Four persons including chairman of Etim Ekpo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state, Hon. Udeme Wilson Eduo, were injured yesterday on Saturday when suspected hoodlums hijacked ballot materials meant for wards 8, 9 and 10 during the governorship and state Assembly elections.
It was learnt the hoodlums trailed the vehicle ferrying the materials from the Etim Ekpo Local Government office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and intercepted it at Edem Akai, before reaching the delivery points at Udianga Enem, the home town of the council chairman.
“When they trailed us dangerously into the polling units in the villages, we tried to escape and our vehicles hit a tree on the road and capsized.
‘’At that point, the hoodlums, accompanied by armed uniform men surrounded us at that point and trans-loaded the material to Saint Joseph Primary school, Iwukem.
“It was at that point that the Chairman followed them to retrieve the materials meant for his two units at Udianaga Enem (Ward 8), where the thugs descended on him and destroyed his official vehicle,” a polling officer, who would not want his name in print told newsmen in Etim Ekpo.
It was learnt three youths, who tried to apprehend the thugs from fleeing with the materials were seriously injured by explosives detonated at the Iwukem junction, sending others to scamper for safety.
Speaking to newsmen at his country home in Udianga, the chairman lamented he was badly bruised by the thugs, adding that polling materials were diverted while his car was badly damaged.
His driver, according to him, had been seized and taken to unknown destination by the hoodlums.
“As I am talking to you now, my driver is missing and you can see bruises all over me and my car badly vandalized.
“You see everybody here waiting to cast their votes, but no ballot materials because the materials have been diverted,” he said.
At Ikot Nya, unit 4, Edem Akai and other villages in Etim Ekpo Ward 10, women, youths and other registered voters protested what they described as disenfranchisement of large number of voters in the area, alleging materials were diverted by thugs.
At Ward 5, the Peoples Democratic Pary (PDP) agent, Comrade Okpongete Ofiokse, told newsmen that “all ballot materials meant for unit 2, at Uruk Atai Nsidung, were carted away by thugs.”
The councilor representing the Ward Hon. Ime Afia said the unit has a voting strength of 220 registered voters and expressed dismay at the diversion of polling materials, even when they voters turned out in large numbers to vote since 7:00 am.
However, voting went well in other places in the state including Uyo, Ikot Abasi, Ibiono, Nsit Ibom, Nsit Ubium, Ikot Ekpene, Abak and Oruk Anam.
The PDP National Legal Adviser, who voted in his polling unit at Utu Ikot Eboro, described the exercise as “very peaceful” and commended INEC for orderly conduct of the exercise.
He called on INEC to ensure that polling results were canceled in places where there were noticeable issues of malpractices and ballot diversion by thugs especially in Etim Ekpo Ward 8,9 and 10 in line with electoral laws.
Minor infractions were reported around communities in Esit Eket, where the former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. Bassey Essien, was reported to have disrupted the exercise, using armed thugs.