Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Imo State governorship elections marred by violence

The governorship election in Imo State was fraught with diverse electoral malpractices, ranging from ballot box snatching, ballot stuffing, thuggery, and outright voters disenfranchisement.

The opposition parties in the state have blamed these electoral malfeasance on the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

In Owerri North council area, as at 6.20pm, no election materials have been brought to over five polling centres in the Okigwe Road and Orji areas of the council. While there were security agents at the polling units, there were no INEC officials in two of the polling units.

In a polling unit in Ihiagwa, Owerri West council area, voters refused to vote with what they described as ‘fake electoral materials’ brought in after some individuals, claiming to be policemen, took away the original materials and brought a different set after three hours.

At Uzoagba, in Ikeduru council area, electoral materials in booth 8 were snatched by unidentified hoodlums. Also at Okwu, Eziama, and Ugirike wards, ballot boxes and all electoral materials were snatched by unknown gunmen. Amaimo Central School of the same council erupted in a free-for-all-fight following suspicions of manipulation.

At Nguru centre in Aboh Mbaise council area, men in army uniform, wielding military rifles, took away electoral materials in the area.

In the same Aboh Mbaise, Godfrey Dikeocha, a former Speaker of the State Assembly and aide to governor Ikedi Ohakim and one Ogunewe Princewill, a representative at Okeovoro Development Centre, allegedly stormed polling units with armed thugs, two of whom were identified as Udochukwu Onyekwere and Ekwueme Nweke. The polling booths raided are at Umunebie Ndigbu Uvuru.

“As at 6.10pm, there was no voting in the entire Ngor Okpala council area of Imo State due to issues ranging from the absence of result sheets to the unavailability of other relevant documents for the elections,” the chairman of the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), Vitalis Ajumbe, said.

Snatching ballots

Ballot papers were allegedly taken away from these polling units and thumb printed for the PDP outside the polling station by armed thugs hired by some officials of the state government.

There were many casualties, including one Hapuruchi Ejiekpe who was seriously injured and is hospitalised.

Also at Ezinihitte council area of the state, Chinemerem Madu, the PDP chairman of the area, allegedly invaded polling booth 004, Ward 1, Amumara, Ezinihitte, with thugs; allegedly compelling voters to vote PDP and openly sharing money to people.

A retired SSS officer, Joebra Nwachukwu, was reported to have been nearly assaulted when he challenged them. The police were called in, but did not intervene in the matter and left in their Imo Transport Company (ITC) commercial bus, Registration No. XC 846 WER.

Some of the colluding policemen were identified as Ekene Basil (401435); Chilaka Duru (427155); Paul Sunday (without number), and others.

It was a theatre of war in Oguta council area, as sporadic gunshots were heard from different areas, especially the Izombe community where two of the major contenders for the House of Assembly seat came from. There was rampant snatching of ballot boxes and electoral materials at Izombe.

There was also unconfirmed report of an arrest at a hotel in the state capital, where people were caught thumb printing in one of the hotel rooms, although the police spokesperson refused to confirm it.
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