There were cases of violence and voter suppression reported across several states on Saturday March 18, as Nigeria held its Governorship and State House of Assembly elections nationwide.
States such as Benue, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Ogun and Lagos, experienced varying degrees of viciousness against voters, observers and journalists.
In Imo state for example, as much as 19 ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), were kidnapped in the early hours of Saturday and also the police immediately swung into action and ensured the release of the abductees, sensitive election materials, including BVAS machines were carted away.
Similarly, thugs stormed polling units in Yenagoa constituency II, ward 8 and Ekeremor constituency 1, ward 1, unit 15 of Bayelsa state and carted away some election materials, while destroying others and disrupting the voting process.
An election observer in Ekiti state, Sunday Awosoro, reported harassment by suspected thugs at Irepodun/Ifelodun, in the Igede area of the state, while staff of Arise TV were reportedly brutalised in the Elegushi Palace area of Lagos State whilst covering the elections and their cameras and drone were seized.
A Vanguard Editor, Prince Osuagwu, was also harassed by thugs in the Satellite area of Lagos state, on the allegation that he was using a spy pen to record activities at a polling unit in the area, which turned out to be false.
Meanwhile, INEC has postponed Saturday’s governorship and state assembly elections in 10 polling units in the Victoria Garden City (VGC) around the Lekki area of the state where elections did not hold.
The Lagos state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Segun Agbaje, said the ad hoc staff deployed to the VGC estate became hesitant to conduct the elections in the venue, alleging that they were held hostage by residents during the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
The staff instead set up voting materials in front of the estate, but residents claimed they did not feel safe about the new venue as hoodlums could disrupt the process.
“After due consultation and further directive from the national headquarters that we should remobilise here tomorrow (Sunday) morning by 08:30am to conduct the elections, Agbaje said.
Thugs also attacked a journalist working for Premier Radio in Kano state, Ashiru Umar, at Gidan Galadima, Galadanci Primary School, Gwale local government area, thinking that he had captured them while snapping voters who show up their ballot papers to them after casting votes, allegedly in return for some gift items later.
Low voter turnout was also reported in many polling units, compared to the impressive turnout for the Presidential elections held two weeks ago.
The Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) also observed that in many voting centres, accreditation and voting commenced late.
“From the data gathered across 18 states at the time of analysis, CJID observed that elections started late in most states, that is, after 10:00 a.m. as against the 8.30 a.m. opening time,” the organisation said.
“From the data received, only 20 per cent of the polling units observed started election processes before 8:30 a.m…” The CJID deployed 56 observers across 31 states to observe the election day activities.
Voting has ended in most polling units across the country, while collation and counting of votes is underway.
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