LAGOS (Reuters) - Five explosions and a burst of gunfire hit an opposition rally in the town of Okrika in southern Nigeria’s oil producing Rivers state on Tuesday, wounding several people, witness and the governor of the state said.
Opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) Governor Rotimi Amaechi was not at the rally. The town is home to Patience Jonathan, wife of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Rivers state has been struck with several bomb blasts, none of them fatal, in the build up to an election now set for March 28 after it was postponed from last Saturday. This one targeted the rally of APC governorship aspirant Dakuku Peterside.
Nigeria has a long history of political thuggery and intimidation that have repeatedly marred its polls since the end of military rule in 1999.
Violence is rising ahead of voting, and Rivers state, where outgoing Governor Ameachi defected to the opposition APC in 2013, is considered one of the major flashpoints. Unidentified assailants threw dynamite at opposition coalition offices in Rivers State a month ago.
Amaechi blamed the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
“It is intimidation. They don’t want people to come out and vote because they know they’ll lose,” he said.
The PDP spokesman for Rivers state Emmanuel Okah said by telephone that it was a clash between rival “cultists”, Nigerian university gangs that combine occult rituals with criminal activities.
“Violence does not end well and it is for that reason that we have continued to encourage our PDP members to remain peaceful and law-abiding despite the recurring cases of provocation by the APC....” Okah later said in a statement.
The police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The presidential election was meant to take place last Saturday, with a governorship poll two weeks later, but the electoral commission delayed it by six weeks on the advice of the military.
Additional reporting by Emmanuel Okolie in Port Harcourt; Editing by Peter Graff