BY Vivian Chime
Bolanle Olabimtan, TheCable’s judiciary correspondent, was injured on Saturday during an attack by suspected thugs at a polling unit in Delta state.
Olabimtan, who was deployed to the state to cover the ongoing presidential and national assembly elections, was at a polling unit in Ika north-east LGA when suspected hoodlums invaded the area on Saturday.
Around 4:20pm at Owa Model Primary School, ward 03, Ika north-east LGA, some persons arrived at the premises in a red Toyota Highlander and a white bus.
The suspected thugs ordered officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to discontinue the vote counting, while police officers looked on.
They directed that the electoral officials move to Ngala Primary School to continue counting.
However, they met resistance from some voters who insisted that the votes must be counted in the same place.
Following the development, violence broke out and in the process, Olabimtan was injured, her phone seized, and voters were chased away from the premises.
“They came and took my phone, went through my private chats, deleted pictures and videos, searched my entire gallery, checked my official and election group chats,” she said.
“They went on my Instagram, checked my feed and private DMs. They threatened me and this was under the rain and I was shivering.”
She said voter turnout at the location was low, adding that voting ended before 2pm, but residents started complaining over delay in the commencement of counting.
“When I got there, a man started addressing voters. So, when I brought out my phone to take pictures, the INEC staff started shouting at me. I told him I’m doing my job and I already identified myself when I came here,” Olabimtan added.
“We were done with that and vote counting started around 4pm, and some guys arrived between 4:20 and 4:30pm and ordered the INEC officials to pack up and take the materials to a particular hall for counting to be done.
“I had even stopped filming when one of them hit me from the back. I hit my back on the wall and fell to the ground. He dragged my phone from me. My back still hurts.”
In 2022, TheCable reported that the federal government acknowledged that journalists are often victims of violence during elections, and made a commitment to ending violence against journalists.
Despite this commitment, journalists continue to be harassed in the course of their duties, with no concrete steps to put an end to it.