By Simon Ebegbulem
BENINâ€”NO fewer than 1,600 combat ready policemen and an Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police, Mr Felix Ogbaudu, have been deployed to Edo State by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to conduct the House of Assembly re-run election in Etsako Central local government council scheduled for tomorrow.
The policemen were drawn from different parts of the country, while the AIG was specifically drafted to supervise the election, following the vote of no confidence passed on the leadership of Edo State police command by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
Vanguard learnt that following PDPâ€™s allegation that the police in the state and the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr Aniedi Abasi, connived with Action Congress to rig Akoko Edo re-run election last year, the authorities in Abuja decided to deploy new policemen and a new REC, Ahmed Raji, to conduct the election.
With this development, all PDPâ€™s request appeared to have been met by both INEC and the IGP. However, the new AIG drafted for the special assignment, who briefed newsmen yesterday, warned politicians not to go near the polling area with uniform policemen.
He assured that he was in the state to conduct a free and fair poll, adding that he would move round the communities of Etsako Central to appeal to the people to eschew violence during the election.
Ogbaudu disclosed thatÂ 1,600 policemen were drawn from the twenty five units across the country.
â€œI want to use this opportunity to advise politicians not to move with any uniform personnel, including policemen, on the day of election. Any uniform man seen around will be arrested. If you are a registered voter, your duty is to go there and cast your vote and go home,â€ he warned.
He also met with the new INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Ahmed Raji, representatives of the four political parties in the contest, including Action Congress (AC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP).
He said he had directed all police officers that would be in the area to be civil in carrying out their assignments.
Ogbaudu admonished members of the public to â€œdesist from thuggery and other violent offences during the election because politics is not all about bloodletting or destruction but development. We will not hesitate to arrest anybody found making trouble in the area.â€
Governor Oshiomhole, who had earlier reacted to the decision by the Inspector General of Police to deploy fresh policemen for the election, told newsmen while campaigning for his party at Etsako, that he was not opposed to drafting of policemen for the election.
â€œSecurity can never be enough. As far they are coming to do the right thing, we have no problem with that.
â€œYou cannot fault the police for mobilizing; we cannot say security is too much, security can never be too much. What we should worry about is that whether they are one hundred or four thousand, let them do honest job.
â€œThat is the task you and I must watch out for. It doesnâ€™t matter, there can be 100,000 policemen, provided their mission is to guarantee one man, one vote. What the PDP has been boasting about is that they are not going to use Edo police, that they are going to bring special squad that will help them to rig the election.
â€œWell we know that sometimes they lie, I am not worried about what they say. We are all watching out,â€ he said.