Bayelsa bye-elections holds amidst ballot box snatching, voter apathy
Saturday’s bye-elections in Bayelsa Central and West was characterised by snatching of ballot boxes and ballot papers in some parts of the two senatorial districts.
The exercise was conducted by the INEC in the Kolokuma/Opokuma, Yenagoa and Southern Ijaw local government areas for Bayelsa Central and in Ekeremor and Sagbama LGAs for Bayelsa West.
The polls also recorded late arrival of INEC personnel and electoral materials at polling units, which resulted in the late commencement of voting across the two senatorial districts.
There was also voter apathy as a result of the low turnout of voters in the two senatorial districts. Although the state Police Command had restricted vehicular movement, people were seen going about their businesses. It was observed weekly and daily markets held at Okolobiri, Opolo and Kpansi.
But the exercise was reportedly peaceful in the Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA of Bayelsa Central where the state Governor, Douye Diri, comes from.
However, three policemen on bye-election duty got drowned in the state while they were on their way to the Southern Ijaw LGA after the speedboat in which they were travelling reportedly capsized.
The incident was said to have occurred on the eve of the senatorial bye-elections in the two senatorial districts.
The deceased cops were being conveyed to their place of primary assignment when the incident occurred.
The spokesman for the Bayelsa State Police Command, Asinim Butswat, confirmed the accident saying that “the boat capsized on their way to Oporoma, headquarters of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.”
Butswat, however, said the number of casualties had yet to be ascertained.
Governor Diri expressed confidence that the two flag bearers of the Peoples Democratic Party, Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa West) and Moses Cleopas Moses (Bayelsa Central), would emerge victorious at the polls.
The governor, who spoke to newsmen after voting at his polling unit 4, ward 6 in his Sampou community, Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA, described the exercise as peaceful.
He said, “Being a former member of the National Assembly, I know it takes a great pedigree to belong there. So I know that the candidates of our great party, the PDP, are eminently qualified to be there.”
The state Deputy Governor, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, who voted at his Ubrogbo polling unit 6, ward 4 in his hometown, Ofoni, in Sagbama LGA, condemned the skirmishes in Agbere and Agoro.
Speaking with reporters after casting his vote, he commended the INEC the measures taken so far to sanitise the conduct of elections in the country.
Ewhrudjakpo said, “It is a major step to prevent people from hijacking genuine results or bringing in fake results. We are sure that with what INEC has done in Edo and Ondo States, we and every right thinking Nigerian will appreciate, if they also get today’s bye-elections right.
“But let me use this opportunity to condemn the level of skirmishes in some parts of Sagbama Local Government Area, which we believe we’re orchestrated by the opposition APC because they don’t even have a candidate.”
The PDP candidate for Bayelsa West, Seriake Dickson, voted in company of his wife, Rachael, at their country home of Tory-Orua, Sagbama LGA.
He commended the electoral officers and security agencies for the impressive level of conduct and urged them to sustain their vigilance until a winner is returned at the end of the election.
He stressed that it was his expectation that the displayed level of professionalism was sustained to prevent people with dubious intent to distort the process.
He said, “As I voted this morning at my polling unit at Toru-Orua, I was glad to see that voter turnout was impressive and from available preliminary reports from other units and wards, there is indication of a massive and impressive turnout.
“I want to thank the officials of the electoral body for their professionalism and we hope and expect that this level of conduct is sustained to the very end culminating in a return.”
“Every election is in stages. Voters will come out en mass, get accredited and vote and after that, other processes also continue up to the declaration.”
“I thank the security agencies for their vigilance so far. Once again, I expect that this level of professionalism is sustained throughout the process because very often during collation, people try to do funny things and so on.”
It was observed that the name of the APC candidate for Bayelsa West, Peremobowei Ebebi, was conspicuously missing on page 10 of the ‘INEC Information Booklet’ published by the commission for the bye-elections in the state.”
When contacted, the Head, Voter Education and Publicity, INEC, Bayelsa State, Wilfred Ifogah, explained that the electoral umpire “relied on a court judgment of December 3” to exclude Ebebi and his party from the polls.
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