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“I was almost lynched here. My tag has been torn and phone confiscated... Trying to get my phone back” Ukachi- Amplified Radio

Nigerians came out on April 11 to exercise their franchise. Only a fortnight earlier they had made their choices for candidates in both the Presidential and National Assembly elections in a process that was largely acclaimed as credible and peaceful, except for a few instances where violence was recorded. Unlike the Presidential and National Assembly elections, the April 11 election was characterized by widespread thuggery and violence in polling units across the country.

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It's 8am, April 11, and the Youth Observatory and Social Media Analysis Centre is all set with over 20 young people glued to laptops and projector screens keenly monitoring reports from the over 530 observers deployed to 19 states out of the 29 states where Governorship and State Assembly elections are holding. The Amplified Radio crew is also set up to live broadcast incidents from the field observers and Amplified Radio's correspondents.

As reports trickle in, we learn about early arrival of INEC adhoc staff in some quarters, early start to accreditation in some polling units, and improved efficiency in the use of card readers. We also learn about wide spread snatching of ballot boxes and incidents of thugs harassing observers and destroying properties in states like Abia, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Rivers etc.

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In Ondo, there was confirmed eye witness report of political thugs “shooting sporadically into the air.” Citizen observer @AAMCOLagos tweets about an incident in Ibeju Lekki LG, Ibeju 1 ward “thugs have hijacked 8 ballot boxes. Also blocking off INEC officials with electoral materials”. In another report,  gunmen suspected to be political thugs “shot and killed Emeka Nworie, the Chairman of the Peoples Democratice Party in Ishielu LGA in Ebonyi State”

Rivers State which has been on red alert since the Presidential election during which many lives were lost to politically motivated killings also recorded widespread incidents of violence by thugs. The home of the Rivers State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs Joeba West was reportedly set ablaze in Buguma.

An attack on one of Amplified Radio correspondents, Ukachi, was one of the incidents that we followed keenly. While heading to Emmanuel Anglican church in Obi-Akpor LGA, Ukachi was attacked by thugs who accused her of being an informant for APC. They confiscated the phone she was using to take photos and threatened to smash the phone. Ukachi pleaded with them to return the phone. The thugs eventually returned the phone to her after deleting her pictures and videos but warned she “may not be lucky next time.”  

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As Ukachi narrated the story to us, what struck her was the fact that the police officers present watched the incident unfold with arms folded, a trend that was corroborated by some observers in other polling units. Rather than intervene and protect Ukachi the female police officer reprimanded her; “why beautiful girl like you wan kill yourself?” (Why does a beautiful girl like you want to kill yourself?). Another observer called in from polling unit (PU) 012 in Bashiru Street, Anifowose ward, Ikeja Lagos State to report that security officials looked on as APC party supporters were canvassing for votes in the polling unit while intimidating non-party supporters.

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It is rather alarming to have voters, observers and media correspondent go to the polls with fear and apprehension over their safety. We must not allow political thugs define our electoral process. Security officials must recognize that their primary responsibility at the polling unit is to maintain peace and protect the lives of voters and Election Day workers. The presence of security officials in the polling units ought to reinforce voters’ sense of security as they exercise their franchise.

 

From the desk of YIAGA Youth Observatory and Social Media Analysis Center

 

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