Two electoral officers engaged by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, have recounted what they went through during the February 23 and March 9 general elections in Rivers State where they served.
The electoral officers spoke as witnesses before the commission of inquiry set up on the violence and killings that characterized the elections in the state.
Dr Felix Nte, a collation officer who served at Oyibo Local Government Area of Rivers State, told the commission that he ate INEC papers out of fear following unabated gunshots by security operatives.
Nte, who further revealed that he panicked and ran out of the collation centre in the council area, where he served, said that while he was stranded, he was assisted by a stalwart of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to find safety in a nearby hotel with the sensitive materials for the polls.
He said: “I arrived INEC office in Oyibo LGA at about 12.00pm and collected materials. I was later checked into the collation centre and shown my table. From that moment, it appeared I was caged by the military.
“Before the announcement of the result, the pressure became much and we managed to smuggle our way out because of the cascade of gunshots.
“Before I realised what was happening, I was chewing INEC papers. I was about to eat my SIM card before someone tapped me and shouted, ‘Do you want to kill yourself?’
“It was one Hon. Chisom, who saw my helpless situation and took me to a hotel premises in the area.
“The noise that I heard seemed like that of military. But I did not see them and when I recovered from the shock, I did not see the bags that I was carrying again.”
On his own part, Nyabari Ledogo, who served as a registration area council technical support staff in Khana LGA of the state, informed the commission that two SARS personnel shot endlessly when some party agents refused to leave.
“While the party members were in the collation centre agitating and refused to leave the centre after the SARS men arrived and ordered them out of the premises, two of the armed operatives walked to the front.
“When another SARS man that was standing close to the SARS van exploded a canister, the other two SARS men immediately started shooting and I took to my heels like everyone else for safety.
“While we were running, I heard someone said the bullet caught Ferry Gberegbe and when I looked round, I saw Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, (a PDP collation agent during the March 9 general election in Rivers State) on the ground, holding his stomach.
“I tried, alongside another man, to help him stand and to move him to a vehicle, but in the process, I started feeling severe pain on my leg and buttocks, where I was also hit by bullets,” Legodo narrated.
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