A referendum for the proposed Afon Local Council Development Area, LCDA, in Ogun State on Thursday turned bloody as thugs descended on polling units, and attacked locals and journalists with machetes and other dangerous weapons.
Three journalists, including PREMIUM TIMES’ Dimeji Kayode-Adedeji, were among those attacked after men armed with knives and sticks invaded two polling units at Idi-Emi and Obada communities.
The men overpowered officials of the State Independent Electoral Commission at Ita Baale -Ago –Keesan and carted away ballot boxes.
The referendum was mandated by the state House of Assembly.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun had sent a list of 37 proposed LCDAs to the state assembly for approval in addition of the 20 local government areas already in existence.
After holding public hearings, the state assembly ordered the State Electoral Commission to organise a referendum for five LCDAs ahead of the passage of the bill for the creation of 37 LCDAs.
Our correspondent said youth from Afon and Imala communities attacked each other, and other people nearbly, with cutlasses, cudgels, broken bottles and charms.
A correspondent for The Pilot Newspaper, Sulaiman Fasasi, was repeatedly struck with cutlasses, by the men who also tore his clothes, took away his money before setting his shoes alight.
Some indigenes of Imala who also sustained injuries during the fracas include Adeolu Adeegbe and Rotimi Ashipa.
The returning officer for Obada-Owode-Idi-Ayun ward, Onsa Aliu-Adio, during an interview with journalists, confirmed that ballot boxes and other voting materials were snatched by the hoodlums at gun point.
A combined team of policemen and Nigeria and Security Civil Defence Corps, NSDSC drafted to the area battled to restore order between the two feuding communities.
The Chief of Imala town, Adetayo Ajayi, described the action of the government to hold referendum for Afon in Imala territory which belongs to Abeokuta North local government, as an affront.
High Chief Ajayi, who is the Ashipa of Imala, said Abeokuta North and Imeko-Afon Local Governments Areas have different territories which are clearly stated.
“Obada belongs to Imala,” he said. “They did not indicate where Keesan is situated. What Imala is saying is that, it is inconceivable that somebody will move miles away from his territory to another territory and want to hold referendum, that is why we say no.”
But in his reaction, a community leader in Afon, Jide Ogunesan, said there was nothing new about the move to conduct referendum in those two areas, saying that elections had been taking place there since creation of the state.
Mr. Ogunesan, a former caretaker committee chairman of Imeko-Afon local government, alleged that the violence was orchestrated the people of Imala, who he claimed snatched the ballot boxes.