The Rivers State’s local government poll was on Saturday marred by the late arrival of officials of the state Independent Electoral Commission and sensitive materials to polling units across the state, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.
NAN noted that voter turnout was not too impressive as the exercise started at noon in some polling units instead of 8am.
At about 11.05am, some of the officials were seen setting up tables and arranging the materials for the exercise at units 2, 10, 11, 13 and 14 of Ward 2 in the Obio Akpor Local Government Area.
The situation was the same at Governor Nyesom Wike’s Unit 7, Ward 9, Rumuprikon, and in units 2, 4, 5, 19 and 26 in ward 10, also in Obio Akpor.
A Labour Party agent for Unit 19, Ward 10, Mr Peter Chukwuemezu, said the situation was frustrating and a sign of insincerity in the process, adding that nobody gave reasons for the delay.
A voter in the unit, Mr Udom Ekporimo, told NAN that he and some other voters got to the ward at 8am and only policemen deployed to the unit joined them later.
A Peoples Democratic Party leader in Unit 26, Mr Lucky Nkoro, decried the late commencement of the election and attributed it to delayed sorting of materials at the council’s headquarters.
Similarly, a voter at Ward 14, Ogbunabali, Mrs Ann Chukwu, said it was a case of voters waiting for the election officials to report for duty.
She attributed the delay to inadequacies in the distribution of materials to the wards and units.
Earlier at Ward 10, Mile 4 area of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area, some voters were seen waiting patiently for the officials and materials as of 10.50am. The exercise was however peaceful across the state.
Some youths in Port Harcourt, mostly above 18 years, converted some major streets in the city into football pitches while the election was ongoing.
Some of them told NAN that whether they voted or not, those who would win had already been selected.
One of them, who decline to identify himself, said “this election is just for formality; the only party that will win landslide is PDP, so, why bother going to vote? We want to use this opportunity to do our own exercise since the roads are fairly free of vehicles.”
The state police command banned vehicular movements between 7am and 4pm to ensure a credible exercise.
But it was observed that the order was also violated by some commercial motorcyclists, who operated freely.
At Oyigbo, a motorcyclist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told NAN that he took the risk of defying the order to make money to cater for his family.
”Since there was no disturbance by the security agencies and there are passengers, I needed to make money to take care of my family,’’ he said.
The poll was boycotted by the All Progressives Congress due to its suit against it.
Also, another Labour Party agent for Unit 5, Ward 10 in Obio-Akpor, Mrs Grace Nicholas, said she was not satisfied with the conclusion of the election.
Nicholas said, “I am not satisfied as a polling unit agent for LP. I feel intimidated may be because I am woman.’’
She said the process started peacefully despite the fact that the electoral officials arrived late to the unit with the materials.
Besides, the commission’s Media and Publicity Officer, Mr Innocent Boma, told NAN that the election was peaceful because of adequate security and voters’ orderly conduct.
It was observed that the election was almost disrupted by a stormy rainfall in the afternoon, especially in Port Harcourt.
The rain started at 2.30pm with flashes of lightning, forcing voters at polling booths to run for shelter.
In Eleme area, only accredited voters at polling stands were seen casting their votes amid the downpour.
The state Governor, Nyesom Wike, said the council election in the 23 local government areas of the state was peaceful because the APC didn’t participate in the exercise.
Wike, who spoke after monitoring the local government elections in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor council area, said 66 out of 68 political parties participated in the exercise.
The governor hailed the state electoral commission for conducting credible poll across the state.
Wike also lauded security agencies for ensuring peaceful conduct of the poll by creating the right atmosphere for the exercise.
In the Ikwerre Local Government Area, a candidate of the PDP, Mr Samuel Nwanosike, described the exercise as peaceful. But the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, in a statement by his media team on Saturday, said the poll was fraught with “massive low turnout.”
Also, the APC in the state disagreed with Wike that the exercise was peaceful because the main opposition party boycotted it.
In his reaction, the state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chris Finebone, said exercise was peaceful because thugs working for the PDP had nobody to shoot.
Finebone pointed out that the APC was not part of the LG poll because it decided to obey court orders, maintaining that there was no formidable opponent to the PDP during the exercise.
He said, “The governor is simply not saying the truth; he knows that it is the PDP that is in the habit of causing election violence.’’
Meanwhile, a journalist with a Port Harcourt-based radio station, Precious Ahiakwo, told our correspondent that she was beaten up by suspected political thugs of one of the parties that contested chairmanship in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the state.
Ahiakwo lamented that the thugs noticed when she was trying to record where money was being shared to some party supporters and they descended on her.
Earlier, the Nigerian Army said soldiers would be on standby to forestall violence during the poll.
The Spokesman for the Nigerian Army 6 Division, Port Harcourt, Col. Aminu Iliyasu, told NAN that soldiers would be deployed at strategic points several kilometres away from polling centres.
He explained that the army was adopting that strategy because “we are not directly involved in the election and no soldier will be deployed for any election duty.’’