• Violence, transport problems force suspension in four states

    Violence transport problems force suspension in four states - nigeria newspapers online
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    •INEC halts voting in Kano, Enugu, A’Ibom, Plateau over disruption
    •Police arrest offenders, vote-buying, low turnout in Lagos, Enugu, Bayelsa, Kaduna, Sokoto, others

    The rerun elections conducted in some states on Saturday in 26 states of the federation were characterised by violence, vote-buying, ballot snatching, disruption and low turnout of voters.

    The Independent National Electoral Commission conducted by-elections in nine states for two senators, four members of the House of Representatives and three members of state Houses of Assembly to replace members who passed away or resigned their memberships of the assemblies.

    In other states, re-run elections took place at designated constituencies and polling units as ordered by-election appeal tribunals.

    INEC said the elections were to fill vacancies in three senatorial districts, 17 federal and 28 state constituencies spread across 80 local government areas, 575 registration areas/wards and 8,934 polling units, involving 4,904,627 registered voters out of which 4,613,291 permanent voter cards collected were accredited for use.

    However, the exercise did not go as planned in many of the polling units as reports of thuggery, ballot-snatching and intimidation of voters were recorded, while security agents made some arrests.

    Some of the issues forced INEC to suspend the polls in some of the polling units in Kano, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, and Plateau states.

    Polls suspension

    The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC, Sam Olumekun, disclosed the suspension of the polls in 20 polling units in the affected states in a statement on Saturday.

    INEC had earlier stated that it was probing disruptions that occurred during the rerun/by-elections in Enugu, Akwa Ibom and Kano states.

    It said, “Generally, polls opened promptly and accreditation going on smoothly in the 8,934 polling units in 26 states involved in today’s bye-elections and re-run elections.

    “However, we are monitoring reported disruption of processes by acts of thuggery and hijacking of materials in some locations in Akwa Ibom, Enugu, and Kano states.”

    However, in its latest updates, the commission stated that the suspension was a result of irregularities and abduction of election officials.

    “The Independent National Electoral Commission announces the suspension of ongoing re-run elections in specific constituencies due to disruptions, irregularities and abduction of election officials. The affected areas are as follows:

    “Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency, Akwa Ibom State: Suspension of elections in two Polling Units (Village Hall, EdemUrua 003 in Ini LGA and Village Hall Mbiabong Ikot Udo 003 in Ikono LGA) where all election materials were carted away by hoodlums.

    “Enugu South 1 State Constituency, Enugu State: Suspension of elections in all eight polling units where the original results sheets were not available for inspection by voters before the commencement of polls.

    “Kunchi/Tsanyawa State Constituency, Kano State: Suspension of elections in all 10 polling units in the Kunchi LGA due to invasion, vandalism, and disruption by thugs.”

    The commission noted that the suspension “aligns with the provisions of Section 24(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022,” and urged security agencies to investigate the incidents.

    The statement added, “Further necessary measures for the affected constituencies will be announced after the commission’s meeting on Monday.

    “INEC invites the security agencies to investigate the incidents, while the commission commits to thoroughly interrogating any breaches involving its officials.”

    Lagos

    INEC declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Kayode Laguda, winner of the bye-election conducted for the Surulere Federal Constituency 1 of Lagos State.

    The commission announced that 11,943 votes were cast, out of which 11,801 were valid and 138 were rejected.

    Laguda obtained a total of 11,203 votes to defeat his closest opponent, Jerry Afemikhe of the Peoples Democratic Party, who garnered 278 votes, while the candidate of the Labour Party, Adeola Adebanjo, got 240 votes.

    The INEC Returning Officer for the election, Prof Adebayo Oladipo, pronounced Laguda as duly elected having won in all the polling units in the constituency.

    The bye-election was to elect a replacement for the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, who is currently the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila.

    It, however, recorded a low turnout of voters across the various units and wards.

    For instance, at Polling Unit 017 Ward 8, Alhaji Masha Road, Adeniran Ogunsanya, as of 2pm, only 198 voters were accredited to vote out of the 1,154 registered in the area. The same scenario played out at PU 037 as only 41 of the 172 registered voters came to vote.

    At PU 014, Ward 08, Elizabeth Fowler Memorial School, Surulere, where Gbajabiamila voted, the News Agency of Nigeria reported that only 63 were accredited and voted out of 669 registered.

    Similarly, at PU 002, located at State Junior Grammar School (Special), Itolo Street, Eric Moore, where former governor Babatunde Fashola was expected to vote, out of the 750 registered voters, only 45 came to exercise their franchise.

    A’Ibom

    The House of Representatives bye-election for the Ini/Ikono Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State was marred by violence.

    The bye-election was between the candidate of the Young Progressives Party, Emmanuel Ukpong Udo and Dr. Glory Edet of the Peoples Democratic Party.

    One of our correspondents, who monitored the election, reported that some PDP chieftains were arrested over allegations of vote-buying and diversion of election materials.

    It was gathered that the party chieftains had been taken to the command headquarters in Ikot-Akpanabia for interrogation.

    The command’s Public Relations Officer, Odiko Macdon, could not be reached for comments on the issue as he did not take his calls or respond to text messages sent to his mobile telephone.

    Enugu

    In Enugu State, some voters beat up an INEC official for coming with pre-filled result sheets in some polling units in favour of the PDP candidates for the Igboeze North/Udenu Federal Constituency.

    The re-run election in the constituency followed the ruling of the Appeal Court, which cancelled the election in some polling units over the non-inclusion of the logo of the All Progressives Congress in Form EC8A.

    Despite repeated assurances by INEC of its readiness to conduct the re-run election, as of 10.30 am materials had yet to arrive in several affected polling units in the state and polling officers came without results sheets, especially in polling units with a great number of voters.

    At Igogoro, Ozzi Ward 2 Unit 004, the presiding officer narrowly escaped death after the voters discovered an already filled result sheet even before the commencement of voting.

    In a video, which went viral on social media, the presiding officer, Mr Ronald Ugwudani from Igbo-Etiti Local Government Area, said the pre-filled result sheet was given to him from the local government by INEC.

    The angry voters asked Ugwudani about the result sheet and he said that the SPO was coming with it but when the irate youths went physical, he brought out the sheet from his bag.

    “I told them that the SPO would bring it, so, they forcefully searched my bag. I didn’t know that the result sheet was in my bag. I showed them the result sheet and they wanted to kill me,” he was overheard narrating in the video.

    Yobe

    Security agents in Yobe State intercepted an 18-seater bus conveying seven suspected political thugs in Gashua en route to Damaturu allegedly to obstruct the electoral process.

    A statement by state police command spokesman, DSP Dungus Abdulkarim, said the bus was intercepted at a military checkpoint on the outskirts of Gashua around 7 am.

    The statement alleged that the suspects intended “to cause mayhem in the electoral process but met their Waterloo as the police took them into custody for a discreet investigation and subsequent prosecution.”

    The statement listed the suspects as Abubakar Garba Bololo, 25; Habu Mato, 35; Suleman Musa, 50; Yusuf Danjuma, 33; Abdullahi Haruna, 45; Zanab Mohd, 25; and Rachael Bitrus, 23.

    The suspects, according to the statement, claimed that they were recruited to serve as agents by one of the opposition parties participating in the Yobe East senatorial bye-election.

    Plateau

    The Resident Electoral Commissioner in Plateau State, Dr Oliver Agundu, announced plans for fresh elections in 18 polling units of the Plateau North Senatorial District.

    He said this followed complaints of ballot paper shortage in some polling units during Saturday’s re-run election.

    The REC, who stated that an investigation had been launched by the commission to unravel the cause of the ballot papers shortage in the affected polling units said, “In respect of the reports that were coming in from some polling units that there were shortages of ballot papers in respect of the Federal House of Representatives seat, we did a holistic appraisal of the situation and we have received a comprehensive report on all the polling units and they summed up to 18 in total.

    “Fifteen are in the Tudun-Wada/Kabong Ward, and three are in the Naraguta B Ward, all in the Jos North LGA. So, we have decided that we cannot even take it for granted that this is a negligible number compared to over 900 polling units where the elections took place.”

    The REC said to resolve the issues amicably; the commission had summoned a meeting of party stakeholders at the INEC headquarters to brief them on the situation.

    The rerun elections conducted by INEC for the Plateau North Senatorial District and the Bassa/Jos North Federal Constituency were marred by voter apathy and ballot paper shortage.

    In some of the polling units, INEC officials were held hostage by angry voters who wanted to cast their ballot but could not due to the shortage of ballot papers.

    Bayelsa

    In Bayelsa State, the run-off election for the State Constituency II was conducted in seven polling units in the Yenagoa LGA of the state amidst tight security.

    The candidate of the PDP, Ebiuwou Koku-Obiyai, and her All Progressives Grand Alliance counterpart, Waikumo Amakoromo, were the major contenders in the poll.

    Electoral officers and materials arrived early at polling units.

    Though the turnout of voters was relatively poor, the accreditation and voting processes were peaceful.

    However, the balloting was characterised by alleged vote-trading and vote-buying.

    It was gathered that agents of the candidates, armed with notebooks, stationed themselves at some strategic distance away from the polling units to lure voters.

    Voters who cast their votes for the agents’ candidates were said to have simply walked to the location to collect between N20,000 and N60,000.

    Sokoto

    The turnout of voters in most of the polling units in the Yabo Local Government Area of Sokoto State during the rerun election for the Yabo/Shagari Federal Constituency was impressive.

    However, vote-buying were reported in most of the polling units visited by one of our correspondents in the state.

    The Court of Appeal had ordered a rerun in the Yabo/Shagari Federal Constituency and two wards for the state assembly for the Bodinga North and Tambuwal West constituencies.

    It was gathered that the two leading parties paid each voter between N20,000 and N35,000.

    One of the voters, Abubakar Ibrahim, said he was offered N20,000 by an agent, while another agent offered him N30,000.

    At Gidan Masha in the Lambara Ward of the Shagari Local Government Area of the state, massive vote-buying was reported as voters were offered between N25,000 and N35,000, depending on their bargaining power.

    The state police command confirmed the arrest of two persons for disturbing the voting process.

    The spokesman for the command, ASP Ahmed Rufai, told one of our correspondents the suspects were arrested at the Mazuzi polling unit in Shagari.

    He said, “We arrested two persons in Mazuzi polling unit, Kambalawa ward of the Shagari Local Government Area.

    “The two persons pretended as if they wanted to cast their votes and in the process disturbed the process and were arrested.

    “They are currently in our custody while investigation is ongoing on the matter.”

    Ebonyi

    The PDP candidate for the Ebonyi South Senatorial Zone, Silas Onu, accused the APC of snatching ballot boxes, multiple thumb printing and vote-buying.

    Onu, who made the allegation in an interview with journalists at the Ishieke Polling Unit in the Ohaozara Local Government Area of the state, said he had to leave his polling unit after voting owing to provocative activities by APC members.

    Reacting, the Chairman of the APC in the state, Stanley Okoro-Emegha, said the allegations were baseless and unfounded, adding, “They will always cry because they are losers.”

    “Don’t mind them. You are aware that had they won, they wouldn’t come up with such allegations. So, they will always say what they like because the process does not favour them today. So, we are not bothered about what they say,” he stated.

    Ondo

    The candidates of the APC and the PDP for the Akoko North-East/Akoko North-West Federal Constituency of Ondo State, Mr Ife Ehindero and Mr Lekan Bada, expressed optimism that they would emerge victorious in the poll.

    The election recorded a large turnout of voters who converged on polling centres around 8 am to cast their votes.

    Speaking with one of our correspondents after casting his vote at Unit 2, Ward 4, Oyin in the Akoko North-West Local Government Area of the state, Ehindero said the reports he got from the 23 wards in the constituency were impressive, adding that they were a sign of his victory.

    In his own comment, the PDP candidate, Bada, who voted in Ward 01, Unit 12 in Ikare-Akoko, commended the peaceful conduct of the election and expressed the hope that he would win the election.

    He said, “Where I voted in Ward 01, Unit 12 in Ikare-Akoko was very peaceful. I voted around 10 am and voting went on smoothly. The security arrangement was perfect.

    “Due to the rotational agreement, it is the turn of Akoko North-East. If it goes to the North-West, it will take 11 years to come back to the North-East. So, I have the advantage.”

    The seat of the federal constituency became vacant following the resignation of Mr Olubumi Tunji-Ojo, who was appointed as the minister for interior by President Bola Tinubu last year.

    Kano

    INEC suspended the re-run elections in 10 polling units in the Kunchi LGA, Kano, State, following disruptions, irregularities and abduction of electoral officials.

    The suspension was contained in a statement by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voters Education Committee, Sam Olumekun.

    Following the disruption of the process, the commission invited security agencies to investigate the incidents.

    Kaduna

    The state Chairman of the PDP, Hassan Hyat, accused INEC of colluding with the ruling party to frustrate the will of the masses.

    He stated this in Jaba-Kogo during the re-run election for the Kachia/Kagarko Federal House of Representatives seat.

    According to him, the re-run elections taking place in some parts of the state were marred by mass voting-buying.

    Hyat stated, “Vote-buying is an offense and that is exactly what the nation is crying against and this is happening in the open.

    “Unfortunately, this is the situation we have found ourselves in the country; whatever that comes up is an act of illegality.

    “We’re not surprised with what’s happening because everybody knows that the PDP won the 2023 gubernatorial election at the state level, but the Supreme Court decided to overturn the voice of the masses using legal technicalities to impose individuals on the people.

    “Even the verdict of the Supreme Court on the Kachia/Kagarko Federal Constituency came to them as a surprise.”

    The former Kaduna Federal Commissioner, National Population Commission, Dr Abdulmalik Durunguwa, decried low voter turnout in some of the polling units, citing a lack of voter sensitisation.

    He explained that most voters were unaware that elections were taking place in the local government areas.

    Students of the Kaduna State University and the Kaduna Polytechnic recruited by INEC to conduct the Kachia/Kagarko Federal House of Representatives re-run election accused the commission of replacing their names with unknown persons 24 hours to the election.

    The students also said that they were conveyed free to the local government area, but were not attended to by the commission.

    Some of the students were stranded and lamented their poor treatment by INEC.

    The INEC electoral officer of the Kachia Local Government Area refused to make comment on the said allegations.

    Delta

    The Delta State House of Assembly rerun election in the Ethiope-West State Constituency was marred by low turnout of voters in the various polling units and wards.

    One of our correspondents observed that the people of Oghara, Mosogar and Jesse communities were going about their normal businesses.

    Heavy presence of security personnel and INEC ad hoc staff members was observed at the various polling units and wards visited.

    INEC electoral officer in the Ethiope-West Local Government Area, Mrs Beauty Ibiama, said sensitive election materials were distributed to the various polling stations as early as 6 am and pointed out that voting commenced around 8.30 am.

    The INEC official however clarified that “the people who were seen going about their businesses are in the areas where elections do not, and will not hold.”

    According to her, INEC covered five wards of Mosogar I and II, Jesse V and Oghara I and II.

    Benue

    There was a low turnout of voters in the bye-election in the Guma 1 State Constituency of Benue State.

    One of our correspondents who visited some of the polling units at Daudu observed a low turnout of voters.

    Voting commenced exactly 8.30 am at the Ali Agudu polling unit in Daudu which is populated by internally displaced persons.

    The Resident Electoral Commissioner for Benue State, Prof Sam Egwu, applauded the peaceful conduct of the election.

    He said that the commission did enough enlightenment and wondered the low turnout of voters.

    The Commissioner of Police in the state, Emmanuel Adesina, expressed satisfaction with the peaceful conduct of the election.

    He stated that the command deployed enough officers for a hitch-free election.

    Bauchi

    The former Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, Abubakar Suleiman, was in an early lead in the rerun elections held in 10 polling units of the Ningi Central Constituency, Ningi Local Government Area of the state on Saturday.

    INEC’s Returning Officer, Prof Shuaibu Muhammad, had declared Suleiman, the immediate past Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, winner of the Ningi Central Constituency election held on March 18, 2023.

    Suleiman, a member of the PDP, had scored 16,866 votes to defeat his closest rival, Khalid Abdulmalik-Ningi of the APC, who scored 15,065 votes, while the candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party, Danlami Bara’u, got 4,886 votes.

    But not satisfied with INEC’s declaration of the result of the election, Abdulmalik-Ningi approached the Governorship and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in the state to seek redress.

    But the tribunal dismissed his case and affirmed the victory of Suleiman for a second term in office.

    The APC candidate approached the Court of Appeal to challenge the tribunal’s ruling.

    In its judgment, the appellate court’s three-man panel sacked Suleiman and ordered for a rerun in 10 affected polling units.

    Suleiman won in all the nine polling units announced so far, while the result of the last unit was being awaited.

    Reports by Gift Habib, Ayoola Olasupo, Henry Falaye, Patrick Odey, Raphael Ede, Uthman Abubakar, James Abraham, Daniels Igoni, Animasahun Salman, Edward Nnachi, Peter Dada, Ted Odogwu, Israel Bulus, Dele Ogunyemi, John Charles and Armstrong Bakam

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