Gunmen who described themselves as Igbo freedom fighters attacked a voter registration centre in Imo on Thursday, killing Anthony Nwokorie, a security guard on duty, while leaving others with machete cuts.
A video of the attack which circulated on social media showed women and children were traumatised after being caught in the crossfire. The attackers excoriated the registrants for participating in a federal election registration process despite repeated warnings for South-East residents to stop participating in civic activities.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has been leading a campaign against the legitimacy of the Nigerian government across the South-East region, alleging marginalisation and seeking a breakaway from the country of nearly 200 million.
“We have sent warning to you people: we don’t want any election,” one of the attackers said in an IPOB propaganda video circulated shortly after the attack. The attackers could also be heard repeatedly saying, “today is 14th of April”, in an apparent bid to convince the public that it was a recent attack.
The incident occurred at Nkwo Ihitte Polling Unit 004, Amakohia Ward in Ihitte-Uboma Local Government Area (LGA) at about 10:00 a.m.
A witness said that the assailants on arrival seized and destroyed voter cards and other INEC materials used for the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) at the polling unit.
“They asked all of us to lie down on the floor and said we should point at INEC officials among us,” narrated a witness. “The man was shot while the rest of us were flogged with machetes.
“They shot sporadically into the air, saying they had warned INEC against holding any electoral exercise.
“They kept saying that there will be no election,” the witness added.
Confirming the incident, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for the state, Prof. Emeka Ezeonu, expressed sadness over the incident.
Mr Ezeonu identified the deceased as a security guard with the commission.
He said two female members of staff, a Senior Admin Officer and Senior Executive Officer of the commission, who were present during the attack, got machete cuts.
“With great sense of loss and on behalf of INEC, I announce the death of our security guard helping with the CVR.
“He was shot by unknown gunmen at Nkwo Ihitte (PU 004), Amakohia (RA 02) today, Thursday, April 14.
“May his soul rest in peace,” Mr Ezeonu said.
Meanwhile, INEC has suspended the CVR in the area, following the dastardly act.
The suspension was contained in a statement signed by INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye.
The commission extended its condolences to the family members of the deceased and prayed to God to grant them the fortitude to bear the loss.
Prior to the incident, the commission had earlier suspended the CVR in Orsu and Njaba LGAs on account of insecurity.
The exercise takes place only at INEC Local Government Area offices in Oru East, Oru West, Orlu and Ohaji-Egbema.
Efforts to get the reaction of the police spokesman in the state, Mike Abattam, were unsuccessful.