By Ben Agande & Austin Ogwuda
ABUJA—DETERMINED not to leave anything to chance and in demonstration of its readiness to conduct credible elections in the country, the Federal Government, yesterday, deployed in Delta State, the Nigerian Navy, Air force, 45 units of Mobile policemen, 20,000 regular policemen and a stand by team of the army for today’s gubernatorial re-run elections.
While the Airforce was deployed to deliver election materials to difficult terrains in the state, the Navy was mobilised to deliver sensitive election materials to riverine communities in four local government areas.
The Airforce is expected to be used for the retrieval of election results for prompt delivery to the collation centres.
Vanguard gathered that to properly secure the state office of the Independent National Electoral Commission in the state, a combined team of the Army and combat ready men of the Mobile Police Force were deployed to guard the state office of the commission.
Resident Electoral Commissioner for Delta State, Dr. Gabriel Adah, told Vanguard in Asaba that all likely flashpoints in the state have been identified, adding that adequate security measures had been taken to neutralize any possibility of a breach in security.
Adah said 20,000 regular police men and 45 units of mobile policemen (2,835) have been deployed in Delta from different states to ensure the safety of equipment and election materials.
The number of police men to be deployed to each polling unit have also been increased from two to six to ensure maximum security; while a rapid response team of the army is on stand by to ensure prompt response to any security challenge.
Adah said|: “From the deployment of election materials to the conduct of the actual election, INEC has been transparent and would ensure that the election is not only free and fair but credible and acceptable to all parties in the election.”
INEC drafts commissioners in Edo, Bayelsa, A-Ibom
And to ensure adequate preparation, the INEC deployed resident electoral commissioners from three states – Edo, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom – to assist the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Delta State.
In an interview with Vanguard, yesterday, Dr. Adah said the preparation for the election was very comprehensive and that everything had been put in place to ensure its success.
He said: “We have been preparing for the last one month for this election. What we are doing today (yesterday) is only the critical areas. We were able to receive sensitive materials early this morning and we started distributing them immediately. Hopefully in the next two hours we would have finished distributing the sensitive materials.
“A lot of agencies are on ground to assist us speedily distribute our materials to the various locations. The Airforce, the Navy are already on ground ready to assist us. The Navy for instance has had a lot of discussion with us for over two weeks now.
The question of late arrival of materials would not be there because those difficult terrains in the four local governments that are known to be of a serious challenges in terms of accessibility – Warri North; Warri South_West, Warri South and Burutu – would require that our materials are airlifted to these areas.
“The Airforce too are coming in to assist with helping us to retrieve our results from the various local governments at the time we finish the election. They are also going to help us with aerial surveillance of the various areas.”
Containing threat of violence
Speaking on the threat of violence in some areas in the state, the Resident Electoral commissioner said adequate measures have been taken to contain such areas.
He noted: “Before the elections we knew that there had been some flashpoints and we have identified all those flash points and the security agencies have gone further in trying to neutralize such threats. Even now, we keep receiving reports of what people are planning. The military are here to support us. They will not go to the polling units. The police would be involved in guarding the polling units and safeguarding the ballots.
But the military have been put on alert such that if crisis wants to erupt, they would move quickly to contain the situation.
“There is a presence of a lot of Mobile police men. The police force was able to bring in 45 units of Mobile police men and that is quite a large number for a state like Delta. They will help protect our men and materials from the headquarters to the polling units. Outside that, there are 22,000 regular policemen to maintain order in the polling units.
Normally when we do our elections, we have two policemen but in this case we are going to have six policemen at the polling units. That goes to tell you that we are prepared for the election.”
Election in Ughelli North
On whether the election would be held in Ughelli North Local Government Area where the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission was burnt down on Tuesday, the INEC boss said though the voters register was consumed in the inferno, a back up has been produced and election would be held in the local government.
He said: “Elections will go on there. Our office was burnt down yesterday (Tuesday) in Ughelli North by some hoodlums but the election will go on because the major thing in an election is to be able to have a voters register. Our register was burnt but we have a back up. That back up was printed yesterday (Tuesday) and the election will go on as planned. The security presence there has been increased too.”
The REC explained that although there were protests from some of the contestants on the inclusion of the candidate of the Republican Party of Nigeria, Ovie Omo_Agege for the polls, the commission was being guided by the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election.
He said: “The issue is whether the protest has substance. I will tell you that there is no action that is not legal. We are following the Electoral Act in undertaking the whole process that has led us to this point in time.
The Electoral Act says that if a candidate of a particular party should die and INEC commissioner is aware of it a day before the election, the INEC commissioner should countermand that election. In other words he has to postpone that election for two weeks to enable that party fill in for such candidate.
“In the extant situation, RPN had a candidate but that candidate died and, therefore, the party has the right to replace that candidate. It now behoves on them to replace it with the person they want and INEC is bound by the decision of the party.”
On the streets of Asaba, there was a marked increase in the presence of police patrol vehicles with heavily armed police men while the road leading to the state office of the Independent National Electoral Commission also had heavy police presence with people who have no business within the area being turned back.
Within the premises of the commission’s office in Asaba, a detachment of officers of the state security services armed with Tavor Assault Rifles were seen by Vanguard in strategic areas within the area while members of the Nigerian Army were seen in the outer perimeters of the office.
Meanwhile Delta State Police Command’s spokesman, Mr. Charles Muka, yesterday, confirmed that a security guard was being interrogated over the burning of the INEC office at Ughelli.
Muka told Vanguard on phone: “We have arrested one of the security men and he is being questioned while the other security man who was supposed to be on duty but did not report that night the office was burnt is on the run. He absconded but we are on his trail.”
Traffic jam at Asaba bridgehead
Following the State Government’s ban on movement of vehicles to and from the state during voting, there was heavy traffic jam at the Asaba bridge head, yesterday, afternoon as many traders from Asaba rushed to make purchases from Onitsha before the bridge is closed to traffic. Motorists coming into Asaba were also subjected to thorough searching.
On its part, the Forum for Justice and Human Rights Defence, FJHD, said: “We call on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Law Enforcement Agency to get it right this time around, by ensuring that the re_run exercise is conducted in a free, fair and peaceful atmosphere in the State in the interest of our fledgling democracy.
A statement by the National Coordinator of the Forum, Oghenejabor Ikimi, said that “as part of our contribution to ensuring a free, fair and peaceful re_run governorship election in Delta State and also in line with the principles of one man, one vote, the forum has resolved to deplore a total of 125 of its members drawn from the 25 Local Government Areas of the State as election observers to monitor it”.