The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 18 governorship election in Rivers State, Tonye Cole, has accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of sending thugs to attack him and his team to prevent them from accessing the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Port Harcourt on Monday.
Cole said he and some leaders of his party were at the INEC office to obtain documents used for the election to file a petition to challenge the declaration of the PDP candidate, Siminialayi Fubara, as the winner of the election but were attacked by thugs allegedly sent by the PDP.
Speaking with Channels Television in Port Harcourt, Cole said he was assaulted by thugs whom he said pelted him with water, food and stones until he got injured.
He said, “We are supposed to be in a democracy and one of the tenets of democracy is that after an election, INEC being supposedly an impartial umpire will have documents and these documents are available to everybody who participated in the election. These are critical documents which when we take to an electoral tribunal, we will build our case upon that to the electoral tribunal.
“On Friday, we were at INEC, and we asked for these documents, but they have not given us a single one. We said we were coming back today (Monday) and because we said we are coming back today, the PDP organised thugs everywhere to prevent us from getting to the INEC office.
“I wasn’t deterred and so I went with my party chairman, the women leader, the youth leader, and senior officials of the APC to the INEC office.
“They had barricaded the road from GRA Junction, everywhere boys, girls. They began to assault me, I came out and a woman began to drag my shirt, they pulled me from the back, first, they were throwing water then they began to throw food and the next minute they started throwing stones.
“The next thing after that, we started hearing gunshots, it took my security people to forcefully evict me. They destroyed our vehicles, they injured me. They slapped me, they punched me, they pulled my shirt, they dragged me and then threw stones at me until I was injured in the back,” Cole narrated.
He said they left the INEC office and ran to the APC office for safety but that the thugs followed them to the APC office.
He urged the INEC national headquarters and the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba to step in, saying that the Rivers State governorship tribunal cannot hold in the state with the current happenings.
On the allegation by Cole that he was attacked by PDP members at the INEC Office in Rivers State, the party is yet to grant Channels Television’s request for a reaction.
The State PDP Chairman, Ambassador Desmond Akawor and the Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Area, Samuel Nwanosike, one of the lead protesters at the INEC office have neither taken the calls to their phones nor responded to the text messages sent to them separately.
Another lead protester, Edison Ehie who is the Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly could not be reached as his phone is said to be switched off.
INEC had declared PDP’s Fubara winner of the governorship election with 302,614 votes while Cole polled 95,274 votes. Cole rejected the result and vowed to challenge it at the tribunal.