* ‘Shoot-on-sight’ failed to shoot
By Ignatius Chukwu
Rivers of Blood was the brand Rivers State fought hard to wipe off but elections seem to drag it back. Now, the killing of a former local council chairman in Rivers State with his elder brother and cousin tops a day of killings in the state as the presidential election got underway. This was followed by killings in many other parts of Rivers State from Abonnema, Ogoni, Kalabri to Ikwerre areas.
Bombing and commando style shooting took place in Abonnema while entire Bonny Island did not have peace as thugs blocked the local council secretariat to ensure that voting materials did not get out until voting was over. The police command had to invite the Army to step in twice before the hoodlums were dispersed and free the officials trapped there.
Other incidents that marred the elections in the state include snatching of materials in many localities, late arrival of materials to polling stations leading to late voting, card reader malfunction in some instances, etc.
The positive side was high voter turnout especially in places such as Port Harcourt and Oyigbo where disruption was minimal.
Signs that there would be killings and arrests were in the air days before the election day as groups accused each other. The All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state said there would be no election without their party on the ballot while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said they uncovered plots to kill their chieftains.
On the afternoon of the elections, news of the killing of Omowan Etete, former two-time local council area of Andoni local council and his elder brother, Ignatius, and a cousin, in their hometown Akajaka. Etete, an APC chieftain in the area was a strong PDP member and special adviser to Nyesom Wike at one point before decamping to the APC.
Sources said he had escaped attack a week ago when the election was to hold. This time, he did not make, and had to go down with relations who were probably keeping vigil and shield around him. The Rivers police spokesman, Nnamdi Omoni, confirmed the killings but could not give further details.
Former governor and now transportation minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, voted early in his Ubima town but soon after, shooting took over especially at Unit 3, 11, 6, & 7 as voters were chased away. In Obio/Akpor, where Gov Wike hails from, reports said the governor voted easily but lamented card reader failures and attacks by uniformed men everywhere.
Eyewitnesses said hijacking of materials was rampant especially at Ogbogoro Units 3,5,6; Ward 6 – Ozuoba, some party agents were stopped from observing elections because their tags were not signed. Ward 8 – Rumuekpe where some party thugs were said to be brandishing arms until help came from security agencies. In Ward 16, materials for units 4,5 and 6 were missing.
Confirming the situation, the APC spokesman, Chris Fineface said in a statement that “Gunshots were everywhere and nobody can come out to vote. PDP thugs are chasing people away with guns. In Ward 10 of Emuohua, materials were hijacked by a notorious cult group.”
On their own, the PDP confirmed massive killing and disruption. Emma Okah, the Commissioner of Information as well as Director of Communications of the PDP Campaign Council in the state said: “It is a black day in Rivers State as the Presidential and National Assembly elections turn bloody with many PDP members shot dead by the military in Akuku Toru Local Government Area.
“In addition, reports from other parts of the state show a pattern of organised violence and shootings in some cases with the military, Police and APC as the main actors.”
His statement described the situation as barbaric and appalling, coming after he said the people of Rivers State had complained aloud about the threats of rigging, intimidation and violence hanging over their heads. He said reports getting to them show that in Bonny LGA, the Army and police stopped distribution of materials to the units. In Ahoada West LGA, materials for ward four were hijacked by a party stalwart to his house. In Andoni LGA, only three wards received materials. In Degema LGA, materials meant for a section of the LGA were hijacked. In Asari Toru LGA, materials meant for a section of the LGA were not distributed while soldiers and officers of F-SARS were going about disrupting voting. In Okrika LGA, voting materials for four wards were hijacked.
In Gokana LGA, thugs came in military trucks and carted away voting materials in units 5, 16 and 17. We will give you situation report as we receive them.”