Concerns over rising pre-election violence
POLITICAL parties and activists on Wednesday, expressed concerns at the rising level of political violence across the country.
In Ekiti and Ondo States clashes among the supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party, the Action Congress of Nigeria and Labour Party left two dead and eight others seriously injured.
While the violence raged in the two states, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Godswill Akpabio, told journalists that more than 800 brand new cars and 500 tricycles were destroyed during clashes between PDP and ACN supporters in Uyo on Tuesday.
But in Abuja, President Goodluck Jonathan ordered security agencies to bring the violence under control, even as the Director-General of the State Security Service, Mr. Ekpeyong Ita, accused politicians of introducing “a dangerous dimension” to electioneering.
In Akure, the PDP and LP traded blame on the cause of the clashes that led to the infliction of injuries on seven people at Obanla and Iro streets in the Ondo State capital.The Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Yemi Adedipe, who first spoke with one of our correspondents, alleged that the Iro incident was caused by the supporters of the LP.
He claimed that the PDP members had gathered to campaign for the House of Representatives candidate for Akure South/North Federal Constituency, Chief Adedayo Omolafe, when some armed thugs stormed the venue and insisted that the rally should not hold. A witness said that five people were injured in the fracas that ensued.
An eyewitness of the Obanla clash, Dr Dare Bada, said that some thugs arrived in the area and shot sporadically into the air to disperse LP members who were holding a rally. He claimed that two members of the LP were shot as a result.
The LP Publicity Secretary in the state, Mr Femi Okunjemiruwa, said PDP members were always the aggressors.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Aremu Adeniran, said the police moved into the two streets and brought the clashes under control. The policeman added that one person was arrested in connection with the violent clashes.
In Ekiti two policemen allegedly shot two persons dead in Kota, Ekiti East Local Government Area.
A former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Femi Bamisile, was reported to have escaped when bullets were fired at his sport utility vehicle marked BAFEM.Bamisile’s driver, Mr. Femi Bankole, whose hand was hit by one of the bullets, is said to be receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital.
However, the cause of the incident was sketchy. While the PDP claimed that a chieftain of the ACN in the town ordered the policemen to open fire on some PDP supporters, the ACN blamed it on the former speaker, whom it accused of terrorising its members with thugs.
The corpse of one of the victims was brought to the Governor’s office by Bamisile’s supporters and the Chairman of the PDP in the state, Chief Bola Olu-Ojo. It was later carried away in a hearse to a mortuary.
The Chairman of the ACN, Chief Jide Awe, in a statement, called for the arrest of the former speaker.
He said, “The PDP thugs led by the impeached speaker attacked many members of the ACN in their homes and at business premises.
“We are calling on the police to arrest Bamisile to state what he knows about this unprovoked attack on our members.”
However, Olu-Ojo, in company with other PDP leaders, denied the allegation.
He told journalists, “What happened in Kota today (Wednesday) is unfortunate. Our members were attacked and three persons were allegedly killed.
“Those who attacked our people were in police uniform and in police van. We are calling on the Inspector- General of Police to call them to order.”
When contacted, Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Mohammed Jimoh, said, “We have deployed more men there to maintain law and order.”
As the two parties traded blame over the incidents, the Kwara Police Command declared 148 people wanted for their alleged involvement in political violence.
The command’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ezekiel Dabo, gave the details in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Ilorin on Wednesday.
More than 100 people, according to a non-governmental Organisation, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, have been killed in politically- related violence in the past one year in the country.
The CPC spokesperson, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, who spoke with THE PUNCH, however blamed the security lapses in the country on the do-or-die posture of the PDP.
He said, “The spate of violence is worrisome, but I must say that it is the ruling party that has instituted the violence in our political system. People are yearning for change and the PDP knows they cannot curtail this demand. That is why the ruling party is very desperate to hold on to power, which explains the spate of violence we are seeing all over the country.”
The PDP, in a statement by its National Chairman, Dr. Bello Mohammed, specifically mentioned the Tuesday fracas in Uyo, saying it was a “calculated mission” to destroy anything with a PDP logo or the insignia of Governor Akpabio. He alleged that perpetrators of the mayhem were apparently bent on eroding the present visible gains of good governance in the state.
A human rights lawyer, Mr. Fred Agbaje, reminded the government that it was its duty to protect the lives of its citizens.
He said, “When you talk of democracy in any part of the world, it means the rights of the citizenry must be respected by the government. When government misses this social contract by failing to protect the lives and property of the people, such a government is on its way to the end.”
Another human rights lawyer, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, said the violence in the country was compounded by the fact that majority of Nigerians depended on state resources for survival.
Aturu added that because survival depended on state resources, the aspiration to occupy public offices in order to benefit from the system, fuelled violence.
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