"They snatched the ballot boxes and ran into a waiting Toyota Hilux van with no number plate, as they sped off while a black utility jeep followed them. In the process, one of us whose uncle is a driver in the Governor's office quickly told us that the black jeep following the Hilux van belonged to a politician and we discovered it was Hon. Victor Olabimtan who was inside. We had to quickly run after the jeep as policemen in the vehicle began shooting to scare us away. We played safe by leaving them to go, and we called those in other polling units to tell them what had happened."
Facts have emerged on how the house of assembly election conducted on March 9, 2019, at Oba Akoko in Akoko South West Local Government Area of Ondo State resulted in violence that led to the death of seven persons.
The Ondo State House of Assembly election conducted in Oba Akoko witnessed violence, as some youth and security agencies in the town clashed during a protest over the snatching of ballox boxes by armed soldiers.
The violence, which lasted many hours, led to the destruction of properties running into millions of naira.
The youth were killed by stray bullets while trying to prevent the ballot boxes from being snatched.
The Divisional Police Headquarters in Oba Akoko was also nearly razed during the violence, while security vehicles parked in the premises of the station were destroyed with stones and burnt.
SaharaReporters' investigation into the incident, however, revealed that Victor Olabimtan, Special Adviser to Rotimi Akeredolu, Governor of Ondo State, was behind the violence.
According to residents, Olabimtan, who was formerly a Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, contracted the thugs and armed security men from outside the town.
Our correspondent, who visited Oba Akoko, learnt from the locals that the thugs were sighted a few days before the election while they were trying to locate the polling units.
The names of victims were given as Adams Ayodele, Ojo Kayode, Audu Ayodele, Nofisat Oriti, Lawal Alidu, Dejumo Adegoroye and Amuda Ahmed. Others are hospitalised at the facilities of Federal Medical Hospital, Owo.
On the night of the incident, Akeredolu had ordered that a curfew be placed on Oba Akoko, thereby hindering human and vehicular movement within and around the town.
A statement issued by Gbenga Ale, the Governor's Chief of Staff, had instructed all citizens and commuters transiting Oba Akoko to remain indoors, and instructed the security agencies to take charge.
The curfew was enforced despite the appeal of the traditional rulers of the communities to address the youth of the town to cease fire.
On March 10, Akeredolu visited the town in the company of the Commissioner of Police, and condemned the mayhem. He also promised to set up a committee of inquiry to examine what led to the crisis.
In swift reaction, the Police Commissioner ordered that the event be investigated, a directive that led to the arrest of youth in the town, including a physically-impaired man later identified as Jimoh Ogunyemi, a.k.a. 'Akala', who suffers from hearing disability.
On March 13, Akeredolu set up a five-man committee chaired by Dr. Femi Awani, while Mr. J.T. Olayeye serves as the Secretary.
However, sources narrated what happened at the weekend to SaharaReporters.
Ige Ijabiyi, an eyewitness, said: "I am not scared to talk, and tell you my name, because it is what we all experienced and saw with our eyes. On that fateful Saturday (March 9), the election was going on peacefuly and we were in an orderly manner, casting our votes without rancour.
"Unfortunately, in the afternoon, precisely 2pm, the atmosphere change as the counting and sorting began, and we began to see strange faces in the polling units. These faces were not known in the communities, so we quickly had to inform the few security agencies in the polling units to be on alert.
"In fact, one of the police sergeants who was on ground assured us that nothing would happen, but we were not comfortable with his assurances.
"We had not finished complaining to the security agencies, when some mobile policemen stormed the PUs with guns and horsewhips and we were all scared.
"Before we they knew it, they started chasing our people away from the polling units and snatched all ballot boxes, including the INEC materials. It was just like a Nollywood scene as many of us got wounded.
"They snatched the ballot boxes and ran into a waiting Toyota Hilux van with no number plate, as they sped off while a black utility jeep followed them. In the process, one of us whose uncle is a driver in the Governor's office quickly told us that the black jeep following the Hilux van belonged to a politician and we discovered it was Hon. Victor Olabimtan who was inside.
"We had to quickly run after the jeep as policemen in the vehicle began shooting to scare us away. We played safe by leaving them to go, and we called those in other polling units to tell them what had happened."
Another source, who preferred not to be named, narrated how Olabimtan drove in the black utility jeep with the registration numbers OD10ZED with armed soldiers who were snatching ballot boxes in all the polling units visited.
He explained how the Governor's aide was joined by Dapo Fasesin, a former Local Council Vice Chairman.
He said: "Yes it was same day of the election that we began to hear the news that they had started snatching the ballot boxes everywhere in the town. It was not up to three minutes that we saw this Hilux van and a black jeep filled with soldiers and armed policemen with double barrel guns.
"I saw the Governor's aide, Mr. Victor Olabimtan, who came down from a black Jeep and started giving some instructions to the policemen while soldiers putting on dark glasses were guarding him.
"Olabimtan was joined by Dapo Fasesin. I saw the two politicians in Oba; they were moving up and down with two Hilux vans and a black jeep in full support of armed soldiers as they stopped to snatch ballot boxes in all the polling units close by. About six polling units were visited where they snatched ballot box that day.
"In fact, the main trouble started at ward 14 in Oba Akoko where these youth restisted the untoward action of the mobile policemen after they had succeeded in snatching the ballot boxes. They started shooting at the youth to scare them away. Angered by Olabimtan's action, the youth of Oba Akoko blocked all the roads within Oba axis to prevent the Governor's aide and his squad from taking the ballot boxes out of town.
"It was the armed mobile policemen in the vehicle of Hon. Olabimtan that came down to remove the blockade and opened fire on the youth, killing at least two persons on the spot as the remaning of us fled the scene.
"We called the Police in Oba Akoko for help, but they refused to show up and that was how Olabimtan and his security squad terrorised the town for close to four hours, shooting sporadically."
A cleric in Oba Akoko town also told Saharareporters: "It was a sad day here for us because those who were bestowed with positions of authority used the power they have against the people they are suppose to protect.
"I saw them myself as they brought in the soldiers and policemen who were snatching ballot boxes mostly at the polling unit in St. Peter's Church, while shooting at some youth who tried to resist them. Some powerful politicians came to the town with armed policemen and thugs, snatching ballot boxes and asking the people to move away.
"They are doing that in this civilized society and you expect the people, mostly youth whose votes are being stolen, to watch on and not react.
"Honestly, for close to four hours, it was gunshots everywhere, including teargas as those ones deployed to provide security too started making indiscriminate arrest of the people who ran for safety in the church and mosques around them."
A youth of Oba Akoko, who simply identified himself as Orile, also told SaharaReporters during a visit how the police protected the ballot box snatchers.
"It is so unfortunate that truth has no place in our politics again. This very day we are talking about, we saw Hon. Olabimtan moving around with soldiers and policemen with thugs snatching ballot boxes.
"One thing we all know is that the electoral violence unleashed on the youth and people of Oba Akoko was well-planned and executed by Hon. Olabimtan and Hon Fasesin. So, the two politicians must be made to face the full wrath of the law, because these two figures are still moving about freely and even threatening us the youth of Oba-Akoko with death because we know them and have all promised to exposed them.
"Worse still is that useless DPO of Oba Akoko Division, who was ordering all his officers to shoot at us for preventing the ballot boxes from being snatched by those brought in by Olabimtan.
"We protested peacefully to the Police Station in Oba to register our grievances about how they (Police) failed to show up when we needed them most. Surprisingly, the DPO ordered his men to immediately open fire on us.
"First, they threw teargas canisters and when they discovered we were not afraid, they started shooting at us, wounding so many people."
SaharaReporters exclusively learnt that the damage done on the police station led to the arrest of the some people in the town.
Confirming the arrest, Femi Joseph, spokesperson of the Ondo State Police Command, said 20 youth were arrested.
He said: "We arrested about 20 of them after they attacked our men in Oba Akoko and also destroyed the Police Station, including the vehicles parked in the premises.
"Some of our men who were attacked were even on their way to collation centres when they ambushed them and in an attempt to defend themselves, one or two of the youth were shot dead."
Meawhile, feelers from the Ondo State Police headquarters indicate that some of the arrested youth were set free last week. Those released, it was learnt, were freed due to the intervention of community leaders and elders in the town who repeatedly appealed to the Governor to intervene.
However, youth in the town have written a letter to Akeredolu insisting that Olambitan must face justice.