Poor turnouts, skirmishes mar Ogun referendum exercise on LCDA …three journalists were manhandled

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By; Niyi Ogungbola, Abeokuta.
Low turnouts, ballot boxes snatching as well as open confrontations characterized the referendum exercise conducted by the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC) in five local government areas of the state.
New Nigerian Newspapers recalled that Ogun State government recently announced the creation of additional 37 Local Council Development Authority with the aim of bringing government  closer to the people and ensure more developments, hence the need to conduct referndum in some of the disputed areas for the headquaters.
The exercise however went peacefully in some of the council areas designated for the exercise as NNN gathered that suspected political thugs and youths in some communities of the Ogun West Senatorial district engaged each other in an open confrontation.
The exercise was monitored in Abeokuta North council area  by our Correspondent who observed that substantial number of electorates displayed greater apathy to the exercise as they stayed away from the designated polling units.
Residents were seen going about and busy with their normal private and business activities as one of the presiding officers who spoke with our correspondent also attributed the development to poor awareness.
At Ward 11, Polling Units 1, 21, 26, 23 and 27, the total number of voters accredited and voted so were not up to 20 out of the about 2, 500 that were registered.
Pandemonium however broke out later in the day when some suspected political thugs invaded two polling units in Abeokuta North Local Government Area of the state and snatched two ballot boxes meant for the referendum.
The violence erupted when OGSIEC officials arrived  Ita Baale – Ago -Keesan and near market Obada polling units to conduct referendum for the proposed Afon LCDA as approved by the state House of Assembly.
Our correspondent learnt that youths in Afon and Imala which fall within the proposed LCDA clashed at the polling units leaving two persons seriously injured.
The youths, who were armed with varied dangerous weapons such as dane guns, cutlasses, cudgel, broken bottles and assorted charms had a field day as they attacked one another as well as other percieved “enemies”.
Three journalists;  Dimeji Kayode-Adedeji (Premium Times), Sulaiman Fasasi  (Nigerian Pilot) and Daud Olatunji (Vanguard) who had arrived the scene of the violence to monitor the exercise were however, attacked by hoodlums.
While the two others escaped unhurt, Fasasi of the Nigerian Pilot Newspaper was however, not that lucky as he was beaten and lost some valuables to the hoodlums during the violence for allegedly taking their pictures.
It was also gathered that two persons were seriously injured which included one Adeolu Adegbe who sustained broken leg and Rotimi Ashipa who was reportedly macheted in the head and arm.
It was further gathered that there was an attack in Obada axis and two ballot boxes, ballot papers and other electoral materials were snatched at gun point.
Eye witness told our correspondent that Imala youth were provoked by the action of a Member of the State House of Assembly representing Imeko-Afon state constituency,  who was alleged to have led some youth from Afon to attack others.
Reacting to the development, a member of the Commission, Barrister Mutiu Agboke who spoke to our reporter from Ifo local government area where he had gone to supervise the exercise however, maintained that there was impressive turnouts for the Ibogun/Coker LCDA.
Agboke, an OGSIEC’s Commissioner III, further stated that his commission only recorded incident of ballot snatching in Afon Local Government allegedly by a Chief in the community and that the commission had since recovered it.

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