Dignitaries, including the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and National Commissioners of the commission were yesterday tear-gassed in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital while policemen were trying to put down an uproar at the venue of the stakeholders’ meeting organised by the electoral umpire.
The stakeholders’ meeting/signing of peace accord among political parties and candidates, organised by INEC, with senior police officers and loads of their well-armed men on standby, was almost disrupted when those suspected to be thugs of the ruling party used force to prevent the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Natasha Akpoti, from entering the venue of the event.
It was a rowdy situation for close to 20 minutes at the main entrance of the event’s venue, where the two groups (those who wanted to bring the candidate in and those trying to prevent her entrance) struggled to gain control of the entrance.
However, as neither of the two groups yielded ground and would not listen to entreaties from security agents, policemen on guard duty fired a couple of teargas canisters to disperse the contending groups, at the door. The whiff of smoke from the teargas spiraled into the event’s hall, affecting all occupants, including the police inspector general, who was seen covering his nose.
However, while the fracas was on and the whole place was in commotion, INEC continued with the business of conducting the signing of the peace accord, which 17 political parties, including the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition parties, led by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) endorsed.
Trying to give a background to the commotion, spokesman to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, explained that Akpoti arrived late to the event, as it was well into its conduct when the fight outside the door started.
He, however, condemned the attack on the candidate, whose candidacy was recently affirmed by a court.
Oyekanmi said: “We are inside the hall and wouldn’t know what is going on outside. One thing is sure: she did not arrive in good time as at the time the event started, but that is not enough reason for anybody to prevent her from coming inside. She has a right to take her place inside the hall.
“We have heard that she is outside and efforts are currently being made to bring her inside the hall. We need her to sign the Peace Accord, the process of which is currently on.
“We asked the Legal Officer of our Kogi State Office to go outside the hall and look for Natasha Akpoti, but he came back and reported that he searched the entire premises but could not locate her or her entourage.
“Now, the representative of the SDP inside the hall was asked to endorse the Peace Accord, but he refused.”
Meanwhile, candidates of opposition political parties have raised the alarm over what they described as continued intimidation and oppression of their chieftains and members.
Governorship candidate of the PDP, Musa Wada, while speaking at the event urged the Inspector-General of Police to intervene in the plight of the opposition in Kogi State, saying their members were afraid for their lives.