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Police impose curfew on Bayelsa, gov inaugurated amid tension

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The Bayelsa State Police Command on Friday imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the state following an outbreak of protests and violence in different parts of the state.

The state Commissioner of Police, Uche Anozia, announced the curfew at a press conference in Yenagoa, the state capital, shortly before the swearing-in of Senator Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party as the governor of the state and Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo as his deputy, by the state Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri, at the Government House.

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There had been severe tension in the state since the Supreme Court on Thursday annulled the victory of the APC candidate in the November 16, 2019 governorship election, Mr David Lyon, and his running mate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.

While Lyon was already rehearsing for the inauguration scheduled for Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that the APC ought not to have participated in the election because Degi-Eremienyo, his running mate in the election, forged his certificates.

A five-man panel of the apex court, headed by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, ordered that INEC should withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Lyon and his running mate and declare as winner of the election the candidate with the highest number of lawful votes cast with the requisite constitutional spread.

Sequel to the court order in the lead judgement delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the commission on Friday declared Diri as the winner of the election.

INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, while addressing a news conference at its headquarters, said by virtue of the Supreme Court judgement, the total number of votes cast in the election was 146,999, out of which the candidate of the PDP scored 143,172 with geographical spread.

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But as early as Thursday evening, shortly after the ruling of the apex court, there were protests against the judgment in some parts of the state, including Yenogoa, and it continued until Friday morning.

The protesters, who were believed to be supporters of the APC, took to the streets setting bonfires on major roads in the state.

The angry APC supporters, comprising women and youths, blocked different areas of the Mbiama-Yenagoa Road, burning tyres and traffic control stands in sight.

They said the verdict of the apex court was unacceptable, insisting that it was either Lyon or no other person. The National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, had also posited that no one would be sworn in on Friday, arguing that no other candidate had the constitutional spread to be governor.

One of our correspondents who monitored the incident observed some tyres in flames while some were waiting to be set on fire. These occurred amidst expectations that INEC would issue a certificate of return to Diri as a prelude to his inauguration.

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It was also gathered that the demonstrations started on Thursday night in different parts of Yenagoa as youths with APC flags blocked major roads and made bonfires.

The Yenizue-Gene area of Yenagoa which houses the state secretariat of the APC was cordoned off by the police soon after the protests intensified towards the area, while policemen barricaded the area with patrol vans even as burnt tyres billowed with smokes.

The incident caused panic among residents and motorists, most of whom parked their vehicles and tricycles.

Commercial activities were also affected as businesses shut down for fear of being looted.

At the Ekeki Motor Park, some shops in the Seriake Dickson Shopping Mall were vandalised and looted. And as of Friday evening, APC supporters were still on the rampage, moving from one major road to another in the state capital.

In his response to the unrest, however, the police commissioner, who briefed journalists alongside the heads of other security agencies, said the curfew would start on Friday and end on Sunday, between 8pm and 6am each day.

He said the decision followed the violent protests that rocked the state capital on Friday morning, adding that eight persons were arrested in connection with the demonstrations.

Anozia said, “Following the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment with respect to the Bayelsa State governorship election, which was made public on February 13, 2020, angry protesters stormed the streets of Yenagoa.

“The police command is hereby imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew for three days; from Friday, February 14, 2020 to Sunday, February 16, 2020, from the hours of 8pm to 6am.”

He advised members of the public to stay indoors as security operatives would be out to arrest and prosecute anyone who violated the curfew.

During the violent protests, the private residences of Diri and his predecessor, Seriake Dickson, in Yenagoa were attacked while some vehicles were vandalised at both locations.

Dickson had at the last State Executive Council meeting of his administration in the Government House on Friday called on the APC leaders to restrain their supporters from causing violence in the state.

He described the Supreme Court judgment which brought in Diri as his successor as “no victor, no vanquished.”

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