Governor Nyesom Wike and the Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, locked horns on Sunday, as the Rivers State governor pointed fingers at the minister as the mastermind of the sudden disappearance of the collation officer for the legislative rerun at the Ward 10, Port Harcourt Local Government Area, on Saturday.
The governor also alleged that the acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs Ibim Semenitari and the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside, aided Amaechi in abducting the electoral officer.
Amaechi, through the NDDC acting Managing Director, also fired back at Governor Wike, saying that both the governor and his media aides were only trying to distort the facts of what really happened.
The collation officer, Mrs Ekwi Adebisa, was said to have left her job inconclusive and suddenly disappeared, only to surface at the Mile 1 Divisional Police Headquarters, Port Harcourt, on Sunday morning.
The sudden disappearance of the INEC collation officer led to the suspension of the collation of result of the election in the constituency.
Following her dramatic appearance, Governor Wike also came to the police station, along with some chieftains of the state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Those seen on the governor’s entourage included a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Austin Opara; Senator Sekibo George, among others.
Moment later, the Minister of Transport also came into view, accompanied by the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr Peterside; state chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Davies Ikanya and the acting Managing Director of NDDC, Mrs Ibim Semenitari.
While the details of what transpired was not known, the meeting of the political bigwigs in the state was said to have almost degenerated into a clash between the governor and his predecessor.
Governor Wike, in a statement issued later by his media aide, Mr Simeon Nwakaudu, alleged that Mrs Adebisa was abducted on Saturday night by former Governor Amaechi, aided by about 100 soldiers.
“She was first taken to Novotel Hotel where Amaechi and Peterside were lodged and results doctored. In the morning of Sunday, she was placed on protective custody by Amaechi, Peterside and Semenitari,” the statement read.
The governor said he and some leaders of the PDP got wind of the fact that the collation officer had been placed in a protective custody, hence he (Wike) visited the Mile 1 police station for explanation.
“Immediately Governor Wike and the PDP leaders arrived at the station, more than 400 soldiers stormed the station, alongside the Minister of Transport and the NIMASA Director General, Peterside and directed that Mrs Ekwi Adebisa be released to them.
“Amaechi, Peterside and Semenitari and the AIG left with the ward collation officer, Mrs Ekwi Adebisa,” the statement added.
Reacting, however, the NDDC acting Managing Director said the state government and its image managers were only trying to distort the facts of the incident that took place at the Mile 1 police divisional headquarters.
In a separate statement signed and issued by her media aide, Mr Bekee Anyalewechi and made available to newsmen, she said “…Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, in company with a retinue of aides, invaded the police station, held the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) collation officer for Port Harcourt Ward 10, Mrs Ekwi Adebisa, hostage.
“Whereas it is not in our style to join issues with any tier of government, it is imperative that we state the facts because of the need to safeguard our electoral process and strengthen the confidence of our people in their leaders.
“Mrs Adebisa, the Port Harcourt City ward 10 collation officer for the March 19 legislative election in Rivers State was moved by force to the police station. The result she had collated was separated from her.
“While at the police station, agents of the Rivers State government brought her under duress to write a statement that she had been abducted and made to falsify the ward result by agents of the APC.
“That they forced her to the police station and kept under traumatic condition was, in itself, criminal. But that they had forced the result she had lawfully collated out of her custody was more criminal.
“Governor Wike had arrived the police station accompanied by Senator George Sekibo, Mr Austin Opara and Azubuike Nmerukini, as well as other aides of the governor.
“As a leader in APC, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, being in attendance at the meeting, was among those delegated to go and see what the actual development was. When Semenitari and others arrived the police facility, they confirmed the report,” the statement read.
The NDDC acting Managing Director said she was shocked by the statement issued by the governor’s media aide, adding that as a responsible citizen and public officer, she could not have engaged in any conduct unbecoming of her status.
When contacted, spokesperson of the state police command, Ahmad Muhammad, confirmed that the INEC collation officer actually was at the Mile 1 police station but had been taken to the police headquarters for further investigations into her sudden disappearance on Saturday evening.
In a related development, the state government has demanded the unconditional release of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Chief Kenneth Kobani and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Projects, Mr Cyril Wite.
Kobani and Wite, arrested by soldiers during the rerun on Saturday, were separately accused of disrupting the electoral process and moving about with security uniform during the exercise, respectively.
However, the state Commissioner for Information, Dr Austin Tam-George, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, on Sunday, said the duo were arrested and detained on the election day by the Nigerian military, simply for being members of PDP.
“Their fate is the same with thousands of PDP supporters who were brutalised, arrested, shot at, and even killed by the military and thugs of the APC during the rerun on Saturday,” the statement read.
They have federal might, we have the people —Wike
Governor Wike, however, said the rerun in the state had shown clearly who is on ground and who is accepted by the people.
He said the reruns had proved that the control of INEC, federal might, military, police and other security agencies could not translate to electoral victories, as the people would always resist agents of rigging.
Governor Wike also accused Peterside of hijacking results from Isiokpo in Ikwere Local Goernment Area of the state on Sunday.
In an interactive session with newsmen on Sunday, Governor Wike alleged that most military men deployed for the elections were used by APC leaders to hijack materials, illegally arrest PDP members and manipulate the process.
He insisted that INEC was not prepared for the election in terms of logistics and planning.
APC, PDP in counter claim over alleged attack on Peterside outside DSS office
There were heavy shootings outside the office of the Department of State Security (DSS), Port Harcourt, on Sunday evening.
While the details of the shooting and the mastermind(s) could not be ascertained as of the time of writing the report, the place was full of heavy security presence, shortly after the shootout.
However, Governor Wike, while confirming the incident, said an aide of his Chief of Staff, Emeka Woke, lost his life in the shootout.
Speaking with newsmen after the incident, the governor blamed it on what he said was the desperation of some politicians, noting that such was not in the interest of the state.
He further alleged that the perpetrators hatched the plan in Isiokpo and intended to execute it at the state headquarters of INEC, on Aba Expressway, Port Harcourt.
“I detailed my Chief of Staff to be following them. But, when they reached the INEC office, they drove past. I told my Chief of Staff to continue to follow them. They continued up to UTC Junction where they started shooting.
“I called the Brigade Commander thrice about when I heard of the plan, that they (gunmen) were pursuing INEC staff to snatch result sheets,” he said.
However, the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr Peterside, claimed that he and some APC chieftains in the state were the target of the shooting.
He further alleged that two SUVs, belonging to the Chief of Staff, carried two unknown gunmen who trailed him, Rivers APC chairman, Dr Davies Ikanya and Honourable H. O. Asita to the UTC Junction and opened fire on them.
“The car carrying me did a detour to the DSS office in Port Harcourt. At the DSS office gate, where I drove to seek refuge, the unknown gunmen opened fire again at the SSS men.
“The exchange of fire between DSS and the assailants lasted for more than 30 minutes. My orderly, Emma Esi, was shot by the unknown gunmen,” Peterside said in a sms he sent to the Nigerian Tribune.
Why SSG was arrested —Army •4 died, we made 24 arrests —Police
The Nigerian Army has explained that the Rivers SSG, Chief Kenneth Kobani, was arrested because he was allegedly disrupting the legislative rerun held in the state on Saturday.
Commander of 2 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Bori Camp, Port Harcourt, Brigadier-General Stephenson Olabanji, made the clarrification while speaking with newsmen at the state police headquarters, Port Harcourt, on Sunday.
This was as the Nigerian Police confirmed that no fewer than 24 persons were arrested from different parts of the state for alleged various criminal and electoral offenses during the exercise.
Assistant Inspector-General of Police in-charge of Zone 6, Mr Baba Adisa Bolanta, made the confirmation, adding that those arrested, 22 males and two females, were currently undergoing interrogation at the State Criminal Investigations Department (SCID), Port Harcourt.
The state police image-maker, Ahmad Muhammad, had also, on Saturday, faulted the number of people killed, as he said he was only aware of one person.
Speaking further, General Olabanji said the law of the country was no respecter of anybody, irrespective of his or her position in the society.
“Many people were arrested yesterday (Saturday) for disrupting the electoral process and the law is not meant for just the lower cadre alone.
“No matter who you are, if you go against the law, you will definitely face the music. There is nothing like being Secretary to the State Government. Many people were arrested, as you have been told; a lot of people were arrested,” he said.
He, however, denied the claim by the state government and the PDP that some of its commissioners and other top officials were manhandled by soldiers during the rerun.
“If you say arrest, we can say yes. But there was nothing like manhandling. We are meant to protect civilians, not to manhandle them,” he explained.
In the same vein, Bolanta dispelled reported death of about six people in the rerun, claiming that only four persons were killed in three local government areas in the state.
According to him, two persons were killed at Buguma, in Asari-Toru Local Government Area, while two others were killed at Nonwa-Tai and Omuanwa communities, in Tai and Ikwerre local government areas, respectively.
“It is pertinent I let you know that we have 24 suspects, comprising 22 males and two females in police custody, who were arrested from different parts of the state.
“They are presently undergoing interrogation on allegations of criminal or electoral offences or both.
“I am startled this morning after seeing outrageous figure of deaths associated with the elections as dished out by the media. To put the records straight, four deaths were recorded with two in Buguma, while Nonwa-Tai and Omuanwa each recorded one,” he said.
INEC suspends election in 2 more LGs
Meanwhile, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr Aniedi Ikoiwak, has announced that the legislative rerun held in Etche and Asari-Toru local government areas, on Saturday, had been cancelled.
This brought to eight the number of local government areas which election had been suspended as the REC had, on Saturday, disclosed the suspension of the exercise in six others – Bonny, Khana, Andoni, Gokana, Tai and Eleme, due to reported violence.
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the rerun in the affected eight local government areas, as Rivers INEC is currently auditing the personnel and materials deployed for the exercise on Saturday.
Rivers INEC, in a statement issued on Sunday, said it would, after the auditing exercise, meet with critical stakeholders before a new date