A collation officer of Independent National Electoral Commission, Mr Felix Nte, on Wednesday told commission of inquiry into the violence and killings that characterised the February 23 and March 9, 2019 general elections in Rivers State how he ate INEC papers out of fear following unabating gunshots by security operatives.
Nte, who served in Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State during the exercise, stated that he panicked and ran out of the collation centre in the council area, where he served,
The INEC collation officer, invited to testify as a witness on the alleged militarisation of the electoral process, added that while he was stranded, he was assisted by a stalwart of Peoples Democratic Party 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 12.00 pm 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 Mr 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.”
Another witness, Mr
Nyabari Ledogo, who served as a registration area council technical support staff in Khana LGA of the state, told 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 SARS men arrived and ordered them out of the premises, two of the armed operatives walked to the front.
“When another SARS man 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 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.