By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Hundreds of women from different parts of Rivers state who were protesting to INEC headquarters along Aba/Port Harcourt Expressway in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital against alleged irregularities that characterised the last Saturday presidential and national assembly election in the state were about 9:15 am today teargassed and dispersed by stern looking armed policemen.
The women who were led by Mrs Joeba West, Rivers State Commissioner for Women Affairs; Mrs Maureen Tamuno, former member Rivers House of Assembly and former Chairperson of Ogu/Bolo local government council and also an APC candidate contesting for Okrika/Ogu Bolo federal constituency in federal House of Representatives had passed St. John’s bus stop on old Port Harcourt/Aba Expressway but on reaching Waterlines Junction they were stopped and teargassed by the police.
Journalists who were covering the peaceful protest were not spared as they were also teargassed as people scampered in different direction for safety.
The action of the policemen caused instant pandemonium on the ever-busy federal truck ‘A’ road that is major access road to the Eastern parts of the country from the Rivers state capital.
The women who were clad in all-black attire with placards narrating their grievances, were drawn from 23 local government areas of the state.
However, as soon as the women took to the street, several troopers of heavily-armed anti-riot policemen, in several vehicles, hit the Waterlines Junction along Aba Road where they mounted a heavy roadblock.
But the women, who were determined to proceed to accomplish their mission, engaged the policemen in an argument. The women appealed to the officers in-charge of the police operations to let them continue with their march but they were not allowed.
The police would not listen to the harmless women and rather than offer them a passage, they fired teargas canisters.
Several women ran for safety but eventually were caught in the open hostility unleashed on them. Older women among the flock sustained injuries and had to be attended to by their colleagues. Some who inhaled the teargas collapsed on the ground.
Yesterday, thousand of APC supporters led by the Dr.Dakuku Peterside, the governorship candidate of APC, Senator Magnus Abe contesting for Rivers East senatorial seat protested to the INEC office calling for the cancellation of the Saturday elections the state capital.
In the ensuing tension over the election the INEC office in Emohua local Government in Emohua was set ablaze by unknown arsonists.
Meanwhile, this morning besides calling for the cancellation of election in the state, the Rivers State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has demanded the immediate suspension of the State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mrs. Gesila Khan, for allegedly colluding with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to rig last weekend’s presidential and National Assembly elections in the state.
In a statement by Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya,the APC chairman in Rivers said “For Mrs. Khan to have removed the INEC result sheets in all the polling units in the State with the intention of rigging the polls is a very serious criminal offence. Mrs. Khan should not only be suspended but should not be allowed to conduct the April 11 Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections, as well as the Presidential and National Assembly elections when rescheduled.”
Rivers APC commended INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, for acknowledging the party’s petition on the polls in Rivers state. “We are very convinced that if our case is thoroughly investigated it will be confirmed that the State REC, Mrs. Khan, compromised her office and tarnished the good image of INEC,” the party stated.
APC defended the action of the State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, in requesting to see the INEC result sheets and other sensitive materials for the conduct of last weekend’s polls.
The party said the Governor took that step as the party was aware that the State REC had traded off the result sheets to PDP to write the results as they deemed fit.
“Amaechi wanted to prevent a situation whereby people would queue to vote while PDP and INEC would write a different result not reflecting the true voting pattern in the state.”
Rivers APC condemned the conduct of soldiers deployed for the election, saying that contrary to court order, PDP not only used the army to intimidate APC supporters and coerce Rivers State voters to vote for PDP.
“It is sad that the PDP leadership in Rivers State could be so callous to arm the youths in order to kill and maim Rivers State people because of election. We know that Rivers people are peace-loving and arming some of the youths at this time does not do anyone any good because it may be difficult to retrieve some of these arms from these youths later, thereby constituting a serious security challenge,” Rivers APC said.
It declared that Rivers PDP does not have any agenda to move the State forward, which informed its rejection by Rivers people. If Rivers State people are allowed to vote, President Jonathan and Chief Nyesome Wike can never secure up to 10% of votes cast in the State in any election based on all the evils the duo have committed against Rivers State.
“As a party we will do everything humanly possible to ensure that the verdict and wishes of Rivers State people are honoured and implemented and that they are allowed to vote without any intimidation or coercion,” Ikanya said.
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