The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, took an early lead on Tuesday when the Independent National Electoral Commission resumed the collation of governorship election results in Port Harcourt.
Wike, who is seeking a second term in office, won in 13 out of the 15 local government areas announced by INEC amid heavy security outside the collation centre.
The Collation Officer, Prof. Teddy Adias, who announced the results, began the exercise at 10.30am with a promise that the process would be transparent.
The governor’s closest rival and the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress, Biokpomabo Awara, won in two local government areas.
Wike wins 13, out of 15 LGAs announced
Wike got the highest votes in Andoni, the local government area of the National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, where he garnered 92,056 votes to beat Awara, who got 5,335 votes.
In Ikwerre LGA, Wike polled 14,938 votes as against Awara’s 5,660 votes while in Port Harcourt City, the incumbent governor got 40,197 votes to beat the AAC candidate, who polled 11,866 votes.
The situation was the same in Eleme and Opobo/Nkoro LGAs, where the PDP candidate garnered 9,560 votes and 63,141 votes to Awara’s 2,748 votes and 3,888 votes, respectively.
In Bonny and Okrika LGAs, the incumbent governor scored 10,551 votes and 25,572 votes respectively to the AAC candidate’s 3,046 votes and 3,803 votes in that order.
Other results show that Wike won in Tai, Omuma, Ahoada East, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Emohua and Etche Local Government Areas.
However, Awara showed strength in Oyigbo Local Government Area as he polled 32,026 to beat Wike, who got 8,652 votes. Awara of the AAC got 36, 661 to beat Wike of the PDP, who polled 25,765 votes in Akuku-Toru LGA.
Party agents observed that the exercise was marred by violence in some of the local government areas.
Austin Opara, an agent of the PDP, while reacting to the result of Oyigbo LGA, though said his party accepted the result, noted that elections in the local government area witnessed high level of violence and militarisation.
Heavy shootings as hoodlums attack protesters
Meanwhile, there was confusion in Port Harcourt on Tuesday as a peaceful protest organised by pro-AAC groups known as the United Niger Delta for Buhari, and the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations in Rivers State, was marred by heavy shootings.
INEC had on Tuesday resumed the coalition of the governorship and the House of Assembly polls results in Rivers State.
But the protesters, who had earlier opposed the collation of the governorship election results in the state, had moved from the Air Force junction to Agip junction in Port Harcourt before hoodlums attacked and dispersed them.
Passersby, who heard the sound of gunshots, took to their heels in order not to be hit by stray bullets.
Our correspondents observed that the protest had gone on for a while before the hoodlums suspected to be political thugs came in to intimidate the protesters.
The action of the thugs ended the protest as members of the group dispersed and left for their various destinations.
At GRA in Port Harcourt, stones and other dangerous objects were freely thrown into the crowd, a development that was immediately followed by intermittent sound of gunshots.
A journalist, who works with a Port Harcourt-based radio station, Love FM, Josiah Osiorigho, lost his phones and the sum of N10,000 to the thugs.
“They took my phones; they took N10,000 in my pocket and stabbed me with bottle. They smashed a bottle on my head. Only God saved me; if not, they wanted to kill me,” he told one of our correspondents.
Speaking with newsmen, the leader of the protesters, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, alleged that the thugs that stopped the protest were working for the state government.
He said, “We obtained police clearance for the protest and police gave us the go-ahead. Some boys were hired to disrupt the protest. They came and shot into the crowd. The government does not have respect for human lives.
“They (government) are brutal. Thank God, nobody died. Our boys came out to challenge the boys, but I stopped them. They have shown that they are killers. We expected the governor to come and attack us himself, but he rather used his boys. But we still achieved our aim.”
Sara-Igbe, however, said that the people of the state would not accept the results that were being collated by INEC, adding that the electoral umpire was determined to declare incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike of the PDP, winner.
He added that the ban on all forms of protest in the state was intended to cover the truth.
“We have already lost confidence in the process; we have lost confidence in INEC. What they are doing there is to act out the script of the PDP,” Sara-Igbe stated.
Earlier, the leader of Coalition of NGOs, Somina Wokoma, lamented that the people of the riverine area in the state had suffered marginalisation for a long time as far as the governorship position was concerned.
Reacting, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Emma Okah, dismissed the claim by Sara-Igbe that those who attacked the protesters were working for the state government.
He added that the protesters might have stage-managed the attack in order to blame it on the state government.
Okah explained that the ban on protest was an interim measure to avoid a breakdown of law and order in the state, adding that those who flouted the no-protest directive should be ready to face the law if apprehended.
Court dismisses suit seeking to stop Rivers gov poll results collation
Earlier on Tuesday, the Federal High Court in Abuja dismissed a suit filed by the AAC and three of its members seeking to stop INEC from concluding the collation of the results of the March 9, 2019 governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state.
Dismissing the suit in a judgment, Justice Inyang Ekwo upheld the preliminary objection filed by the PDP to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case.
The judge agreed with the PDP that the Federal High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case seeking post-election prayers which could only be entertained by an election petitions tribunal.
PDP hails ruling
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement described the court ruling as well as the collation resumption as the triumph of the will of the people of Rivers State.
He said the victory being recorded by Wike, even in areas hitherto considered as opposition strongholds, clearly exposed the reason behind the alleged APC’s desperation to scuttle the collation process.