Heavy gunshots, thuggery, violence and snatching of electoral materials marred yesterday’s bye-election for Port Harcourt Constituency 3 in the Rivers State House of Assembly.
Soldiers, policemen and other security personnel forced residents to raise their hands on the streets of Port Harcourt, the state capital, where the election took place.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner Obo Effanga in a statement said “As a result of widespread and wanton disruption of the electoral process reported,” the elections have been suspended.
Thugs operated freely despite Rivers Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Zaki’s announcement that 1,500 policemen would be deployed for the poll with the Nigerian army, Department of State Services (DSS) and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCSC) also enlisted.
They unleashed mayhem, beating innocent persons many of whom were critically injured.
As at press time, collation of results was ongoing at St. Andrew’s Primary School, Emenike Junction Mile One, Diobu, Port- Harcourt with the area and adjoining roads condoned off by fully-armed security personnel.
Candidates of many political parties took part in the bye-election, but the real contest was between Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) Chiemeka Merukini and All Progressives Congress’ (APC’s) Deacon Worlu.
The then representative of Port Harcourt constituency 3, Victor Ihunwo of the PDP, resigned in June to contest as Chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government Council, which he won.
The poll took place in Rumuokowu, Ihuwo-Orogbu, Rumuokara-mati, Rumuelechi, Oro-obaziolu, Rumu-enyika, Rumuopareli, Rumuobiekwe, Rumukpalukwuozu, Rumuogbarawehu and Rumuwoji communities, all in Port Harcourt with police announcing restriction human and vehicular movements from 7 am to 6 pm, which was enforced by security personnel.
There were accusations and counter accusations between members of PDP and APC about persons involved in the violence.
Rivers Publicity Secretary of APC, Chief Chris Finebone, blamed PDP members for the violent acts.
“The Rivers chapter of APC notes with sadness how the PDP resorted to large-scale violence across the units and wards of Port Harcourt Constituency 3, state House of Assembly, during the bye-election today (yesterday).
“It is unfortunate that what should be a mere state constituency bye-election witnessed unprecedented voter intimidation, harassment, vote-buying and shooting activated by the PDP, in line with their usual character of rigging elections through killing and maiming of APC members.
“It is encouraging that the people of Port Harcourt constituency 3 stood their ground and resisted the intimidation by PDP leaders in the area. It signifies that PDP will no more have its way, as was the case in the past years.
“The talk that the Rivers State Chairman of APC, Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, was engaged in any form of activity in the constituency during the election is mere façade created to mask the evil machinations of the PDP during the bye-election.”
Pastor Jerry Needam, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Rivers Chairman of PDP, Chief Felix Obuah, however didn’t respond to calls and text messages to his MTN line as at the time of filing the report.
Rivers Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Nnamdi Omoni, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), also did not answer calls.