A youth corps member, Tuatimi James Powell, yesterday revealed how some leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State sent thugs to force him and 10 other colleagues to a hotel in Bodo-Ogoni, Gokana Local Government Area, Rivers State to rig the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections at gunpoint.
Powell, who was a Presiding Officer (PO) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said he and other youth corps members had horrifying experiences in the hands of the PDP thugs who bundled them into a waiting bus amid sporadic gunshots and moved them to Greenside Hotel.
The youth corps member revealed that on getting to the hotel, the PDP leaders and their thugs forced them to fill fictitious results on INEC’s result sheets forcibly taken from him and other corps members at gunpoint while also forcing them to sign the documents. Corroborating Powell, an Assistant Presiding Officer (APO) of INEC, Michael Kponeh, disclosed that the ad hoc staff and other officials of INEC were held hostage by the PDP thugs in Bodo-Ogoni in Gokana LGA and made to do their bidding at gunpoint.
The 11 corps members were paraded along with 42 other suspects yesterday by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Maj.-Gen. Jamil Sarham. The GOC, who was represented by the Garrison Commander of 6 Division Garrison, Brig.-Gen. Adeola Kalejaiye, was assisted by 6 Division’s Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Aminu Iliyasu. Maj.-Gen. Sarham said: “On February 23, 2019, at about 1330hrs, following a tip-off, our troops deployed in Gokana general area for Operation Safe Conduct of Presidential and National Assembly elections, arrested 39 suspects, including eleven corps members and one driver, while others were Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ad hoc staff with sensitive electoral materials at Greenside Hotel in Gokana LGA of Rivers State. “Preliminary investigation revealed that the suspects were moved to the hotel to rig the election in favour of a political party. “Items recovered from the hotel were 34 ballot boxes loaded with ballot papers, three card readers, 10 bags containing electoral materials and Toyota Hiace bus, with registration number: Lagos: EQ 171 KRD.” The GOC also disclosed that 13 political thugs were arrested in Harris Town, Degema LGA of Rivers State ahead of last Saturday’s elections.