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Anambra Election Report

Arriving Onitsha at night is usually scary considering the ugly stories associated with the city. But, with the heavy presence of the security men, comprising men of the Police Mobile Force all over Onitsha, the prospect of violent looked very dim.

The trip between Onitsha and Awka witnessed several security check-points. We were able to count 11 of such.

Friday, February 05, 2010:
There is heavy presence of security men all over Anambra, patrolling in their pick-up vans and lorries, blaring their siren as they move about. It’s a joint patrol team comprising Police Mobile Force and soldiers. They also mounted check points in and around the State, mainly the exit points to neighbouring states. Though, the people we spoke with said there had always been police and army checkpoints and joint military patrols since the crime rate rose so high in the South East states, but certainly, the governorship election for February 06, had led to an increased in the number of security forces.

There is so much tension in the air. Some voters said the large security presence was intimidating and may not encourage a large turn-out of voters on the election day proper. While some people we spoke with showed interest in voting, other said they were not interested as they were of the opinion that the election will be rigged.

There were many people who said they wanted to vote but did not know the actual centre they would cast their votes. Every street we visited in Awka did not show any sign of where voters will cast their votes on the day of election.

In the evening before election day, police helicopters hovered round Awka town, while the siren of security forces continued to the wee hours of February 06.

Saturday, February 06, 2010:
Eligible voters did not bother coming out early to exercise their right to vote because of the scary and intimidating presence of security forces. In fact, the Information Commissioner for Anambra State sent out a press release calling on Anambra people to come out and exercise their civic right and ignore the heavy presence of the security forces since they were not there to shoot at innocent people.

At exactly 11:00am, at Arroma round-about junction, with two polling centres, there were no INEC officers to supervise the election. People gathered early to cast their votes. There were about seven police officers and election observers, yet no INEC officials.

INEC officials arrived Arroma at 12:50pm in a war-like situation. The Mobile Police (MOPOL) men that accompanied them shot into the air severally, harassing and shouting orders at people to either move away or be killed. People ran away from the scene, as they became too scared to withstand such senseless shooting and undue harassment of these ruthless mobile policemen.

A young man in his late twenties who was later identified as a student by our team, was mercilessly slapped, kicked, and dragged on the floor, his clothes torn by about five MOPOL men for no just reason.

The young man, Bright Aganam, a 400 level Political Science student from University of Jos, was on his way from Jos, travelling to Owerri, but got caught up in Awka as a result of the closure of roads and restriction of movement of persons within Anambra State.

INEC officials settled down to conduct the election by arranging the voting stand, display of the ballot box and asking the voters to queue up for accreditation and identification. It was discovered by our team that at the two centers at Arroma, code 008 and 009, majority of voters who had come to cast their votes with their cards could not find their names on the voters list INEC came with to the centre. This infuriated them as they complained bitterly.

At Agu-oka ward, code 008, Awka South LG, 132 names were on the voters list, only two people found their names. The presiding officer, Job Otoyo, decided after due consultation with his superior officers, to conduct the election for the voters present with voters cards identifying the polling centre.

At Ukpo ward, code 003, 004, 006, Dunukofia LG, there was evidence of electoral malpractice. Under-aged boys and girls voted while the police led by Superintendent Onyishi of the Anambra Police Command Monitoring Unit looked away.

We later found out that Engr. Arthur Eze, (Ozigbo) a prominent Anambra politician, member of the PDP, organized this fraud. He later came back to the center with his security aids, asking his agents how it went and he was assured that they (PDP) were topping the list. One of his security details seized the memory card of a journalist with NEXT newspaper after he photographed him. When we confronted him personally to report his security official and retrieve the memory card, he invited us to his house and promised to give us money.

Superintendent of police Onyishi offered to take us to his house and that Ozigbo would take good care of us. We declined the offer and left for Awka on our chartered motor-bike.

It was the same experience and story across the State. The Anambra gubernatorial election has come and gone. There needs to be a lot of preparation as 2011 approaches.

1. INEC should mark polling centres 48 hours before election begins.
2. The I.G of Police should educate his men that election is not war but a civilized approach to elect leaders. The militarization of election centres, harassment and intimidation of the citizenry, is absolutely unnecessary.
3. The voters register should be updated to correct all anomalies.
4. Vehicles for operation on election duty should be adequately arranged ahead to forestall any late arrival of polling materials to the centres.

Report by Uzodinna Nwaogbe

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