Rivers, Imo, Kaduna, Ekiti top list of flashpoints

Millions of Nigerians will be trooping out today to vari­ous polling centres across the country to cast their votes in the gubernato­rial and states House of As­sembly elections. Expectedly, Nigerians and members of the international community are hopeful that the exercise will be peaceful like the Pres­idential and National Assem­bly polls held two weeks ago.

However, analysts and stake­holders have implored Security agencies,and the Independent National Electoral Commis­sion, INEC, not to leave any­thing to chance following the possibility of outbreak of vio­lence in some states that have been dubbed flashpoint states. During the polls two weeks ago, tension was not only high in these states,there was out­break of violence in some of them. These states are Rivers, Edo, Anambra, Ekiti, Kaduna and Imo.

Before the March 28 election, tension has been running high in Rivers State. The state has been embroiled in political crises culminating in street protests, demonstrations,assassinations and attacks and counter-at­tacks on politicians belonging to different political parties. On the day of the election, the state lived up to its billing as sup­porters of the two major politi­cal parties in the state, All Pro­gressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic unleashed violence on one another.

By the time the dust cleared, APC claimed about 12 of its members including a monarch and his two children were mur­dered in cold blood allegedly by PDP thugs, a claim PDP vehemently denied.Also on that day, aggrieved supporters of the All Progressives Con­gress APC blocked major roads within Port-Harcourt, the state capital protesting the conduct of the elections by INEC.

The presence of heavily-armed security officers at the INEC office didn’t deter the protesters from laying siege to the electoral body’s office while calling for the conduct of fresh polls and removal of the state ’s INEC Resident Com­missioner who they accused of bias.They also demanded jus­tice over the killing of some of its members. There were also reports of sporadic shootings in Ozuaha community in Ikwere LGA by political thugs who barricaded the road into the town, and in the process opened fire on a team of policemen and military police escorting NYSC members to polling units.

Worried by the ugly devel­opment, INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega promised that the commission would investigate the happenings in Rivers State.

In Anambra State, the situation was not different. There were reports of skirmish­es between thugs working for different political parties in the state. In Awka, there were reports of hijack of vehicles conveying election officials, and materi­als, and assault on some members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

According to Human Rights Watch, one of the groups that deployed observ­ers to monitor election in the state, thugs not only hijacked ballot boxes in the full glare of security officers, perceived po­litical opponents were also gunned own. One of the victims was the brother of a PDP chieftain in Achalla who was shot by unidentified gunmen. Following people’ s alleged discontentment with the conduct of INEC officials who were accused of having been compromised, INEC offices in Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Nne­wi South and a local government office block in Awka North, Anambra were set ablaze.

In Ekiti State, the situation was not dif­ferent. There were violent confrontations between PDP and APC supporters. APC supporters accused the state governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose of using state machinery to suppress and intimidate APC members. But rather than being cowed, APC mem­bers resisted resorting to violence. To avoid being caught in the crossfire, many residents stayed indoors after voting, while others stayed away from polling centres.

In Kaduna State, violence was also reported in in several communities as angry voters burned down government buildings following rumour that attempts were being made to tamper with the elec­toral process to favour the ruling party, PDP. Soldiers also clashed with angry voters in some parts of the metropolis.

At the end of the exercise, 21 lives were officially acknowledged to have been lost to violence, even though other sources re­vealed that the death toll could be higher.

Following this development, analysts have pointed out the need for INEC and the security agencies to take pro-active measures to forestall violence in these states. Other states in this category of flashpoint states include include Abia and Lagos states.

In a move designed to ensure that there was no breach of peace, police authori­ties midweek announced the deployment of 16 Assistant Inspector Generals of Police to 16 states to supervise today’s gubernatorial election. These are states deemed to be volatile. These states in­clude Abia, Kwara,Ogun, Kaduna, Riv­ers, Oyo, Bauchi, Imo, Edo, Plateau and Sokoto states.

Expressing the resolve of the Police to maintain law and order, AIG Tunde Ogunsakin, who was deployed to Rivers State, assured Nigerians that there was no cause for alarm.

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