Violence, downpour and voter apathy marred the local government election conducted by the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission across the state on Saturday.
The election was aimed at filling leadership positions in the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas in the state.
However, reports from across the state revealed that the enthusiasm that usually trailed general election was in short supply as Lagosians preferred to observe Saturday as a day of rest.
From Lagos Island to Ikeja, Epe to Badagry and Ikorodu to all the polling units in the state, only a handful of voters came out to exercise their civil duty.
For instance, the polling unit where Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State voted was deserted by residents immediately the governor cast his vote.
Ambode, who arrived at Ward A6, Unit10, located on the premises of Ogunmodede Junior and Senior College, Papa, Epe, at about 9.30am, cast his vote at 9.44am.
Ambode was in the queue for about 12 minutes before he was accredited to vote.
After casting his vote, a large number of the residents in the queue followed the governor, calling him “Messiah of Epe,” without waiting to vote.
The governor pleaded with the voters to cast their vote first before visiting him in his house but the electorate did not heed his pleas.
Rather, they stood guard at Ambode’s country home, not far from the school where the governor voted. They were still there as of 10.21am when one of our correspondents left the area.
Apart from the downpour and voter apathy, the late arrival of electoral materials and violence scared voters away from the polling units.
For instance, thugs invaded some parts of Ojodu during the election on Saturday, thus scaring away some residents, voters, journalists, and other officials.
Though there was no display of violence, a good number of the thugs were seen smoking Indian hemp.
The voting areas affected included Ward F (polling booth 027) and Ward F (polling booth 008A).
Based on the available records, the electoral officers confirmed to one of our correspondents that voter turnout at the 027 polling booth was below 10 per cent. But for the polling booth 008a, less than five per cent turnout was recorded as of 2.23pm.
One of the electoral officers, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said they had sensed some sort of soft threats.
“About two of these ‘area boys’ had asked us to disclose where we live. I don’t know what they want that for. In fact, he told us to behave ourselves,” the officer said.
Meanwhile, the rains persisted, thus worsening the voter response rate.
Fake party agents arrested
It was also learnt that 12 persons were arrested by the police for misconduct during the election.
Five of the suspects were said to be fake party agents allegedly caught with incriminating voting materials and taken to the Area F Police Command, Ikeja.
The police, however, did not state where the suspects were arrested, their names and party affiliation.
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Olarinde Famous-Cole, confirmed the arrest.
“I have yet to get details of the suspects. They are in our custody,” he added.
A senior police officer also disclosed to one of our correspondents that a traditional ruler was arrested in the Ajangbadi area of Lagos in the build-up to the election.
“The monarch was arrested on Thursday after complaints that he was a threat to the peace of the community, and that he would likely cause problems during the election,” he added.
Shooting in Mushin
One of our correspondents observed that the exercise was conducted under tense atmosphere in Mushin as hoodlums shot continuously to disrupt the poll.
The hoodlums had attempted to snatch ballot boxes in some polling units in the area but for the intervention of policemen in the convoy of the state Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni.
Even though the attempt was foiled, the shooting continued for about 30 minutes while the CP was on the ground.
Voting was brought to an abrupt end at about 1.30pm because of the situation while seven persons, including a lady were arrested in the area.
Many of the residents of Mushin failed to show up at the polling units as a result of the persistent downpour that started early in the morning.
At polling unit 006, Amu, Palm Avenue, in Mushin Local Government, voting started at 10am and the electorate turned out in trickles to vote for their candidates of choice. The exercise was initially peaceful as people cast their votes and immediately left the vicinity.
As the end of the exercise, less than 200 people voted out of 535 registered voters at the polling unit.
Apart from Mushin, the CP also visited Oshodi and Agege, which were identified as flashpoints. There was no crisis in Oshodi and Agege areas as of the time Owoseni was there.
But it was learnt that a ballot box was reportedly snatched at Ilupeju, while ballot papers were thrown into a drainage channel at Kakoare.
Owoseni, while addressing journalists, promised that the police would increase security presence, especially in the black spots to avert post-election violence.
He said, “The election was relatively peaceful. In a process like this, you cannot completely rule out skirmishes in some areas. There were skirmishes, but we rose to the occasion. We are still taking stock of the arrests and at the end of the day, the number will be made known. The law is there for any one find culpable.”
Rain, apathy in Lagos Island
Like in many parts of Lagos, participation in the council election on the Lagos Island was marred by the rainfall which residents said started around 4am on Saturday.
The major parts of the roads were taken over by youths playing football as policemen mounted guards at junctions.
In the Isale Eko area, SUNDAY PUNCH observed a group of hoodlums moving from one polling unit to another and asking residents to vote for a particular party.
The general low turnout was also seen in Ward C2 Unit 008 Ilu Pesi.
As of 11.06am, only 25 voters had cast their votes.
In Ward C unit 018, Ikoyi, LASIEC officials said party agents went out to call the electorate. Just about 10 pieces of ballot papers were seen in the boxes.
In Ward E Unit 032 Falomo, there was no voter in sight.
A LASIEC official said the rain adversely affected the turnout.
He explained that those who came out could not vote because they did not have the Permanent Voter Card.
“People are generally showing apathy due to the economic situation. I also think that the awareness was very poor,” he said.
Out of the 800 registered voters, only 25 showed up as of 11:5am when one of our correspondents visited.
There was little sign of life in the Lekki area as many residents were holed up in their houses due to the downpour.
The voters in Ward A unit 016, Lekki Phase 1, were stranded due to the absence of the accreditation list.
Some of them expressed disappointment at the electoral body, saying they were disenfranchised.
“This is rubbish, I have never seen this kind of a thing,” one of them, Hector Ebolosue, a resident, said.
In Ward E, Unit 13 and 17 Iru/Victoria Island of the 1,469 registered voters, only about nine had been able to vote as of 1pm on Saturday.
Also in Ward A, Unit 13 Lekki Scheme 1 Eti Osa LGA, out of 1,439 registered voters, only five voted as of 1.12pm.
A LASIEC officer said there was low turnout and she was tired.
“The rain and the environment contributed to the low turnout. This is Island, not the mainland. A lot of people are not coming out. If the situation remains like this, we will have no choice but to count those who have voted,” the female officer said.
Late arrival of the electoral materials was observed in many polling centres. For instance, on Apapa Road and Oyingbo, Herbert Macaulay, Alagomeji areas in Lagos Mainland, one of our correspondents observed that most presiding officers had yet to set up their polling booths as of 8.15am due to the flood that took over strategic positions in the areas.
Many of them were seen struggling to find another location to mount their stands. Eligible voters and party stalwarts loitered around to await further directives from the LASIEC officials.
According to findings by our correspondents, some of the locations where officers ought to mount polling booths were flooded and they had to find alternative positions.
Speaking to SUNDAY PUNCH, a businesswoman, Mrs. Anna Egwu, who resides in the Oyingbo area of the Lagos Mainland, said that she was no longer keen on casting her vote, having waited for a while.
“I came to my polling unit as early as 7.30am, even though it was raining and to my dismay, the officials weren’t ready. I have since returned to my house because I have better things to do,” she said.
One of the presiding officers at Ward 003, Unit 21, Adeyanju Olorunfunmi, on Apapa Road on the Mainland, noted that in addition to the downpour, the late arrival of voting materials was also a contributory factor to the late take off of the exercise.
However, only 70 out of the 356 registered voters voted at the polling unit. At Ward C, polling unit 22, there were 406 registered voters with only 37 votes cast as of the time of SUNDAY PUNCH’s visit at 1.15 pm.
In the same vein, one of the party agents, Lola Ujah, bemoaned the fact that there was low voter turnout and she had to join her colleagues to ring bells as a signal for voters to come out and vote.
Other respondents corroborated her claims.
At the Alagomeji and Herbert Macaulay axis of Lagos, one of our correspondents also noticed a low turnout of voters as some youths used the opportunity to play the football.
In Agege, low turnout of voters and delay in arrival of electoral materials marred the election.
Roads become football field
Many residents chose to stay indoors while some others were on the streets playing football on the deserted roads or drinking at bars, thereby defying the state government’s ban on movement and commercial activities during the election.
One of such residents who expressed his frustration, Mrs. Janet Ogunwale, lambasted the state electoral body for its conduct of the poll, saying it was poorly organised.
“I don’t think I have ever seen any election that is this bad. At this time (12.30pm), there is no sign of electoral officials or materials. I had planned to vote today, but now, it is not looking like it will be possible. I’m returning home,” she said.
Fear in Oshodi
Residents of Oshodi Local Government Area in the state attributed the low turnout of voters during the poll to the fear of violence.
Several residents told one of our correspondents that violence that preceded previous elections in the area was a reason why many people refused to come out to vote.
“Many people are afraid. They don’t want to be caught up in any form of violence, so they decided to stay away. A few of my friends told me they were not going to come out to vote because of that,” said a resident, Mr. Sola Ahmed, who voted at a polling unit in Ward B, in Oremeji.
Similarly, another voter, who gave her name as Funke, said she took a risk to participate in the exercise.
However, a voter, Adesola Odedokun, said the low turnout was “because the people are not happy with the state and local governments.”
As of 2.25pm, only 60 people out of 631 registered voters had cast their votes in Ward B, Oremeji polling unit; while only 200 out of 997 registered voters had voted in polling unit 10, Ward B, Adeyemi/Arowojobe junction.Punch