In line with the claims by the military personnel and staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), an officer of the Department of State Security (DSS), Mr. Godwin Mba, testifying at the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abuja disclosed how ‘cult groups and political thugs’ perpetrated violence that disrupted the smooth conduct of the April 11 polls.
Mba, who was said to have led the team of operatives from the DSS on election duty to Andoni Local Government Area (LGA), told the Justice Suleman Ambrosa-led tribunal at the weekend that “the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State worked closely with known cultists and thugs in Andoni from the eve of the election till the announcement of result.”
The security officer alleged that the unlawful activities of the PDP on election day was evident because the perpetrators of the crimes are known people with affiliation to the PDP in the various communities.
Mba mentioned a certain Ephraim Bara as the leader of the Iceland cult group with sympathy to the PDP teamed up with other thugs who acted with impunity to intimidate voters including intimidating of INEC ad hoc staff on duty.
Testifying further, he narrated his experiences to the tribunal and delivered a damning report on the election which he described “as a highly tainted exercise.”
He said: “By my own assessment, the April 11 governorship election was characterised by violence, intimidation, harassment and irregularities. This is so because the thugs created an atmosphere of tension and some persons who had wanted to vote stayed away. Even the ad hoc staff had to run for safety.
“Let me say that shortly after voting commenced, we started receiving reports of hijack of electoral materials by a cult group known as Icelanders. At Ngo Ward 1, materials meant for the election were carted away. At Ward 2, materials meant for the ward was also hijacked by the same group. At Ward 6, we received news of voter intimidation, particularly those perceived to be members of other parties apart from the PDP.
“At a point, voters could not come out to vote for fear of harassment and intimidation. We did our investigation and discovered that the cult groups worked for PDP. The same situation prevailed in other wards and units, and this adversely affected the electoral process. And in the course of our work, we also observed the absence of result sheets at wards 4, 6, 7 and 9.”
Corroborating Mba’s allegations, another officer of the DSS, Mr. Benson Chukwuma who served in Ogu-Bolo LGA, said the violence was widespread throughout the election.
Chukwuma however, noted that his men had been properly briefed and according to him “warned to be careful because the place is volatile due to the fact that it harbours many ex-militants.”
Testifying, he said: “On the eve of the election, we did our patrol round the local government to make our presence felt. Then in the morning, distribution of materials commenced. After accreditation which was done manually, voting started. Then suddenly, one of my colleagues told me that there were threat indicators by unidentified thugs moving from place to place.
“At Ward 9, Unit 6 and 8, attempts were made to cart away electoral materials but it was resisted by the police and ad hoc staff. Later, a card reader was snatched, the same thing happened at other wards and units. Then they removed original result sheets in three units.”
“As soon as this happened, the violence started spreading in all the wards. The police were helpless and then I quickly contacted the military. But before then, we had noticed that the INEC and ad hoc staff were threatened and scared. They felt so intimidated that they had to carry their materials to a common place to avoid being lynched.
“It was in this state of confusion at the local government secretariat that those who announced the result arrived at the figure they declared for the House of Assembly and governorship.
“In a nutshell, the election was marked by intimidation, snatching of electoral materials which did not give room to smooth conduct of the election. There was also no collation, if there was collation at all, there should be members of other political parties in attendance, but it was not so”.
There were also other witnesses who testified at the tribunal including Kamuzu Plankson of Action Alliance Party (AAP), Marshal Jack and Somiare Ogolo who gave graphic details of the violence, intimidation and deaths in Asari-Toru, and Opobo LGAs, among others.