By Gladys Nweke
The presidential and National Assembly elections have come and gone but ugly details of violence and rigging have continued to emerge. The role of most members of the National Youth Corps (NYSC) has continued to worry Nigerians on the fate of the future, but many of them have come out to give account of what both leading parties did to force them do the unthinkable. In some places, it the APC forcing them, in other places it is the PDP.
In Ogoni areas, the account is more formal coming in the presence of the Military s members of the National Youth Corps (NYSC) accused of rigging the February 23, 2019 elections came out to counter the claims. A youth corps member, Tuatimi James Powell, on Saturday, March 2, 2019, revealed how some leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State sent thugs to force him and 10 other colleagues to a hotel in Bodo-Ogoni, Gokana Local Government Area, Rivers State, to rig the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections at gunpoint.
The member who was a Presiding Officer (PO) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said he and other NYSC members had horrifying experiences in the hands of the PDP thugs who bundled them into a waiting bus amid sporadic gunshots and moved them to Greenside Hotel.
The youth corps member revealed that on getting to the hotel, the PDP leaders and their thugs forced them to fill fictitious results on INEC’s result sheets forcibly taken from him and other Corps members at gunpoint while also forcing them to sign the documents.
Corroborating Powell, an Assistant Presiding Officer (APO) of INEC, Michael Kponeh, disclosed that the ad hoc staff and other officials of INEC were held hostage by the PDP thugs in Bodo-Ogoni in Gokana LGA and made to do their bidding at gunpoint.
The 11 NYSC members were paraded along with 42 other suspects on Saturday by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Maj.Gen. Jamil Sarham.
The GOC, who was represented by the Garrison Commander of 6 Division Garrison, Brig.-Gen. Adeola Kalejaiye, was assisted by 6 Division’s Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Aminu Iliyasu.
Maj.-Gen. Sarham said, “On February 23, 2019, at about 1330hrs, following a tip-off, our troops deployed in Gokana general area for ‘Operation Safe Conduct of Presidential and National Assembly Elections’ arrested 39 suspects including 11NYSC members and one driver, while others were Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ad hoc staff with sensitive electoral materials at Greenside Hotel in Gokana LGA of Rivers State.
“Preliminary investigation revealed that the suspects were moved to the hotel to rig the election in a favour of a political party. Items recovered from the hotel were 34 ballot boxes loaded with ballot papers, three card readers, 10 bags containing electoral materials and Toyota Hiace bus, with registration number: Lagos: EQ 171 KRD.”
The GOC also said that 13 political thugs were also arrested in Harris Town, Degema LGA of Rivers State, ahead of last Saturday’s elections.