Hundreds of thugs yesterday nearly disrupted a stakeholders’ meeting in Lokoja, Kogi State where key actors for Saturday’s gubernatorial election in the state converged to sign a peace accord.
It took the intervention of police operatives who fired teargas canisters to disperse the hoodlums before the meeting was concluded.
The meeting had in attendance the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu, National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Director General of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig. Gen. Shaibu Ibrahim and other stakeholders in the electoral process. The gathering was disrupted when some hoodlums attacked the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Natasha Akpoti, and the party’s state chairman, Mouktar Atima.
Natasha has been cleared by the Federal High Court in Abuja to participate in the election. She was, however, attacked alongside her entourage while trying to get access to the venue of the stakeholders meeting which held at Idrinana Hotels, Lokoja. It was a disorderly scene for nearly 30 minutes at the main entrance of the venue as two groups – those who wanted the SDP candidate to be part of the event and those opposed to the move – struggled to have their way.
iI took the intervention of men of the Nigerian Army, the police and other security agents to rescue the SDP governorship candidate and the party’s chairman during the altercation. The security personnel reportedly tried to prevail on Natasha and her entourage to go back but she allegedly rejected the entreaties, insisting that she was duly invited for the meeting as a gubernatorial candidate. The party chairman, Atima, who tried to mediate in the disagreement, was equally manhandled and beaten during the melee. Police thereafter fired teargas canisters to disperse the unruly political thugs from the venue.
According to reports, the IGP Adamu, INEC’s Yakubu and other prominent personalities at the venue had to be shielded by security operatives from the thugs that tried to assault everyone on sight. Reacting to the attack, spokesman of the Natasha/Khalid Campaign Organisation, Joel Odaudu, described what happened as “outrageous and barbaric,” and urged Governor Yahaya Bello, the IGP, Director of DSS and other security agents to ensure adequate security for their candidate and supporters ahead of the election.
Speaking shortly after the incident, Atimah said he was dismayed “by the extent to which our society had got rotten.” He appeared too weak to talk at some length when our correspondent sought to speak with him. In a statement yesterday, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, expressed dismay that the governorship candidate was not allowed into the venue. “We were inside the hall and wouldn’t know what was going on outside,” he said. “One thing is sure: she did not arrive in good time.
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 had heard that she was outside and efforts were being made to bring her inside the hall. We need her to sign the Peace Accord, the process of which is currently on,” Oyekanmi said. He added that the SDP representative at the meeting refused to endorse the peace accord after the incident.
He said: “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 neither locate her nor her entourage. The representative of the SDP inside the hall was asked to endorse the peace accord, but he refused.”