A PREMIUM TIMES reporter was briefly detained and harassed at Ward 1 in Ogboko village, Ideato South Local Government Area of Imo state.
The journalist who was duly accredited to cover the elections was banned from the centre by men who appeared to be thugs after they temporarily ceased his working materials.
The centre is where the outgoing governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, is expected to vote later today. He is from Ogboko village.
Mr Okorocha is contesting for the Imo West senatorial seat under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). There are four polling points at the Ogboko ward 1 unit 1 centre.
The reporter, Ebuka Onyeji, arrived at the polling centre around 8:30 a.m. but no personnel nor materials were present.
He then went to a nearby RAC centre only to discover that materials were still being moved to the polling units as at 9:10 am.
When he later came back to the centre at 9:20 a.m, officials had arrived but still setting up their tables.
One of the presiding officers said the delay was caused by the sorting of materials and accreditation of party agents.
Shortly afterwards, the reporter was accosted by two men not wearing an official uniform or election tags. They demanded the reporter’s identification.
The thugs immediately started harassing the journalist even after showing them his accredited INEC tag and ID card. The reporter was also wearing the INEC vest for accredited journalists.
The reporter’s vehicle was then surrounded by many other thugs who joined in the confrontation.
“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?”
There were only two female police officers stationed at the centre. They had no guns. Both of them watched as the thugs attacked the journalist.
After Mr Onyeji approached one of the policewomen to introduce himself, she also demanded that he place a call “to the person that sent you.”
Despite Mr Onyeji placing the call to the PREMIUM TIMES office and an editor speaking with the police officer, the harassment continued.
The thugs then slapped, kicked and beat the journalist’s driver when he tried to complain about the harassment.
The centre was controlled by the thugs who appeared to be working for the governor.
They eventually gave the reporter back his properties with a stern warning to leave and never to return to the centre again.
There are 13 wards in Ideato South LGA and elections were yet to start in most polling units there as at 10:00 a.m.
A party agent of Action Alliance, AA, attributed the delays to confusion in accredited the party agents of the two APC factions in the state.