By SIMON EBEGBULEM
BENIN CITY— ANGRY Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State yesterday expressed disappointment over the role played by police officers in allegedly aiding of ballot box snatching, supervising electoral fraud and intimidating voters in the just concluded Esan North East Local Government election in the state.
The governor, who spoke at the swearing-in of the Council Chairman, Mr. Sam Oboh, said: “I am embarrassed that the police have become electoral officials.”
Oshiomhole accused the Minister of Works, Mike Onolemenmen, and other PDP chieftains of unleashing their police escorts on the people of the area during the elections, just as he alleged that the PDP leaders recruited some Uromi born mobile policemen to intimidate voters and perfect arrest of APC leaders.
According to him, “what I heard yesterday and I am still investigating; if the reports are correct, then Nigeria should be put on notice that the police may well have chosen to become the INEC or EDSIEC officials and have chosen to overthrow those who are authorised by law to conduct elections.
“As a Nigerian, I am embarrassed that the police are involved in carrying electoral materials, arresting EDSIEC returning officers and coercing them into a police station and converting it into a collation centre supervised by policemen imported from Abuja and Lagos to subvert the will of the people of Esan North-East.
“As a civilised man, I felt ashamed that men in uniform at rather very senior level supervised this criminal act in the election.
“The Minister of Works and other federal functionaries, including assemblymen, used their exalted positions, taking unfair advantage of the police assigned to protect them and deployed them for election purpose, detaining returning officers and treating them as if they were prisoners of war compelling them to sign fake results.”
Oshiomhole said the law establishing the electoral commission was clear, noting that nowhere was it stated the police post was an electoral office, saying “Police officers were involved in converting a police post to an electoral centre. It is an embarrassment. No one will live forever but our reputation will live after us.
Edo State under my watch will not submit to intimidation. Anyone who is under the illusion that they can use the instrument of coercion to intimidate us are poor students of history. We are at our best when we are challenged. I want to appeal to the Federal authorities and the security agencies to remain faithful to their oath of office”.
“Yesterday (Tuesday), the police command in their wisdom chose to turn Esan North East to a police state, such that we had more policemen than voters. If we have such number of policemen, how come we are at the mercy of kidnappers? We have such determination to deal with decent civilians and yet weak to deal with hardened criminals? I fail to understand that” he said.
To the new Chairman, Oshiomhole said, “it has been a long political road to travel and you have shown that you are indeed a long distance runner. You have shown that our commitment to the ballot box is unshakable. Our faith in the democratic process remains strong and our commitment to one man one vote remains strong.
“You will not have the resources to share to those who have worked for you; you will not have the money to share to those who were brutalised. But I pray God will use you to use the resources available to judiciously apply the resources of your local government and manage it creatively, fairly and justly to impact on the lives of the people. That is the only way you can pay your debts to the electorate”, he advised.
He noted that “having subscribed to the relevant oath of office, you have to be just to even to the opposition”, adding that is the promise of democracy.
Responding, the new Council Chairman, Mr. Oboh said forces of darkness can only suppress light for a short time and assured that the Council administration would work assiduously to develop the local government area.