From Gbade Ogunwale, Nicholas Kalu, Abuja, Raymond Mordi, Bisi Olaniyi and Precious Igbonwelundu
As Edo Sate governorship election nears the zero hour, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Thursday cautioned voters and politicians against violence.
But, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) staged a protest at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters in Abuja, urging the agency to conduct a free and fair election.
Security agents also moved round in Benin, the state capital, in a show of force to warn perpetration of violence to stear clear.
In addition, Inspector-General of Police Muhammed Adamu, ordered a restriction of movement from 11:59pm Friday till 9pm Saturday.
Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni appealed to voters to avoid violence and support the conduct of a peaceful election.
In a statement by Mamman Mohammed, his Director General of Press and Media Affairs, Buni said: “I urge APC supporters and those from the opposition parties to support INEC to conduct fair, credible and acceptable election.
“The people of Edo should be allowed to elect a leader of their choice and, the people’s wish should be respected.
“We are optimistic that the security agencies would check the excesses of trouble makers, protect the electorate and their votes”.
Buni added that INEC has in the last few years, made remarkable achievements in organising free, fair and credible elections.
“It should be supported and encouraged to improve on these achievements and that is how our democracy would grow, not through violence.”
“As leaders, we should avoid statements capable of over heating the polity and creating tension. No responsible leader will preach violence.”
In Abuja, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership, led by National Chairman Uche Secondus, expressed apprehension on the commitment of INEC and the security agencies to credible election.
Addressing some INEC officials at the Commission’s headquarters, Secondus charged the Commission to conduct credible election, to avoid escalation of the security situation in the country.
The party chairman said: “We are deeply worried and in pain because of our past experiences, especially in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
“We are worried because the country is in crisis; crisis in the economy, crisis in the area of security, virtually in all facets of the life of the nation.
“The only way out of all these crises is to conduct free and fair elections which will at most reduce the tension in our country today”.
He called on the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security agencies to ensure that the 1500 security agents sent to provide security for the election did not deviate from their assigned role.
Secondus recalled instances where INEC officials, in collaboration with security agents, allegedly manipulated election results in the past, saying that INEC should ensure that such did not happen in the conduct of the Edo election.
INEC Commissioner in charge of Election and Party Monitoring, Prof. Antonia Okoosi-Simbine, assured the party leaders that the Commission would conduct a credible election.
Okoosi-Simbine, who stood in for the INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said the Commission would spare no effort in ensuring the election process was not tampered with.
“So, once again, I just want to assure you that it is in our own interest, it is for our own good that a free fair, and credible election goes on, on Saturday and that is what we promised that we are going to deliver”, Okoosi-Simbine said.
As part of efforts to ensure public order and safety the police in a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, Force Headquarters, Abuja, DCP Frank Mba, said: “The IGP notes that the restriction order is informed by the need to prevent the free flow, circulation and use of illicit arms and hard drugs and checkmate the movement of political thugs and touts and other criminally-minded individuals especially from contiguous States from hijacking and disrupting the electoral processes.
“He enjoins citizens to go out en-masse on the day of the election and vote, noting that the Police and other security agencies have been sufficiently mobilized to provide a safe, secure and conducive environment for the election.
“While regretting any inconveniences the restriction order may cause the citizens, the IGP enjoins the citizens to see the restriction as part of necessary sacrifices towards the enthronement of democracy.
“He however warns that the Force will not sit idly by and watch citizens who may want to engage in any criminal act – violent and destructive acts, snatching of ballot boxes, vote buying, vote selling, hate speeches, and other act(s) capable of compromising the electoral processes.”
The combined security operatives on Thursday in Benin embarked on another “Operation Show of Force’’ to signify their preparedness to provide adequate security for the Saturday governorship election.
Operatives from the various security agencies in 70 patrol vehicles moved in convoy round the city.
The convoy moved from the Police Command Headquarters on Sapele road, Country home road through Ugbo road.
Other routes covered were the GRA, Adesuwa road, Ihama road and the entire stretch of the Airport road.
Others were Akenzua road, Ehaekpen St., TV road, five junction, Uselu-Lagos road, Upper Mission road and the Ring road.
Our reporters observed many Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) carrying armed military and police operatives, armoured tanks, hilux vehicles and buses filled with security agents.
Road blocks were mounted in strategic areas with the police searching vehicles for possible exhibits.
Some of the 31,000 cops deployed for the election by the Inspector General of Police (IG) Mohammed Adamu have been deployed in the hinterland and riverine communities.
It was gathered that a Commissioner of Police (CP) was deployed in each of the identified strongholds to coordinate security activities and report to the DIG.
Addressing the joint security patrols, DIG Oyebade said he was happy they received timely information and acted to prevent unpleasant situations.
Although he did not give further details, the DIG warned politicians having clandestine meetings to disrupt the electoral processes to desist or face the wrath of the law.
He said: “We have some information and were able to get it early. So, we will continue the show of force across all the senatorial districts. I am using this opportunity to sound note of warning to those of them holding clandestine meetings; all those that think they can do and undo to make this election a fallacy will not be allow.
“The reason behind this operation is that we must work together as a team because we are members of the same family. When you see yourself in the NSCDC, the navy, army, Airforce or police; we have a common goal. That common goal is to ensure a free, fair and credible election and to protect lives and properties of the electorates.
“The second reason is to send signal to the bad boys. That wherever they are, we will fish them out and we are ready. Also, we are telling the electorates they are safe. That they should feel free and come out on the day of the election.
“Most people sometimes do not read our intention clearly. Showing of force is not to intimidate members of the public, rather it is to reassure them we are ready to protect them and to respect the fundamental rights of the citizens before, during and after the election.”
Continuing, Oyebade urged the security agents to remain professional. He said they must be fair but tough, adding that they must ensure no loss of lives.
There was heavy police presence at the INEC temporary office along Sapele Road as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) office in Benin where accreditation and distribution of electoral materials were done.
At the INEC office, observers who spoke to our reporters said they were satisfied with the processes thus far, adding that the INEC officials have been approachable and accessible.
An observer with CLEEN Foundation, Mrs. Blessing Emoron said they were hopeful the election would be peaceful.
Governor Obaseki declared Friday as public holiday.
Read the original article on The Nation