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How Low Voter turnout, Vote buying, Violence Ruled Rivers on March 18 - TELL Magazine

How Low Voter turnout, Vote buying, Violence Ruled Rivers on March 18

Though the governorship and house of assembly elections in Rivers State started relatively earlier on Saturday March 18 2023 than the presidential and national assembly elections that took place on February 25, 2023, it was bogged down by several issues.

The turnout was generally low. Many of the voters that turned out to vote during the Presidential elections did not bother coming out for the governorship and house of assembly elections. As the elections got underway a spate of violence was recorded in several parts of Rivers State.

Some of the voters told the Magazine that the poor turnout was a direct reaction to the manipulation of the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections, which ended up not reflecting the wishes of the people.

Also it was observed that most of those who participated in the March 18 polls were mainly indigenous voters. A voter, Mr. Peter Oko, at Alesa Ward 1 in Eleme local government area said some of the voters who are non-indigenes stayed away because of the threat of violence.

Samuel Osaromkpe, who voted at Unit 8, Ward 1, had urged the election personnel to ensure that the results were uploaded before they left the polling unit. “That is one way that confidence can be restored to the electoral process again,” he said.

At Ahoada East, the House of Assembly candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was reportedly kidnapped while his counterpart for Port Harcourt Constituency II was arrested by security agents on the morning of Saturday. A campaign coordinator was allegedly murdered in Ahoada West Local Government Area. A report of the killing of five persons in Emohua local government area could not be confirmed.

Reports from Buguma in Asari-Toru Local Government Area, a riverine area, said voting had not started as of 2.15pm. In Obuama Ward 14 in Degema Local Government Area, voting was suspended until Sunday March 19 because the electoral materials were incomplete.

At Port Harcourt City Local Government, Dagogo Iboroma, a senior advocate of Nigeria said there was high level of voter suppression, violence and corruption of electoral process, and asked, “Which is the way forward?”

Reports from Obio/Akpor Local Government Area said materials were taken away to collation centres particularly in Wards 9, Units 7 and 2 without the ballot papers being counted. An election observer, Evelyn Williams, who monitored elections there, said she was not allowed to take pictures and her writing pad was snatched from her by unidentified persons.

“As I arrived the place, I heard PDP agent asking INEC officials if they got the alert. The same question went to the police, NSCDC officers attached to the unit. And they all confirmed (that) they got the alert,” she said.

Obio Akpor Ward 16, Unit 15. Materials were taken to Obio/Akpor council headquarters. The BVAS machine was not working well and was not uploading the accredited voters at Obio Akpor Ward 17, Unit 43 at Chinwota Open Space, St John Ogbogoro Road. Thugs collected the BVAS machine and left with it. But voters insisted that the votes be counted like that and they arrived at the following figures: APC 31, ACCORD 3, PDP 31, LABOUR 22, SDP 10, AA 1 for governorship. The house of assembly box could not be opened. At about 3:34 pm some thugs chased away everyone at Rumuagholu. They displayed knives, guns and others. At Ward 9, Unit 13, Obio Akpor, election materials were carted away by thugs.

Town crier at Ward 1, Unit 6, Obio Akpor announced that those not voting PDP should not bother voting, while low voter turnout was recorded at Rumuagholu. Only 100 voters were accredited out of 735 registered voters. This was recorded at Ward 17, polling unit Rumuagholu. It was the same story at Rumueme, Ward 9, Unit 15.

At Ward 7, Unit 7, Port Harcourt Local Government Area, the Presiding Officer was reported to have abandoned polling unit at Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Borikiri because the Supervisory Presiding Officer went away with result sheets. He came back later with them and results were counted, said another observer, Smith Nwokocha. At PHALGA Ward 5, Unit 32, food drinks were brought by PDP for the agents, INEC staff, police and even voters. At theTrans Amadi gardens Polling Unit, the BVAS machine taken away by thugs. They also warned that anyone who was not voting for PDP should leave the venue and go home.

In Khana Local Government Area Ward 10, an SDP member, Joe Nwikpughi was shot while escorting election officials with collated results on the way to Bori. The attackers were said to have been led by a former local government chairman.

No election was reported at Unit 9, Ward 15, Khana. The BVAS was said to have not been reconfigured for the March 18 election. It carried old information on the presidential and national assembly elections. BVAS could not perform accreditation.

Materials and election personnel for Ward 18, Khana were allegedly taken to the residence of a politician in the locality where they were said to have been lavishly entertained.

In Bonny Local Government Area, Ward 4, Unit 5. There was no election personnel and material as of 1.30pm.

At Ward 8, Unit 3 in Tai Local Government Area, thugs, believed to be loyal to the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, reportedly hijacked materials and election personnel at 1.25 pm to an unknown destination.

Shooting was reported at Ngofa Unit, Aleto Ward 10 Eleme Local Government Area where Ambassador Oji Ngofa cast his vote. Police reportedly arrested one of the assailants.

At all the polling units monitored by the magazine in Eleme Local Government Area, agents of a major political party were seen whispering to voters who thumb printed for the party to go give their bank account details to a certain official in a hidden place. It was learnt that the account details was for money to be paid to them for voting the party.

Meanwhile, Joseph Obele, the governorship candidate of the AAC who voted at Unit 19 Alesa Ward, Eleme Local Government Area, said voting was smooth. “Unfortunately,” he said, “The turnout was very poor at my unit. The total number of 750 persons accredited by BVAS but less than 60 persons came to the polling unit. But on the day of the Presidential election was near carnival at my polling unit. The crowd was massive. The election is over for today and it will definitely produce a winner. There is no way all the governorship candidates would be winners. So, I urge all the candidates to congratulate me if I am declared the winner. Likewise, we should all congratulate and support whoever will eventually be declared by INEC as the next governor of Rivers State. I can say kudos to the youths of Rivers State for the conduct of today.”

Similarly, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom WIke, said the election was better than the presidential and national assembly elections. In a press release signed by his special assistant on media and publicity, Kelvin Ebiri, the governor said the BVAS performed better now than in the February 25 elections.

Wike, who spoke shortly after he cast his ballot at his polling unit 7 in Ward 9 of Rumuepirikom community in Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State on Saturday, however explained the low turnout of voters. He noted that a lot of people came out on February 25 to vote with great expectation but perhaps when they did not get what they wanted, they obviously became discouraged.

“It is much better today unlike what we experienced on 25th of February. When the first election came and went, and people didn’t get what they wanted, they were discouraged.

“But for whatever it is, the number is still okay. You can’t force people to go and vote. I am happy with the peaceful nature and the way the election is going. It means the security agencies are doing what they are supposed to do,” the governor said.

Wike condemned the role allegedly played by the Director of Security of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in the reported breech in security concerning the conduct of the 18th March 2023 governorship election in the State.

He said, “Even if INEC has denied it, which is expected, I can tell you that the Director of Security in INEC headquarters, one Leebari, he was the one who carried out that act because Magnus Abe (SDP candidate) is from Ogoni and the Director of Security is from Ogoni.”

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