The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday suspended the bye-election in Ekiti East Constituency I, citing electoral violence that claimed three persons with many sustaining varying degrees of gunshot wounds.
The state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi condemned, in strong terms, the violence that marred the bye-election promising that no one involved in the dastardly act would go unpunished.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye announced the suspension in a statement yesterday, ascribing it to violence in some wards and polling units.
The bye-election, which started peacefully became violent with political thugs shooting in every direction at ward 7, Unit 7 Iworo in Omuo Ekiti.
As a result, three persons were shot dead while two police officers, an officer of the Federal Road Safety Commission, a corps member and presiding officer, among others, sustained varying degrees of injury.
While the violence claimed a 50 -year old Bola Adebisi and 35-year old Tunde Ogunleye, according to eyewitness accounts, the lawmaker representing Ekiti South, Senator Biodun Olujimi narrowly escaped death.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Mr. Sunday Abutu yesterday, the Ekiti State Police Command confirmed the attack, though was silent on the reported killings.
Abutu said: “Some suspected thugs attacked ward 7 Unit 7 Iworo in Omuo Ekiti, shooting everywhere while eligible voters were casting their votes in a bye election of Ekiti State House of Assembly.
“In the process, six people were injured, among them were two policemen and one National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member who are currently receiving treatment in Ikole General Hospital.”
With the violence that marred the process, Okoye said INEC had received a report from the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ekiti State that the bye-election “to fill the vacancy for the Ekiti East 1 State Constituency holding today, has been disrupted by violent attacks on voters, election officials and security personnel.”
He noted that the violence erupted despite that INEC made adequate arrangements for the election, saying personnel and materials arrived on time in all the 39 polling units spread across 5 Wards of the constituency for the 23,670 registered voters to exercise their franchise in a free and fair process.
He, however, said no sooner had voting commenced than unidentified gunmen unleashed mayhem at some polling units, thereby disrupting the process.
Okoye explained that some innocent voters were shot dead while a policeman, some INEC regular and ad hoc staff who sustained gunshot injuries during the melee are receiving medical attention.
He said: “This situation is unacceptable. In its avowed commitment to electoral integrity, the commission has suspended the election indefinitely. To continue with the process will amount to rewarding bad behaviour.”
While commiserating with victims of this dastardly act, the commission said that security agencies had commenced investigation.
Concerned with the development, Fayemi directed the State Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Mobayo, to ensure that everybody involved in the violent act were apprehended and brought to book regardless of their party affiliation.
The governor also commiserated with the families of those reported to have been killed in the mayhem as well as those who sustained injuries.
He said the violence “is most unwarranted, and deeply disturbing. I have instructed the police authorities to fish out the perpetrators and ensure they face the music.
“Our condolences to the families that lost loved ones and those who were injured. Government would not relent in efforts to always ensure safety of lives and properties. We shall ensure all purveyors of violence are brought to book.”, the governor added.
He, therefore, reiterated the commitment of his administration to upholding the sacredness of life and sanctity of the electoral process.
At a session with journalists, Olujimi claimed that she narrowly escaped being shot as political thugs invaded her polling unit at ward 7 unit 007.
She was ferried out of the polling unit by party supporters.
Olujimi acknowledged that the election started peacefully before some APC thugs and compromised police officers started disrupting the voting process.
“The leaders of APC came to the polling unit. In fact, we greeted them warmly. After they left, some APC thugs who stayed behind pulled out guns and started shooting sporadically. This is the first time we would witness this.
“They picked the ballot box and ran away. A man died as he was trying to escape the scene. The policewoman guarding the ballot box was also shot in the head. The corps member and presiding officer at the unit was hit by bullets.
“In totality, eight people were shot. Some dead and five are battling with their lives in the hospital receiving treatments,” the senator lamented.
Olujimi accused the leaders of APC of being the masterminds of the attack, saying they mobilised people from all over the state for election taking place in just five wards.
Buttressing Olujimi’s claims, the PDP candidate in the election, Mr. Akinrinade Adeniran, disclosed that the signal of war started manifesting on Friday night, when his house and cars were allegedly riddled with bullets.
He said: “They invaded my compound on Friday and smashed my car’s windscreens with gunshots. They also shot at the roof of my building. This is no longer democracy. Democracy is the government of the people and the people should be allowed to make their choices through their votes.”
However, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Bamisile exonerated the APC of complicity, describing the violence as appalling and unbelievable.
Bamisile said: “In any election where people are lost to violence, that is no longer democracy. APC was fully prepared for this election and canvassed for votes. We never wanted to kill anybody. I really do not understand how it happened.
“I did not want to believe that it was our party that was responsible. Election started peacefully. What then could have caused shootings and killings?” the lawmaker asked.