Violence erupted again yesterday at Etche, Etche Local Government of Rivers State as the re-run election for the Etche /Omuma House of Representatives and State House of Assembly, constituency 2 got underway.
No fewer than 50 people including the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Mr. Samuel Wanosike, were arrested by soldiers at Ulakwo Ward 13, during the election.
Security officials said they had no reason to be there having come from Ikwerre in Ikwerre LGA.
Those arrested with him were alleged to be thugs.
Some other accounts put the figure of those arrested at 62.
Wanosike and the ‘boys’ were ordered by the soldiers to sit on the bare ground.
His Nissan Sport Utility Vehicle was impounded by the soldiers.
But no incriminating material was found on him, according to sources.
Soldiers at Obite Ward 10 in Etche also recovered three unites ballot boxes snatched by hoodlums.
The ballot boxes were snatched during a clash between agents of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC).
But a few minutes later, soldiers on election duty stormed the area and recovered the electoral materials.
They arrested five persons.
Both sides traded blames.
Mr. Kinsley Nweke, PDP ward leader in the area, accused the APC of hijacking the ballot boxes when it was clear to them that they were losing in those units.
Nweke said: “Obite ward 10 is PDP ward, APC’s plan was to hijack the ballot boxes of the three units and declare result in their favour, but we are going to resist them. We are aware that the soldiers are working for them, the PDP members in this ward are not happy.
However, an APC supporter, Elizander Amadi told The Nation that it was PDP thugs that stormed the three units in the area and carted away the ballot boxes.
He said: “When PDP members discovered that we were winning, they instructed bad boys in the area who are loyal to their party to disrupt the peaceful process. But we thank God that the military later discovered the ballot boxes and other electoral materials at the bush.”
The elections could not be concluded during the December 10 third rerun election as a result of similar violence.
Reports from different parts of the area said despite earlier pledges by stakeholders to allow peace reign yesterday, snatching of electoral material including ballot papers, ballot boxes and smart card readers became the order of the day.
Election materials for Polling units 9 and 10 in ward 14 were snatched from electoral officers on their way to the unit, while the Supervisor for the Ward 14, simply identified as Jones was beaten to stupor.
He was later rescued by sympathizers.
The police, in most cases, chose to ignore cries for help apparently to avoid accusations from politicians.
An INEC Information Communication Technology officer from Abuja was reportedly attacked at Ward 5 Igbo-Etche by political thugs believed to be working for one of the political parties in. His offence was trying to fix the Smart Card Reader deployed to the unit for the accreditation of voters.
Some people were not comfortable with the use of the Smart Card Readers and came all out to make them un-useable.
The Acting State Commissioner of Police (CP), Ahmed Magaji who was at the scene of arrest said, “investigations are ongoing on the 52 suspected political thugs arrested at Etche. Full report would be released after investigation.”
The INEC National commissioner for Rivers, Edo and Bayelsa states, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu said the commission would not take the arrests lightly.
He said: “early this (yesterday) morning, INEC staff had started mobilizing themselves to the polling units, but unfortunately this happened again.