By Leke Adeseri, Kingsley Omonobi, Abuja, Dayo Johnson, Charles Kumolu Akure
Ahead of the governorship elections holding in Ondo State today, and following allegations of planned violence, rigging and other electoral malpractices by contestants, Inspector General of police, Mohammed Abubakar has warned trouble makers, ballot box snatchers or riggers that they would have themselves to blame if the prevalent peace is not allowed to reign as his men are fully prepared for any eventuality.
To this end, IGP Abubakar has deployed over 11,000 policemen to the state to maintain law and order in today’s election across the 18 council areas of the state.
The Police headquarters in Abuja has also deployed the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge ‘Operations’, Mr. Philemon Leha to over see the conduct of a violence, free elections in the state.
Aside the deployment of DIG Leha who has relocated to Akure, four Commissioners of Police were also deployed to Ondo State to provide supervision both at the State level and Senatorial levels while all the Area Commanders in the State were also redeployed out.
Towards this end, Rivers State Police Commissioner, Mr. Mohammed Indabawa was redeployed to Ondo State to supervise the elections. He takes over from CP Bala Nassarawa who moves to Force headquarters. CP Foluso Adebanjo, the CP in charge Police Bomb Disposal Unit is deployed to Ondo Central Senatorial district to provide security,CP Mohammed Ibrahim, the CP in charge ‘Special Protection Unit’, Force headquarters is to ensure security for the Ondo South Senatorial district. CP Olufemi Ogunbayode, the CP in charge Counter Terrorism Unit is to take charge of security in Ondo North Senatorial district.
Confirming the deployments, Force Spokesman, CSP Frank Mba said enough police personnel which Saturday Vanguard gathered were about 13, 000 including Special Unit Police dogs, Anti-terrorism personnel and Mobile Police personnel, have been deployed to Ondo state for the exercise.
He explained that while the Police is not INEC that will conduct the election, it will ensure and provide the conducive atmosphere for it to take place as well as provide adequate protection for voters, election officials and prevent election malpractices.
Also three new police Commissioners have been deployed to the state to man the three senatorial areas of the state, while sensitive materials to be used by INEC for the election have been distributed across the state ahead of the today’s election to avoid late arrival.
They were moved from the CBN in the state on Thursday to the INEC office in Akure for onward distribution to council areas of the state in the presence of the 13 political parties and stakeholders.
Materials for the riverine areas of Ilaje and Ese Odo were distributed on Thursday while those for the remaining 16 councils left the state INEC office yesterday.
Addressing newsmen in Akure on their preparedness, the newly posted Police Commissioner Muhammed Indabawa said that the police will deal ruthlessly with those out to disrupt the governorship election.”
Indabawa added that police orderlies have been withdrawn from political office holders to avoid intimidation during the conduct of the poll.
The Spokesperson of the Army deployed to the state, Lt Emmanuel Onoja declined to give the number of soldiers deployed to the state adding that more soldiers were deployed to the state yesterday.
An unconfirmed report however put the number of soldiers deployed to forestall any security challenge at over 8,000.
The Police Commissioner however said that he will not tolerate hooliganism, loitering or violence during the election adding that the state is bigger than any individual.
“The election is not only about Ondo state, it is about the integrity of the country and we will not allow anybody to tarnish the image of the country.”
According to him, the election is going to be better than that of Edo state just as he advised the electorate to conduct themselves in an orderly manner.
Indabawa advised those who have no business at the polling booths not to show their faces there adding that selling and wearing of any party symbol are prohibited at the voting centres.
Speaking with Saturday Vanguard, the three major political parties have commended the preparedness of the electoral body.
Residents across the state trooped to the market yesterday following the restriction order during the election.
The motor parks across the state were filled as people who registered outside the state travelled to exercise their civic right.
It will be recalled that Chairman of INEC Prof Attahiru Jega during his visit to the state assured that all the votes cast in today’s election will count and that the results will be announced within 12 hours.
Jega said that the Ondo state elections will be a tremendous improvement on the one in Edo state.
According to him, 18 Resident Electoral Commissioners, REC ,from states outside the South West will function as Electoral Officers across the council areas of the state.
Prof. Jega said that the election will be free, fair and credible and that the electoral body will create an enabling atmosphere for all political parties without any bias.
He pleaded with all the political parties to come into the election with appropriate moral ethics to ensure full compliance with the electoral process.
Jega said the commission has done its best in discharging its responsibilities as far as the electoral system is concerned and has improved on the nation’s electoral process.
GOC Abubakar addresses soldiers
Also, the General Officer Commanding 2 Division, Nigerian Army, Major Gen. Mohammed Abubakar while speaking with soldiers deployed to the state for the election ordered the soldiers to shoot any trouble maker who resists arrest.
Abubakar also warned trouble makers to steer clear of the State during the election.
The GOC while addressing Soldiers deployed to the state for the election at the 32 Artillery Brigade Akure declared that nobody would be allowed to carry arms to the polling stations while directing them to arrest anybody who violates the order.
According to him, “No movement on election time except for those on essential duties and those on election duty. No hunting on the election Day.
“I am happy that the IG has said that there would be no fishing during the poll. I don’t want to hear that I am going to the bush to hunt. Anybody with arm must be
arrested. If he resists arrest, shoot him. I give you the order.”
Abubakar said that movements would be restricted from 6pm to 6am but he explained that motorists travelling across the state to other parts of the country would be allowed passage after they must have proved that they are not going into the state.
The GOC said that he had received petition from a political party that one of the contestants had bribed some soldiers to allow his party to rig during the election.
He pointed out that he was not a member of any party and warned any soldier who is a member of any political party to say it.
According to him” any soldier found colluding with any party would be severely dealt with. No amount of money they promise you will turn you to Abiola or Dangote. These people worked for their money. So be satisfied with the Nigerian Army pay you”.
He said that there would be dress code for the troops saying it would be easy for real soldiers to identify fake ones.
Warning that thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes, stuffing of ballot boxes and ambush of electoral materials will not be tolerated by the Police, the spokesman said, “We have enough personnel, we have provided intelligence personnel as undercover agents, counter terrorism, special units as well”.
Recalling that Ondo state is also a littoral state, CSP Mba said, “We have also deployed Marine Police personnel to work in conjunction with the Nigerian Navy to provide adequate security in the waterways”.
Parties hail INEC’s preparation
Meanwhile, the three major political parties-Peoples Democratic Party PDP, Labour Party LP and the Action Congress of Nigeria A C N, contesting in today’s governorship election in Ondo State were yesterday optimistic of winning the election.
Other ten parties are not serious about the election as they neither have posters or offices.
They equally expressed satisfaction in the preparation of INEC to conduct a free and fair election.
The parties assured that the election will be peaceful, having educated their supporters on the need for a violent-free poll.
Speaking with Saturday Vanguard in Akure, the Director of Media and Publicity of the Mimiko Campaign Organisation MCO, Kolawole Olabisi said the party is fully prepared and is confident of a landslide victory in the election.
Olabisi added that the party is fully prepared and have done all is required and “we have faith in God that victory is ours in the governorship election.
He added that all the political office holders who are members of the LP have relocated to their localities to mobilise their supporters for the election.
According to him the governor Dr Olusegun Mimiko has returned to Ondo his home town ahead of the election.
The Publicity Secretary of the A C N Rotimi Agbede said that all is set for the LP to vacate the government house as the party is on the path of coming on board.
Agbede added that the party has campaigned and is certain that change is imminent tomorrow.
He called for a free and fair election that will be acceptable not only by all parties in the state but across the country.
1,546,081 voters for Ondo election
The breakdown of the registered voters in the Southern area of the state according to INEC include: Ilaje is 114,235, Ese Odo 57,255, Ile Oluji 64, 219, Irele 55, 231, Okitipupa 102,044, Odigbo 120,014 totalling 511,998 which represents 33.12 percent
In the Northern area of the state the registered voters show that Akoko North West 68,061, Akoko North East 62,451,Akoko South East 29,773, Akoko South West86,155, Owo 110,100 and Ose 62,386 totalling 418,926 which represents 27.10 percent.
The central senatorial areas has the highest number of registered voters in the state 615,157 representing 39.78 percent. The breakdown shows that Akure south has 248,953 registered voters, Akure North 53,935, Ifedore 63,242,Ondo West 150,838,Ondo East 37,469 and Idanre 60,720.
Registered voters in today’s election is put at 1,546,081
Tension over suspected cultists invasion
Four speed boats allegedly occupied by suspected cultists are allegedly terrorising the people of the Riverine communities in the state.
Consequently, tension has heightened in Arogbo Ijaw in the riverrine area of Ondo state few hours to the election.
Report had it that the boats have been impounded by the people of the community and handed over to the Naval authorities in the area.
It was alleged that at least 20 suspected cult members have been terrorising the people and damaging campaign materials of those opposed to their candidate.
The suspected cultists were said to be moving round the communities with red head tie and red beret cap.
It was alleged that the suspects were being groomed by a political office holder from the local government.
However, some people in the community led by the leader of the ex militant in the area, High Chief Bibopri Ajube were said to have chased the boys which made them to abandon their speed boats and ran away.
Consequently, Saturday Vanguard gathered that the speed boats were later confiscated and handed over to the Navy in Ukparamo town.
The tension in the area was however said to have been worsened by the activities of some security operatives attached to a senior political office holder from the area.
It was further learnt that some soldiers were seen terrorising the boat operators in Arogbo.
Two Hilux vans with federal government plate number were allegedly ferried across the Arogbo water.
The spokesman of the soldiers deployed to the state, Lieutenant Emmanuel Onoja said that he will investigate the incident.
Onoja added that in the interim, he will move some soldiers to the area in a bid to check the alleged incident .