Suspected Political Thugs Harass Journalists Covering Elections in Imo State

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Mr. Chinagorom Ugwu, Premium Times Reporter

On November 11, 2023, a reporter with the online newspaper, Premium Times, Mr. Chinagorom Ugwu, was harassed by political thugs at Polling Unit 028 located in Ama Ozaraigwe in Omuma Community, in the Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State, where he went to cover the off-season governorship election in the State.

The reporter said the suspected thugs became apprehensive by his presence at the polling unit and ordered him to leave the vicinity.

He said one of the thugs told him he was making people uncomfortable at the polling unit and asked him to leave saying the reporter had seen enough. The thug told the reporter that his face was strange, adding that they knew themselves in the community.

When he informed the thugs that he was accredited to cover the election, another thug retorted: “Anyone can come here with a tag and say he’s accredited.”  The first thug told the reporter they were not doubting him but said he had seen enough and pushed the reporter away.

When the reporter hesitated, one of the thugs flared up and threatened to deal with him if he failed to leave immediately. The thugs asked him to go to other polling units.

Again, when he attempted to take a photograph of an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) poster showing details of the polling unit, the thugs prevented him and tried to lynch him.

As a number of the thugs gathered to deal with him, a woman advised him to leave immediately.

Some minutes later, at polling unit 002, Court Hall Etiti within the same community, the reporter was again asked to leave the unit’s premises by a suspected thug who informed him that he can only be allowed to observe the unit if one of them, believed to be their leader allowed him.

He was led to see the man, in his forties, who asked what the reporter came to do at the unit.

Following his explanations, the man granted the reporter access to the polling station but signaled to the thug to keep close watch on him. Police operatives who were present at the polling unit witnessed the incident but failed to intervene.

Another reporter from the News Agency of Nigeria, who asked not be named, said he was equally harassed by suspected thugs in some polling units. He said “They didn’t even allow me to get close. They came and met me immediately a bike man dropped me. They asked me repeatedly, ‘what’s it? So, from their tone, I knew something was happening there and I just left”.