The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have accused each other of causing mayhem in Gbajimba, headquarters of Guma Local Government area of Benue State.
The incumbent Governor Samuel Ortom hails from Guma local Governor area of the state while the governorship candidate of the APC, Emmanuel Jime was at a point, member representing Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency at the National Assembly.
While the APC accused the PDP of disrupting its campaign rally in Gbajimba on Friday, the PDP has debunked the claim saying it is one of the APC candidates from the area who went with thugs to cause mayhem in the area.
Addressing newsmen in Makurdi on Friday night, Secretary of the Emmanuel Jime Campaign Organisation, Prof. Eugene Aliegba disclosed that armed militia stormed the venue of the rally while supporters were gathering and started shooting sporadically to disperse the people.
He noted that the hoodlums initially started by throwing stones both at the party supporters and security agencies but soon graduated to firing gunshots in the arena.
“We were heading to Guma after our rally in Gwer this afternoon when we got information that armed militias stormed the venue and started shooting at the people. We gathered that many people were injured and we just got information that the injured who were taken to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH) were turned back.
Although, number of casualties were not given at the time of this report, an APC member from the area, Dickson Tarkigh alleged that five of his supporters were still missing while another one was injured on the head.
State APC chairman Abba Yaro, however, urged party loyalists to remain calm and be law abiding stressing that whether the PDP likes it or not, the party would win all its elections.
But reacting swiftly, the PDP in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Bengba Iortyom, while expressing concern over what he termed as the spate of violence, condemned such act of lawlessness by the APC in the state.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms such lawlessness by the APC in the state as it falls short of the acceptable standards for the thriving of multi party democracy anywhere.”
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser (Media and ICT) Tahav Agerzua, reiterated his commitment to peaceful elections in the state even as he called on all stakeholders to eschew violence and conduct that could trigger a breakdown of law and order.
The governor, who debunked allegations that he had masterminded the mayhem, noted that he does not have any antecedent of violence in his close to forty years in politics and has never resorted to violence and the use of thugs to prosecute his campaigns or win elections.
He appealed to his supporters in particular to exercise restraint even in the face of extreme provocation and to report any person or group who breaches the peace to law enforcement agents.
“The Governor states that it became necessary to reiterate his position following accusations that he stopped the rally of an opposition party in Gbajimba, Guma local government area today.
“It could be recalled that no one hindered the opposition from using the IBB Square in Makurdi nor disrupted their campaign flag off in Makurdi which is the state capital.
“Attempts to link the Governor with a failed campaign effort in his home local government area to smear his name is therefore baseless and unfounded to say the least. Governor Ortom states categorically that he did not instruct or direct any person to disrupt or stop any rally.
However, the state Police Command under the leadership of Commissioner Police, Omololu Bishi, said it averted what would have been a clash between supporters of the APC and PDP in Gbajimba in Guma Local government area that fateful day.
“It started at about 1300hrs when PDP supporters protested that the APC were playing provocative music/songs at the Government Secondary School Gbajimba venue of the APC campaign rally. This resulted in hurling of stones and other objects and the destruction of campaign posters by supporters of both parties. No gunshot was fired by anyone and no casualty was recorded.
It, however, took the prompt intervention of the Officers and Men of the Command led by the Area Commander of Makurdi Area Command to disperse the crowd which was almost becoming riotous.
“The Benue State Commissioner of Police, CP. Omololu S. Bishi, however, expressed disappointment that such incidence would happen at this time despite the peace pact signed by the various political party aspirants.
“He vowed to bring those behind this incident to book and appealed to the good people of the State to remain law abiding and eschew violence in their day to day activities,” the statement read.
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