Gun-wielding insurgents and self-styled Igbo freedom fighters attacked a voter registration centre in Imo on Thursday, killing Anthony Nwokorie, a security guard on duty, while leaving others gun-shot wounds and with machete cuts.
A video of the attack which went viral on social media showed women and children caught in the crossfire. The attackers chided the registrants for participating in a federal election registration process in spite of their repeated warnings for South-East residents to not partake in civic responsibilities.
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 Nigeria.
“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 armed men 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. Resident Electoral Commissioner for the state, Professor Emeka Ezeonu, expressed sadness over the incident.
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 severe 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,” 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.