The boat mishap that threw 12 election officers into River Nun in Bayelsa State on Friday evening was caused by a wave generated by a military gunboat deployed to patrol the river.
A survivor of the boat mishap, Mr. Emmanuel Choko, told National Point exclusively on Saturday in Yenagoa that 10 boats had left Amassoma with full loads of election metrials and personnel for Koluama when the incident occurred.
He said a military gunboat had sped past as the 10 boats were slowly taking off from the jetty. While the other boats were able to maneouvre the waves, the tenth one in which he and other 11 election officials and materials were capsized.
“We hadn’t gotten far from the jetty, just near the bridge when it happened. I am from Rivers State and I was able to swim to shore. The boys at the jetty quickly jumped into the river and saved other INEC staff that could not swim.
“I lost all the things I had with me in the river. My phone, my ATM cards, identity cards, and other things,” said Choko, who was still clutching his NYSC cap and strapped in a lifejacket.
Choko, who hails from Etche in Rivers State, said he had just passed out of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) the previous day and done his passing out parade before the incident.
He also said the day of the incident was his birthday. He was so thankful to God for saving his life.
The INEC Head of Voter Education in Bayelsa State, Mr. Wilfred Osilama Ifogah, who confirmed the boat mishap, said all the materials deployed for the election on Saturday for Koluama Ward 17 were lost in the incident.
He had also confirmed that the electoral officer for Sagbama Local Government Area was kidnapped on Friday as she made to board a boat to her duty post. She had not been found by Saturday afternoon.
Bayelsa State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Tolani Alausa, said the kidnapped INEC official was yet to be traced. He blamed her for not moving about with security despite clear directives that no INEC official should move about without security.
“I wonder why that lady moved without security,” CP Alausa said.