In obeying the judgments of the courts, INEC fixed February 6 for the legislative rerun in Rivers State, to be held for 22 of 32 state House of Assembly, 12 of 13 House of Representatives and the three
Senatorial seats, but later shifted it to March 19, to avoid any hitch. State constituencies where election will not hold are Abua/Odual, Ahoada West, Etche One, Khana One, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Ogu/Bolo, Okrika, Oyigbo, Port Harcourt One and Three. Ahoada West/Ogba/Egbema/ Ndoni federal constituency is also not affected by the rerun. A total of 2,148,289 voters are expected to vote in the rerun, with only those that were registered before last year’s March 28 and April 11 general elections to be eligible to vote, while 6,806 card readers will be deployed, despite the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court judgment. Rivers new Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Aniedi Ikoiwak, who was moved from Delta State, promised that the rerun in the state would be free, fair and credible, as earlier assured by INEC’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu. But as the rerun date draws nearer, violence attacks by suspected cult gangs have increased in the state. A chieftain of the APC, Franklin Obi, was killed and beheaded by masked gunmen, who also killed his wife and 18-year-old son, Bestman. Until his gruesome murder at his residence on Rutachi Street, Omoku, Franklin Obi was the APC’s Chairman of Ward Four in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA, the same ward with Rivers Chairman of the PDP (Chief Felix Obuah), who also hails from Omoku, the headquarters of the LGA. The gunmen, who were said to have disappeared into the dark of the night after carrying out their dastardly act, also went away with the head of Franklin. In Omoku last month, no fewer than 25 persons were killed, with many of them beheaded and their heads taken away (See Pages 13-16 for details of the killings in the state). Reacting to the killing, Rivers APC, through its Publicity Secretary, Chris Finebone, said: “The killing of our Franklin Obi on Saturday night is shocking, to say the least. It goes to support what we long knew that the PDP members have been responsible for all the killings in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA of Rivers State. “Make your own deductions, late Franklin Obi was the APC’s Ward 4 Chairman. He managed and moderated the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA APC’s meeting last Thursday in Omoku and by Saturday, he was killed and beheaded, while the wife and son were also killed. “The PDP’s Rivers State Chairman, Felix Obuah, comes from same Ward 4. Intelligent Nigerians should kindly make their deductions.” But, while reacting to the incident, the Rivers chairman of the PDP expressed shock and said he was saddened by the reckless killings in the state, especially in his hometown, describing the barbaric acts as condemnable and unacceptable. Obuah described the resurgence of killings in the state as abominable and sheer madness, wondering why all the entreaties by Wike to all the warring youths were being ignored. He urged the police to beef up security in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA and other parts of the state, as well as to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous acts and bring them to justice. He also admonished the police to step up their intelligence gathering in order to prevent further attacks and killings of Rivers people. “My heart goes out to those that lost their lives and loved ones,” Obuah said, and urged politicians to join hands with the state governor to keep the state peaceful and secure from the hands of criminals. The Rivers Chairman of the PDP assured that the party would continue to preach against violence and criminality in the state and would not support evil in whatever guise. The Rivers Commissioner of Police, Musa Kimo, while describing the violence as “very sad”, expressed sadness that the gunmen were seen in the neighbourhood before they carried out their evil act, but failed to report to the police. “I am here in Omoku this time on a sad note. It is sad in the sense that we are all bereaved. The governor (Nyesom Wike of the PDP), I and other security officers were in Omoku two weeks ago in search of peace. Unfortunately, violence has continued to pervade, dovetailing into kidnappings and murders. “I am here to commiserate with the deceased family and to re-strategise and put pungent security measures in place in order to forestall future occurrence,” Kimo said, while also assuring that the police were not relenting in ensuring that the persons behind the dastardly act were arrested and prosecuted. The APC has insisted that over 60 members of the party had been killed in different parts of the state in the last one month. Security agencies recently raided the home of jackrich, a PDP member in Buguma, with arms, ammunition and many Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) recovered, but the militant leader is being shielded from arrest and prosecution by top people in government, according to the Rivers chairman of the APC. Meanwhile, the Rivers commissioner of police, during a news conference at the police headquarters on Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, on Wednesday, disclosed that two suspects were being held for the killings in the state in the last one week. The police boss revealed that one Anthony Ugo was arrested for beheading Franklin Obi and the murder of his wife and son in Omoku, while Ndubisi Tochi was picked for clubbing and burning Ofinjite Amachree in Buguma. He condemned the renewed “senseless” killings in the state and vowed to ensure that the perpetrators were prosecuted. The two suspects, according to Kimo, were still being interrogated, hoping that they would assist in apprehending the rest of their gang and sponsors. “We must realise that violence is never and will never be a solution. While investigation is on, let me inform you that the command will bring to book the perpetrators of not only these killings, but similar incidents. “Let me plead for the support and cooperation of the public, by way of information to enable us to protect lives and property. Rest assured that any information volunteered will remain confidential. “It is also pertinent to inform you that I have placed all officers and men of the command on alert, to allay the fears of the public and to nip in the bud any security breach. Any peace-loving person is enjoined to go about his lawful business, without any fear of molestation.” Dr Peterside also expressed displeasure that the state had again been turned to a killing field, thereby urgently needing help. He decried the ongoing mass execution in Rivers State, describing it as frightening and unprecedented. The pathetic security situation in Rivers, according to Dr. Peterside, was unfortunately a direct affront on the Federal Government’s power to protect lives and property within its territory. The APC’s governorship candidate said: “The security situation in our dear Rivers State is distressing and we cannot continue to live under such a desperate situation. I am therefore using this opportunity to again draw the attention of the world to the daily killings taking place in Rivers State. “In the last two weeks, over 30 APC members have been killed in different parts of Rivers State. We are tired of this bloodbath. That is why we are calling on the Federal Government and Nigerians generally to come to our aid. “As citizens of Rivers State, we know that this heart-rending situation is a fall-out of the loss of moral right by the Nyesom Wike-led government to fight criminality, having benefitted from their activities in the recent past, but these killings must stop and the time is now.” The Rivers APC also stated that the killing of members of the party was part of the scare tactics of the PDP ahead of the March 19 legislative rerun. It noted that Wike had earlier stated that if the Court of Appeal’s annulment of his election was upheld by the apex court, so many people would have died in the state. Rivers APC said: “We are rather surprised that even with the affirmation of his (Wike’s) election by the Supreme Court, many people are already being killed by the PDP in Rivers State, because of the state and national legislative rerun elections scheduled for March 19.” But Governor Wike has in turn accused the leaders of the APC of planning to win the March 19 legislative rerun in the state at all costs, saying it is in order to impeach him. Wike, on March 5, as guest on a phone-in programme, Viewpoint, on Rhythm 93.7 FM, Port Harcourt, owned by a chieftain of the PDP, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, of the Commonsense Revolution, also alleged that APC leaders were chronic liars and mere propagandists. Wike said: “APC leaders are boasting that they will win at all costs, the Rivers House of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senatorial elections, through the use of the military, police and Department of State Services (DSS). “APC candidates want to win all the Rivers House of Assembly seats, so as to impeach me. They want to get me out at all costs and they expect me to fold my arms. Nobody will be allowed to rig the elections. It will not happen. The political intimidation must stop. “The March 19 elections will be a test of democracy in Nigeria. We will confirm if the noise made by APC members that they won last year’s polls is true or not, especially their clamour for free, fair and credible elections.” The Rivers governor also insisted that he and members of his team had been putting in their best to transform and move the state forward, promising not to disappoint the people of the state.