By Omeiza Ajayi
Ahead of Saturday’s governorship election in Kogi state, the Social Democratic Party SDP has declined to assent to the Peace Accord being spearheaded by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC following the reported attack on its candidate, Barr. Natasha Akpoti at the venue of the event in Lokoja, the state capital.
Ms Akpoti had reportedly arrived at the hotel where the accord was being signed some moments after the event had begun. She was however stopped by suspected political thugs who allegedly refused her entry and later pushed her to the ground.
Akpoti on her social media handles said she was attacked by thugs loyal to the ruling party, alleging that security operatives watched while the assault lasted.
In dispersing the thugs, security operatives fired teargas canisters some of which landed by the entrance of the event hall, a development which affected dignitaries and other participants who tried to avoid the suffocating effect of the gas.
Among dignitaries at the event were the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the Inspector General of Police IGP, Mohammed Adamu, journalists, top INEC officials, party stalwarts, security operatives and members of the Civil Society Organizations.
Earlier, Akpoti’s campaign organization had raised the alarm over the attack.
“The Natasha Akpoti Campaign Organization is presently under attack at IDRINANA Hotels in Lokoja, venue of the INEC Nigeria Stakeholders meeting ahead of the November 16th Gubernatorial Election. Injuries Sustained and one vehicle in our convoy seriously damaged”, the organization had said.
When asked for confirmation, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi said though Ms Akpoti arrived the event late, it was not a reason to have attacked her.
“We are inside the hall and wouldn’t know what is going on outside. One thing is sure: she did not arrive in good time as at the time the event started, but that is not enough reason for anybody to prevent her from coming inside. She has a right to take her place inside the hall.
“We have heard that she is outside and efforts are currently being made to bring her inside the hall. We need her to sign the Peace Accord, the process of which is currently on”, he said while the reported attack was on.
Providing further updates on the issue, Mr Oyekanmi said the Commission later sent its state legal officer out to bring Ms Akpoti into the hall but that the SDP candidate had by then left. The party’s representative who was already inside the hall consequently declined to sign the peace accord.
Oyekanmi said; “We asked the Legal Officer of our Kogi State Office to go outside the hall and look for Natasha Akpoti, but he came back and reported that he searched the entire premises but could neither locate her nor her entourage. Now, the representative of the SDP inside the hall was asked to endorse the Peace Accord, but he refused”.