As registered voters head to the polls in Edo State today to elect a new governor, a total of 26,900 army and police personnel have been deployed statewide to ensure adequate security before, during and after the election.
A breakdown showed that the army will deploy 1,900 officers and soldiers while the police have moved 25,000 of its personnel in the state for the election.
In addition, two drones are to be deployed in each of the three senatorial districts and six gunboats in the riverine areas.
The Commander, 4 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Benbela Raji, disclosed this yesterday while briefing journalists shortly after a combined security meeting with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other sister agencies in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
He explained that no military personnel would be found at either the voting or collation centres, but would cordon off adjoining routes to the polling units to ensure that criminals or people who want to foment trouble are not allowed into those areas.
“The Nigerian Army is there to play a supportive role to the security agencies. Should there be issues or security challenges beyond the control of the security agencies, the military will, of course, be activated to take care of such situations,” he said.
In a separate briefing, the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, stated that the enforcement of the restriction of movement in and out of the state commenced at midnight yesterday and the deployment of 25,000 personnel of the Nigeria Police Force.
Idris, who spoke through the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Operations, Joshak Habila, said the restriction would include a lock down of all highways in the state and inner-city streets, adding that the police would also conduct “semi-temporary checks” on vehicles and persons plying such roads.
“I want members of the public to know that at 1 a.m. on September 28, the highways, the in-ways and the out-roads, leading in and out of Edo will be locked down,” he said.
The IG explained that the crime-mapping of flash points was being done to ensure adequate policing and arrest of electoral offenders.
He also explained that in addition to the provision of 25,000 personnel and patrol vehicles for the poll, the air wing of the police had also deployed helicopters to provide aerial surveillance in the three senatorial zones in the state.
“As I speak to you, we have a large number of men from the special anti-robbery squad, men from the police mobile force, tactical operations squad and men from the force intelligence bureau who are here.
“They have their vehicles. From now, they will go into the three senatorial districts and carry out aggressive patrols and look out for would-be troublemakers, some of whom we have already captured their behaviour when we did what we call crime analysis.
“We have shared information with other security agencies and we are ready to make sure that we do not allow anybody to truncate the system,” he explained.
On its part, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that it had organised several enlightenment, sensitisation meetings for political parties, security agencies, civil society organisations and other stakeholders on the governorship election.
Alhaji Muhammed Leky, INEC’s National Commissioner, South-south, said that there would be accreditation and casting of votes simultaneously, which according to him, is a departure from the past of having separate times for accreditation and voting.
He disclosed that there are 1,915,105 registered voters in Edo State, 2,627 polling units, and 4,011 polling points.
The commissioner said it had moved all the sensitive electoral materials to all the 18 local government offices of the commission in the state and held last minute briefings with election operation officers (EOPs) and election supervisors.
Under the aegis of Nigerian Civil Society Organisations’ Situation Room, no fewer than 70 CSOs have also relocated to Benin City to monitor the governorship election.
Clement Nwankwo, the convener of the Situation Room, said that they were watching with keen interest to see the level of compliance on the part of INEC.
Nwankwo, who declined to disclose the number of its personnel that will be monitoring the exercise, said that their areas of interest would include early distribution and deployment of personnel by INEC; timely opening of poll units; knowledge of procedures by personnel; voting procedures particularly the efficacy of Smart Card Readers; and the collation process, which according to him, “has always been a concern for the Situation Room”.
He said while the Situation Room welcomed INEC’s guidelines on simultaneous accreditation and voting, it was the constitutional rights of voters to stay back and ensure that their votes count.
APC, PDP Trade Accusations
However, the two main parties expected to lock horns in the election — the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — continued to trade accusations yesterday over the alleged connivance of some officials of INEC to interfere with the exercise.
Specifically, the PDP accused the state government and the electoral umpire of allegedly inducing INEC supervisors to compromise the outcome of the poll in nine out of the 18 local government areas in the state.
The state Publicity Secretary of PDP, Chris Nehikhare, who spoke to journalists in Benin, said that the party had received information of the alleged distribution of N2 million by a senior staff of INEC to the supervisors on behalf of the state government.
Nehikhare, who also alleged that the results of the affected areas had already “been written” for announcement later today, vowed that the party and its supporters would resist with “the last drop of their blood” any attempt to switch election results.
He said: “It has come to our attention that INEC and the state government have seriously compromised the election that is going to take place tomorrow (today). People involved in this conspiracy are those that have leaked this information to the PDP and for us to act very fast.
“She (INEC staff) has been sharing N2 million to supervisors in at least nine local government areas of Edo State.
“What they have done is that they have written results for the nine local government areas on behalf of the APC. These results are being held by the supervisors and the collation officers at a point, where they plan to switch the results with the real ones at the local government level once the election is done.”
Similarly, the acting National Pubilicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, alleged yesterday that it had uncovered a plot by members of the APC and INEC to manipulate the election results.
The party said the alleged plan included the distribution of fake results sheets to polling units in different areas of the state; the use of local government collation officers to write fictitious results on real results sheets of some local government areas; and the use of thugs brought into the state from outside to harass and intimidate the citizens of Edo State.
Other aspects of the plot, according to the PDP, include the use of security agencies to arrest, harass and intimidate members and supporters of the PDP, and to provide security cover for members of the APC to execute their nefarious plot.
Adeyeye called on INEC to ensure that its staff abide by the provisions of the Electoral Act. “We are aware that President Muhammadu Buhari has warned the INEC chairman in private to ensure a free, fair and credible process in Edo State.
“We are also aware that the president has also warned the relevant security agencies to ensure the preservation of the peace in the state during the election.
“Despite these warnings, we have uncovered several plots by members of the APC and staff of INEC to manipulate the election results.
“It is important to sound this note of warning again to INEC and APC that the Edo people are united in their determination to vehemently resist any attempt to manipulate the electoral process.
“We urge INEC to ensure that its staff abide by the provisions of the Electoral Act as well as its Electoral Manual and Guidelines.
“We urge the relevant stakeholders to allow the Edo people to freely elect the leader they desire for the next four years and to allow the will of the people to prevail,” he said.
But in its reaction, the state Chairman of APC, Anselm Ojezua, described the claim as a figment of the imagination of the PDP.
“That is a figment of their imagination. They have lost the election already. I am the state chairman of APC. I have been in my home area for three days. So what time did I have to go and bribe INEC officials?
“If anything at all, it is the PDP people that know the INEC officials. After all, most of these INEC officials were employed during the PDP administration. We have trained our agents and they are determined to be very vigilant.
“The truth is that all the plans by PDP to create havoc in Edo State have virtually failed. All the efforts they have made to manipulate the process have also failed. They can now see that there is nothing other than the true transparent process that will give us results in this election,” he said.
INEC Dismisses Allegations
However, INEC yesterday dismissed the claims by PDP of the plot to rig the Edo governorship election, saying it was “totally impossible”.
The commission’s Deputy Director in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Nick Dazang, said the allegation made by the PDP of possible connivance with the APC to declare fake results does not arise.
Dazang assured all the contestants that the electoral process was going to be transparent, free and fair.
“I want to say that the idea of faking the result does not arise because once the results are declared at every point, party agents are in a position to challenge them, because they can follow the thread, it is as simple as that.
“In line with the existing template, when we finish announcing results at the polling units, party agents will accompany the results to the collation centre at the ward level and from this level the agents can also follow it to the local government area collation centre.
“From the local government collation level, it will now move to the final collation point at the state collation centre. So these processes can be tracked and are transparent.
“It is not only the party agents that are tracking the process, the various election monitoring groups are also going to monitor the process. Once the outcome at the state collation centre is at variance with what we have declared at the other levels we will take action,” he said.