Simon Ebegbulem and Gabriel Enogholase
VIOLENCE, rigging and snatching of ballot boxes Saturday marred the House of Assembly re-run election in Akoko Edo constituency, of Edo state, just as the Leader of the House of Representatives, Col.Tunde Akogun (rtd), and the Senator representing Edo North, Alhaji Yisa Braimoh, described the election as a charade and called for its cancellation.
Meanwhile, over fifteen armed political thugs were arrested at Igarra and Lampese home of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for the election, Mr Anslem Agbabi by anti riot policemen when they attempted to snatch ballot boxes at the polling unit of the PDP candidateâ€™s strong hold.
But the Leader of the Action Congress (AC) in Edo state, Senator Rowland Owie, who monitored the election, condemned the call for the cancellation of the election which he described Senator Owie however, said that â€œ the election was peaceful in so many areas such as Okpe, Dangbala, Ibillo, Afeyeh and Ikirin and I wonder why people are calling for cancellation because of what happened in Aiyegunle.
We understood they were thumb printing in Akogunâ€™s house why will they be doing that. The truth is that Akoko Edo belongs to the AC and the PDP should know that. It is only those days that they rig that they claim they win elections. But the people of the state have rejected the PDP and that is why the AC is winning every whereâ€. as free and fair except for minor skirmishes in some wards.
Meanwhile, Vanguard learnt that in the about 37 wards the AC is leading at the time of filling this report.
At Aiyegunle, ward 7, the home town of the House of Representatives House Leader, there was an alleged snaching of ballot boxes by the aides of the state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. One of his Senior Special Assistants was beaten to a pulp by irate youths at a polling unit close to Akogunâ€™s house before he was rescued by the police who fired sporadically into the air.
The polling unit became a theater of war when the youths in the town resisted what they described as an influx of thugs and government officials from Benin, whom they earlier accused of snatching ballot boxes allocated to the polling booths in the area, thus depriving them the opportunity to cast their votes.
However, the state Residence Electoral Commissioner, Mr Aniedi Abasi Ikoiwak, who was present when their was sporadic shooting at the polling booth narrowly escaped being lynched by the angry youths. He however said that election in the area must be conducted and condemned the snatching of electoral materials in the area.
Speaking with newsmen, Akogun accused a senior police officer attached to the governor of leading the team that came to the to snatch the ballot boxes at about 10am when people where already casting their votes.
He said that â€œ we have earlier complained to the police and told the whole world that the AC have imported thugs from Benin and the neighboring states to manipulate the election but no body cared to listen. The PDP was ready for a free and fair election but today the report I have been getting is that the AC thugs have hijacked all the ballot boxes in areas they believed are PDP dominated areas so as to rig the election.
â€œI came home to pick my voterâ€™s register to vote but, I heard that a police officer came later to the polling booth to say that there was one of two things that they want to correct at the polling booth before elections could start. I heard that some body said he is an Aide De Camp (ADC) to the governor who came with some mobile policemen and he had to take all the materials and ballot boxes from the polling unitâ€ he said.
The Chief of Staff to the state government, Mr Barr.Osarodion Ogie, declined to comment on the allegations that government officials were responsible for the snatching of ballot boxes in different parts of the ward.
At Lampese, voting was going on when newsmen observed about nine armed thugs suspected to be loyalists of the AC, who stormed the area with a view to snatch ballot boxes but were over powered by the police. The thugs were in a 504 station wagon with registration number AP 768 ABJ when they were arrested by the police.
As at the time of filling this report, voting was still on-going in some areas while the results were yet to be announced.