Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has stated that the consistency with which the police sabotages the electoral process in Rivers State amounts to a declaration of war on the people.
In a state broadcast yesterday on the failed Port Harcourt State Constituency 3 bye-election disrupted by the police and armed APC thugs, Governor Wike charged Rivers people not to succumb to the antics of the police, lest they become slaves in their fatherland.
Governor Wike said: “The consistent sabotage of the electoral process by the Police amounts to a declaration of war against the people of Rivers State and their solemn rights to freely and fairly choose their leaders and representatives.
“Clearly, there are dangerous times ahead but we must not give in to intimidation lest we lose our liberties and become slaves in our own land.
“Against this backdrop, it is up to the people of Rivers State to choose the option that will serve their interest.”
Governor Wike said despite assurances from the Rivers State Commissioner of Police during the last State Security Council meeting that the police will remain neutral and act professionally, the police on Saturday August 18, 2018, joined forces with APC thugs to disrupt elections.
He said: “As we had feared, the Police failed us completely once again and negated all that they promised. Instead of providing security for voters and INEC officials the Police brazenly colluded with political thugs of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to subvert the democratic process and denied the people of Port Harcourt Constituency III their rights to free, fair and credible elections.
“Confirmed reports from the field indicated that INEC promptly and rightly distributed elections materials to all the polling units within a recorded time.
“However, while voting was underway, armed thugs from the APC led by the State’s factional Chairman, Mr. Flag Ojukaye Amachree moved freely from one polling unit to the other, violently assaulted voters and INEC officials and carted away election materials, including smart card readers and ballot boxes.”
The governor added: “It is important to note that Ojukaye Flag Amachree who led the thugs is the same person facing multiple murder trial and instead of arresting him as ordered by the trial court, the Police has continued to aid and shield him from arrest and prosecution.
“It is equally important to note that Ojukaye Flag Amachree and his thugs freely and easily overran the entire constituency and successfully disenfranchised the electorates with the active support, protection and guidance of heavily armed Police operatives from the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) and the Inspector General of Police’s Monitoring Unit.”
He noted that during the June 16, 2018 Local Government Elections where APC refused to participate, the polls were conducted peacefully without rancour.
Governor Wike said that the disruption of the Port Harcourt State Constituency Three Bye-Election was not the first time the Police would be indicted for unconstitutional anti-democratic action during an election in Rivers State.
He pointed out the that following the widespread violence that erupted in the 2016 legislative re-run elections in Rivers State, the INEC Panel Report (at page 66) indicted the security agencies as brazen election riggers and singled out the F-SARS Commander Mr. Akin Fakorede as the arrowhead of the violence and rigging that characterized those elections.
He said: “ This situation is worrisome. If the Nigerian Police cannot secure and guarantee the peaceful and successful conduct of election in a single State Constituency of 8 wards, then what will happen in 2019 when they would be contending with 319 electoral wards and 4442 polling units across 23 Local Government Areas of the State?”
While the Rivers State Governor commended INEC for acting professionally, he berated the police for taking sides and offering illegal aid to APC to undermine electoral process in the state.
He thanked the people of Port Harcourt State Constituency Three for their peaceful conduct in the face of electoral provocation. He said that their action has exposed the true enemies of the state.
“Against the backdrop it is up to the people of Rivers State to choose the option that will serve their interest.
“Finally, I cannot end this broadcast without extending my gratitude to the people of Constituency III who, in the face of brazen provocation by the police and the APC thugs, remained calm and law abiding.
“Your patience has thoroughly exposed the true enemies of Rivers State and by the grace of God, we will defeat them in 2019 for as long as we remain resolute in our determination to defend our rights to be free”, Governor Wike said.
Meanwhile, stakeholders, non-governmental organizations have condemned the massive ballot box snatching, shooting and violence during last Saturday’s bye-election for Port Harcourt Constituency 111 Assembly seat.
Sir Austin Opara, who is a former Deputy Speaker at the Federal House of Representatives and hails from the constituency, accused All Progressives Congress (APC) factional Chairman in Rivers State, Ojukaye Flag Amachree of using security operatives and thugs to cart any electoral materials.
He said attempts to seek the attention of the Police failed as men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) were part of the machinery to disrupt the elections.
On his part, Mayor of Port Harcourt Victor Ihunwo condemned the election over the violence that was witnessed across the wards and polling units.
Ihunwo likened the election to a war situation, as he warned that if nothing is done to check the trend, it might pose treat to the nation’s democracy.
In her reaction, prominent Niger delta activist, Ann Kio Briggs described the violence that marred the election as a deliberate intimidation of the electorate, by some desperate politicians.
Kio-Briggs warned that such development was unpalatable and threat to the democratic process.
President of Niger Delta Coalition (NDCAV) Christian Lekia said the violence was a dangerous signal ahead 2019 general elections.
“It’s quite regrettable that Nigerians are mobilized to obtain their permanent voters card, but are denied the opportunity to exercise their civic reasonability during elections. What happened in PHALGA Constituency 111 is indeed a incentive to our democratic process”.
Lekia cautioned politicians against the use of thuggery and violence to vying elections, as he urged them to respect the tenets of democracy.
On his part, Director of National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Rivers State, Oliver Worlugbom said the widespread violence that marred the elections was an indication that politicians are yet to learn their lessons, and respect the rights of the electorate, to choose their political leaders through the ballot box.
In the words of the NOA Director, “the process of election should not be seen as a do-or-die affairs”, adding that, “security operatives should not allow themselves to be used by politicians to derail the democratic process”.
Following massive ballot box snatching, shooting and violence by the opposition during last Saturday’s bye-election for Port Harcourt constituency 111, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the election, Chiemeka Nmenikini has called for cancellation of the polls.
Nenikini made the call shortly after hoodlums led by All Progressives Congress (APC) State factional Chairman, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree disrupted the elections, and carted away electoral materials at Ward 10, unit 7, 8 and 9 at Mile 3 Diobu.
The PDP candidate accused both the Police and the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC) of compromise following widespread violence, and ballot box snatching witnessed during the polls.
He said, “for me, this is not what an election should be. Everybody knows that Port Harcourt is PDP, and the APC knows that they are not on ground that is why they resorted to violence.”
Nmerukini accused the Police, especially men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of openly supporting the APC in unleashing terror on voters, and carting away of electoral materials across the constituency.
“It’s very unfortunate that at this stage incur democracy that we are still thinking of snatching ballot boxes and all that “Nmerukini said, “even INEC has failed us because in most units the card reader did not work”.
Similarly, Chairman of the State Chairman of Local Government Service Commission, Chief Azubuike Nmerukini has described last Saturday’s bye-election as a show of shame.
Chief Nmerukini condemned the violence that characterized the elections, and said it was attempt to truncate the.
In a related development, the State Chapter of the PDP has warned factional Chairman of the APC, Flag-Amachree to desist from displaying thuggery tendencies in democratic settings.
The PDP in a statement on Saturday signed by its chairman, Bro. Felix Obuah said, … “elections can never be won by guns, bullets and physical brutality. Rather the people must be allowed to exerine their freedom of choice as to who represents them through the ballot box”.
While condemning activities of the APC faction leader, who used bandits to cart away electoral materials, including result sheets, the PDP warned that it shall no longer tolerate wanton disruption of a democratic exercise, stressing that its display of maturity should not be misconstrued as a sign of weakness. “No person or group has monopoly of violence”, it added.
Consequently, INEC has suspended the bye-election for Port Harcourt Constituency 111 Assembly seat, citing widespread violence that characterized the elections as responsible for the decision. Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Rivers State, Mr. Obo Effanga announced the suspension Saturday night.
Kevin Nengia,Taneh Bemene & Susan Serekara-Nwikhana