By Gabriel Enogholase
BENINâ€”Edo State government in Benin expressed grave concern over what it described a misleading statement from the Inspector- General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, on the purported arrest of political thugs in the state during the re-run election of Akoko-Edo 1 state Constituency into the House of Assembly.
The statement was said to have quoted Onovo as declaring one Mr. Austin Amune, purported to be a member of Action Congress (AC) in the state House of Assembly wanted for allegedly hiring thugs to disrupt the election and unleash terror on the electorates.
The government said in a statement signed by the Commissioner of Information and Orientation, Mr. Abdul Oroh, that it was embarrassed by Onovoâ€™s allegation that the thugs were hired by the leadership of Action Congress and the partyâ€™s candidate in the election, Prince Kabiru Adjato. â€œWe are embarrassed that Mr. Onovo relied on the alleged confession of thugs and the PDP leaders,â€ the government said.
It accused the IG of making statements which tend to reinforce attempts by the PDP to discredit the out come of the election, having failed in its bid to rig it as usual.
The government stated that information at its disposal had it that Mr. Onovo got his facts wrong, as there was no member of Edo State House of Assembly known as Austin Amune, even as it noted that the arrest of political thugs and recovering of assorted weapons happened at a building in Igarra, and not in any of the five wards in Akoko-Edo where the election was conducted.
â€œThere is absolutely no relationship between the alleged arrest of political thugs in Igarra, which is a different state constituency and the conduct of the election in Akoko-Edo 1 State Constituency.
â€œThe only case of shooting reported during the election was at the country home of Col. Tunde Akogun at Aiyegunle in ward 1.
â€œThe Police, State Security Service, the media and civil society monitors witnessed the shooting. The shooting came from thugs in Col. Akogunâ€™s home and there was no exchange of gun fire between rival groups.
â€œThere was no report of loss of life or injury even as the intention of the PDP thugs was to kill and maim AC supporters,â€ the government said.
It said that the thugs, who fired at Alhaji Usman Shagadi, the AC Deputy Chairman in the state, at the behest of Col. Akogun and subsequently abducted INEC presiding officer and poll clerk and impounded electoral materials, were not arrested by the police and called for their arrest and prosecution.
The government further noted that it expected the police boss to commend his officers and men who stood firmly to ensure free and fair election in the constituency, adding that the resolve and transparency of the INEC officials made it possible for the people of Akoko-Edo to exercise their rights to vote in a free and fair election for the first time since 1999.
â€œWe expect the Inspector â€“General of Police to order the arrest and prosecution of Col. Akogun for kidnapping INEC officials at Aiyegunle during the election and apprehend the thugs that shot at Alhaji Shagadi.
â€œThis crime was committed in the full glare of State Security Service officials and INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Edo state who was himself rescued by the police,â€ Edo state government added.
â€œThe Edo state government believes in the sanctity of the electoral process and assures the people of Edo state that this government will continue to guarantee their right to exercise their franchise freelyâ€, it said.