Nigeria: Opposition senatorial candidate gunned down days before crucial elections

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A manhunt is underway for the killers of a senatorial candidate for Nigeria’s opposition Labor Party, who was shot and burned in his campaign vehicle late Wednesday in the country’s southeastern Enugu State, local police said Thursday.

The politician, Oyibo Chukwu, was murdered along with an unnamed personal aide by assailants police suspect were operatives of banned separatist group IPOB and its militant wing ESN.

Chukwu’s murder was one of multiple attacks targeted at members of other political parties late Wednesday, a police statement said, adding that investigations were ongoing.

“The Commissioner of Police, Enugu State Command, CP Ahmed Ammani, fdc, has ordered the … manhunt of the subversive criminal elements, suspected to be IPOB/ESN renegades, who … ambushed and simultaneously attacked and murdered People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) members, and also attempted to attack the convoy of the All Progressive Congress (APC) Governorship Candidate.”

The armed attackers stormed their target points in a tricycle and Hilux vehicle, the statement added.

The attacks are happening less than three days before Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

A campaign poster depicting Labour Party (LP) Enugu East Senatorial Candidate, Oyibo Chukwu, who was killed and burnt in an attack by unknown gunmen, is pictured in Enugu, Nigeria February 23, 2023.

Labor Party presidential candidate Peter Obi said in a tweet Thursday he was saddened to learn of the brutal murder of his party’s senate candidate.

“I received with deep shock and sadness, the news of the painful killing of Barr Oyibo Chukwu, the Senatorial Candidate of the Labour Party, for Enugu East Senatorial Zone. … I strongly condemn the killing of Barr Chukwu in all its entirety,” Obi tweeted adding that Nigerians should “freely exercise their civic duties without intimidation.”

More than 93 million Nigerians are registered to participate in the country’s general elections starting Saturday, but uncertainty hangs over voter turnout on polling day, with insecurity among the biggest concerns.

Separatist gangs have terrorized the southeastern region where agitations for a breakaway Biafra state have turned violent many times. In other parts of the country, marauding gunmen known locally as bandits have carried out mass kidnappings mostly for ransom.

Voting will not take place in more than 200 polling units across Nigeria, INEC says, because of concerns over security.

The Nigeria branch of Amnesty International has also condemned the killing, describing it as “horrific.”

“Amnesty International strongly condemns the horrific killing last night of the Labour Party (LP) candidate … Oyibo Chukwu, who was also gruesomely burnt inside his vehicle while returning from a campaign activity in Agbani, Enugu state … The Nigerian authorities must order a prompt, thorough, independent, impartial, transparent, and effective investigation into the killing, and bring those suspected to be responsible to justice,” the human rights group tweeted Thursday.

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