Violence That Marred Governorship And House Of Assembly Elections In Cross River

In Breaking News, Investigation, Politics

During the March 18 Governorship and House of Assembly elections in Cross River State, pockets of violence were recorded in six Local Government Areas, this report by Patrick Obia documents them.

The Governorship and House of Assembly elections in Cross River State was a battle of the titans, between the All Progressive Congress Sen. Bassey Edet Otu and the Peoples Democratic Party Sen. Sandy Ojang Onor.

As a result of the battle between the two one-term Senators, violence was recorded in Bakassi, Odukpani, Biase, Yakurr, Ogoja, and Boki LGAs. The violence ranged from the kidnapping, and destruction of election materials to attacks on voters, INEC staff, and policemen.

Cross River Young Progressives Party, YPP, deputy governorship candidate, Prince Agbor Onyi, Egbung Sandra, and Godwin Imojara, an Immigration Officer were kidnapped days before the guber election, they were released after the election. They were kidnapped on Thursday, March 16 at the Akparavuni axis in Biase Local Government Area while traveling home.

While accreditation and voting were ongoing in polling units across the state, INEC staff, Mrs. Glory Effiong Essien, and others on election duty were attacked while ferrying materials to hard-to-reach areas in Bakassi.

Mrs. Glory was caught by a bullet shot at them by unknown gunmen while crossing the river to their place of assignment. She was rushed to the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital where she was attended to and she’s still recovering.

According to results uploaded on the INEC IREV site, elections were not held in seven (7) wards and 24 polling units in Bakassi due to violence and BVAS failure, Prof. Edet Ernest Asikong, the Bakassi Collation Officer confirmed this while presenting his report as he narrated the terrifying incident.

In Odukpani LGA, also in the Southern senatorial District, five Policemen and four personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were attacked, five SUVs were set ablaze and two weapons were seized from the officers.

In Boki, Central Cross River, at about 2pm at the INEC Collation Center, Okundi, three youths suspected to be PDP thugs invaded the center to protest against the State House of Assembly election result, in the process, arguments and counter-argument ensued between supporters of APC and PDP that led to the death of three.

While the argument was on, a soldier intervened but was attacked by alleged PDP thugs, the soldier opened fire and killed one of them instantly.

Friends of the deceased retreated and mobilized for a payback attack, and immediately the soldiers saw them in their number, they again opened fire and two others sustained serious injuries. The injured men were rushed to a nearby health center, and a few hours later, they were pronounced dead.

In Akabom polling unit, Ugep, Yakurr LGA, also in the Central Senatorial District while sorting and counting was ongoing, armed youngmen numbering over ten (10) appeared from nowhere and started firing sporadically leaving electorates and election officials to scamper.

In another polling unit, a man simply identified as Joe was allegedly shot dead and killed by a soldier for creating a rowdy scene in a polling center.

In the Northern Senatorial District, Ogoja LGA alleged APC thugs invaded the INEC office and beat up INEC officials, PDP candidate, and others. They tore election result sheets as the State House of Assembly result collation was ongoing.

Prof. John Undie, a professor of Digital Management from the University of Calabar, was the collation Officer for Ogoja LGA, he soberly narrated their ordeal while presenting his report.

A total of 774 persons were arrested in relation to violence during the 2023 general elections across the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it will prosecute 215 cases out of the 774, the reason is unknown.

Suspects In Custody – Police

The Cross River State Police Command confirmed that violence was recorded during the March 18th elections.

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the State, SP Irene Ugbo who spoke to CrossRiverWatch revealed that some suspects have been taken into custody. 

Without giving a figure, she noted that some have been charged and some files have been sent to Abuja for further prosecution.

Irene said: “There were arrests of prime suspects during this period who are in our custody and some have been charged for electoral offenses under the electoral law.

“I think you will call me back, let me know the statistics. I don’t have it off hand now, but maybe by tomorrow because it is the State CID that is handling the electoral cases. Now I have your questions, I have to find out from the State CID how many suspects are at hand although I’m aware that some files have been sent to Abuja for further prosecution but I don’t know how far they have gone.”

Despite several follow-up calls and text messages, the PPRO is yet to provide statistics as she promised.

Technology Should Be Introduced To Curb Violence, Irregularities – Observer 

Mr. Efio-Ita Nyok who observed the 2023 governorship and House of Assembly election in the State notes that the introduction of sophisticated technology into Nigeria’s elections could help curb cases of violence.

Effio-Eta who observed the polls for Order Paper Nigeria, said if technology where people can sit in their homes and vote is brought in, politicians and political parties will find it difficult to cause unrest during elections.

“I think we should bring technology into the process, by technology, I mean to say that we should introduce blockchains into elections so that anybody can sit at home anywhere and cast their votes, it can’t necessarily go into a polling unit. We should improve the credibility of these institutions with the kind of technology that we bring into place, technology that even these individuals cannot compromise.”

Efio-Ita, an Associate of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC) added that those arrested for fermenting violence during the guber election should be prosecuted because it was a “moral decision” which comes with consequences.

“Let them face the music. They took moral decisions and so moral decisions come with consequences and they should be able to face the music and take responsibility for the consequences of their actions that they took during the elections.”

This report was published with support from Civic Media Lab.

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