Ismail Lawal, a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who served as a presiding officer and an ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has stated that he and other members of his team were held hostage for several hours at Ese Odo local government area by thugs suspected to be working for a political party during last weekend’s bye election for a seat in House of Representatives. The bye election was held in the Ilaje Ese Odo constituency to replace Raphael Oloye Nomiye, a member of the House of Representatives who died last year whilst having sex with a woman who was not his wife.
In his confession, Mr. Lawal disclosed that, when it got close to the end of the voting, armed thugs stormed the booth and threatened to burn down the ballot boxes and other electoral materials if he and his co-workers refused to cooperate in rigging the election.
Mr. Lawal said the illegal act was carried out at Polling Unit 005, Roman Catholic Mission Primary School in Kiribo. He added that he and his fellow workers were so scared for their lives that they thumb printed numerous ballot papers to avoid been killed by the armed thugs.
“When we got to the end of the voting exercise they threatened to burn and kill us. We had no option other than to do their wishes by thumb printing lots of ballot papers,” he said.
He added that the thugs gave them eight thousand naira after forcing them to carry out the fraudulent task.
Speaking at the venue of the final collation of election results at the Civic Centre in Igbokoda, Bode Okoriko, a professor who served as the collation officer for Ese Odo Local Government, told party agents, INEC officers, security agents and others that the corps members were held hostage and threatened to carry out illegal acts that contravened electoral laws.
Mr. Okoriko confirmed that the corps members were given the sum of eight thousand naira after they had been compelled to carry out the illegal work of rigging. He said the money was later attached to the report written by the presiding officer who served as the team’s head.
SaharaReporters could not confirm the party that hired the alleged thugs. An INEC officer told our correspondent that he could not reveal the identity of the party that reportedly hired thugs so as not to hamper investigations.
Our correspondent could not obtain an interview with Mr. Lawal as a source close to the youth corps member said he had gone underground to avert being attacked for confessing to what transpired.
Some party agents had accused INEC of collaborating with some political parties to rig the election in their favor.