Violence and ballot snatching marred Saturday’s legislative by-election for the Rivers State House of Assembly, Port Harcourt Constituency 3 seat.

While the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is accusing the All Progressives Congress (APC) of using the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARs) to unleash terror and create fear in the minds of voters, the APC insists that the PDP engaged militants to disrupt the exercise.

The by-election was fixed for Saturday to fill the seat which was rendered vacant when Victor Ihunwo of the PDP resigned from the position to run for the position of the Mayor of Port Harcourt which he eventually won.

The violence was reported in almost all polling units spread across Diobu area that constituted a greater percentage of the constituency with thugs wielding dangerous weapons including guns harassing election officials and snatching ballot boxes.  

At the Obaziolu Street, Mile 3 residence of Azubike Nmerukini, father of the PDP contestant in the election, Chiemaka Nmerukini, an eyewitness told Bounce News that a group of boys allegedly loyal to the APC stormed the ward 18 polling area, threatened everyone with sporadic shootings and broken bottles and snatched the ballot boxes.

The eyewitness, also an election monitor said the boys made to attack Azubike Nmerukini, himself a former occupant of the contested seat but that he narrowly escaped abandoning his house.

The by-election which kicked off peacefully suddenly turned violent before noon as teeming armed thugs shot through flashpoints, snatching ballot boxes or robbing election officials and innocent residents of phones and other valuables.

The 1500 police personnel said to have been deployed by the Rivers State Police Command stayed aloof in most of the flashpoints as the irate youths took charge of the atmosphere with an unconfirmed report declaring one person feared dead around Agip Filling Station in Mile 3.

All along the street between Mile 1 Diobu, Port Harcourt and Mile 3 around the Rivers University gate, a heavy presence of security agencies was noticed even though it could not prevent some group of miscreants who went around in groups chanting APC change, breaking snatched ballot boxes and tearing ballot papers inside the box.

However, another eyewitness told our correspondent that he was surprised that the security agencies which included men of the Police, Civil Defence, Immigration, SARS and the Army could not do anything to counter the hoodlums.

He said that even though the gangs were chanting APC, they could be from any party but just claim APC to make a determined impression.

Also at a polling station at Egede Street, Mile 2 Diobu, Emeka Wokeh, Chief of Staff, Rivers State Government House was seen making frantic calls to security agencies alleging that a group led by the APC Chairman, Ojukaye Flag-Amachere snatched about 5 ballot boxes from the polling centre.

As at the time of filing this report, heavy gunshots were heard coming from the premises of St. Andrews Church compound, Mile 1 Registration Area Centre (RAC). Vehicles were later seen driving out of the premises ostensibly to take materials to the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) office.

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