Chukwudi Akasike and Friday Amobi
Soldiers and men of the Nigeria Police on Saturday arrested 63 suspected political thugs brandishing dynamites and cutlasses during the rerun election in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Also arrested were the Rivers State Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party , Mr . Samuel Nwanosike, and two former local government caretaker committee chairmen , identified as Odiari Princewill and Roland Sekibo .
This is just as armed youths and political thugs working for one of the major political parties in the state chopped off the hand of an unidentified official of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The victim , said to have bled profusely as a result of the injury, was taken to a hospital in Port Harcourt for treatment.
The incident, according to sources , happened in Igbo- Etche community in Etche .
It was learnt that another INEC official, who was also on duty during the poll, was abducted.
They (Nwanosike, Princewill , Sekibo and the suspected thugs) were said to have been arrested at Ulakwo 2 in Etche Local Government Area .
But Nwanosike, before being taken away by soldiers , said he was only a party agent of the PDP in the election . He said that he did not commit any crime.
He urged the security agents to allow the election to end before arresting him, even as he maintained that his arrest was unjust .
However, the suspected political thugs were led into a waiting truck and taken away by soldiers .
Also recovered from them were five vehicles and two containers of Tramadol, a banned drug .
Speaking on the attack on the INEC officials, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mr . Aniedi Ikoiwak, who was in Etche , attributed inconclusive elections in the state to violence against INEC officials during elections .
“The police have just said that they have arrested some people . They are doing their investigations. We have asked all the officials who were there to do their reports. Election stands cancelled anywhere materials are hijacked .
“In an environment like this , if we look at what has been done and where the election has taken place , we would say we have done well. We will go to other polling units to see what is happening.
“When it comes to election , our workers are attacked all the time . We have complained about this on several occasions to the public.
What do we do ? We have to accept it and move forward ,” Ikoiwak said.
The acting Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr . Ahmed Magaji , confirmed the arrest of 63 political thugs, adding that investigation had commenced on the matter .
Magaji noted that the suspects were apprehended in a joint security stop-and- search operation carried out in Etche .
He said, “In the course of our stop-and- search during the rerun election in Etche , we arrested about 63 of them. We will soon come out with the report of our findings. We will not make any further comments until the report of our investigation is out . ”
The election was however peaceful in major parts of Etche , just as the exercise was marred by the hijacking of election materials in some of the polling units .