Paul Obiajunwo, PortHarcourt
Ballot box snatching and several attack on the electoral and security operatives may threatening the result of the yesterday’s supplementary legislative rerun election in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State.
There were reports of several incidences of hijacking of electoral materials by political thugs during the election.
Several of the armless female police officers that were on election duties were allegedly threatened and abducted and only regained their freedom with the swift intervention of the military and men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commissioner in the state, Elder Aniedi Ikoiwak said the commission would not accept the result of any polling unit that was snatched.
Ikoiwak, who spoke while at ward 13 Ulakwo Etche stated that the commission is aware of the attacks on officials who are on electoral duties and noted that any polling units that had report of hijack would be annulled.
Ikoiwak said: “The police have just said they have arrested some people. They are doing their investigation. We have asked all the officials who are there that they should make their reports. Anywhere materials are hijacked stands cancelled.
“In an environment like this if we look at what has been done and where the election has taken place we say we have done well. We will go to other polling units to see what is happening.
“When it comes to election our staffs are attacked at all time. We have complained this severally to the public. What do we do, we have to accept it and move forward. Violence is the reason we have been having inconclusive election. Nobody is talking of the attack against our officials and the people and Nigerians are not standing up against this violence.”
However, the Acting Commissioner of Police in the state, DCP Ahmed Magaji has confirmed that 63 alleged political thugs have been arrested and that investigation into their involvement has commenced.
The actual offence of the arrests is not known at press time. But the suspected electoral thugs were intercepted in three 18 seater buses and two taxis allegedly on their arrival to the area.
It was gathered that the suspects were contracted and brought to Etche for the election from different local governments.
The suspects were arrested by a team of military and policemen in a joint electoral stop and check operation.
Magaji noted that the suspects were apprehended in a joint security stop and service operation carried out in the area and that the police would soon make the report on the suspects open.
Magaji said: “In ongoing rerun election in Etche, the security arrangement put in place in the course of our stop and search we made arrests about 63 of them. We will soon come out with the report of our findings public. We will not make any further comment until the report of our investigation is out.
This was happening as the security also arrested the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, alongside three others.
Nwanoske, who was serving as the returning officer for his party was arrested in Ulakwo community during the election.
The police said it would only make comments after its investigations, but Nwanosike has maintained that his arrest was illegal and ill motivated.
In Igbo-Etche community, hoodlums allegedly chopped off the hand of an INEC official posted to the area and abducted another.
The victim whose hand was damage was immediately rushed back to the INEC headquarters in Port Harcourt in the pool of his blood for treatment.
The police had earlier arrested four youths from ward 14 Igbodo community for alleged involvement in electoral offences.
The four youths have been detained at Okehi Police Divisional Headquarters, at the headquarters of Etche. Hoodlums swept all the electoral material for Akwuka ward 9, unit 8, unit 12 and uni1 20