to walk away with his phone, he said.
Dominic Akpan, the secretary of NUJ in Akwa Ibom, corroborated Mr Udobia’s claims.
“I was about entering the bus when the doors (in the village hall) were shut and he (Udobia) did not come out, we tried to go in but they had locked the door. Immediately the door was open, a policeman escorted him out,” Mr Akpan told PREMIUM TIMES.
PREMIUM TIMES could not immediately reach Emmanuel Inyangettor, as he did not respond to calls from this newspaper.
There have been reports of pockets of violence in the elections.
INEC, earlier today, said some of its officials were being held hostage in Essien Udim.
Mr Akpabio, has, however, disassociated himself from the violence in the elections.
His spokesperson, Anietie Ekong, in an apparent response to the reports coming out from Essien Udim, said the public should “ignore infantile propaganda linking Senator Akpabio to anything that is going on in Essien Udim LGA in the name of rerun elections”.
“We have gathered that some PDP-sponsored thugs were planning to carry out a sinister plot during the rerun elections and link it to Senator Akpabio.
“Security agencies should be on the watch out for miscreants and sponsored thugs, apprehend them and visit the full weight of the law on them,” Mr Ekong said in a Facebook post, Saturday afternoon.
Mr Ekong said the minister has been in his house in Uyo, and not in Essien Udim, since Saturday morning.
Mr Akpabio lost his bid to return to the Senate for a second term in 2019 when INEC declared Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party, winner of the poll.
Amid complaints of election fraud and a petition to the tribunal, the former Senate minority leader who was later appointed minister, said he was no longer interested in a repeat poll, but INEC rejected a replacement of candidate.
The electoral body is also conducting reruns for the state and federal constituencies in the area.
Both Nse Ntuen, the APC candidate for the Essien Udim State Constituency, and Emmanuel Akpan, the APC candidate for the Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara Federal Constituency on Friday, announced their withdrawal from the elections.