Abuja – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed regret for the arrest of duly accredited election observers during the presidential election on Saturday.
The Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Kayode Idowu, said in a statement in Abuja on Saturday that the Commission received reports that “persons suspected to be partisan agents parading as observers were arrested by security agents in some areas of the country.
“Some duly accredited observers were said to have been initially arrested along with the fake ones but were promptly released after their accreditation was established.
“The Commission wishes to reassure all observers duly accredited for the ongoing general election of their right to continue with their duties within the ambit of the law.’’
It also used the “opportunity to urge all stakeholders to continue to safeguard the integrity and credibility of the electoral process.’’
In Maiduguri, a combined team of military and police officers arrested 10 persons with suspected thumb-printed ballot papers in Maiduguri on Saturday during the Presidential Election.
The suspects were arrested at Gidan Madara, near the Monday Market.
A military officer, who wants to remain anonymous, said that the suspects were arrested during a stop and search operation.
“The suspects, who are mostly youths, were moving in groups when they met our men during a “stop and search operation.
“During the search, we discovered that each of them had thump-printed ballot papers on them,” he said.
But some of the suspects told newsmen that the ballot papers were samples used for educating voters.
“The ballot papers are just samples, meant to educate voters, especially women and the elderly, on how to vote for their candidates without making mistake.
“We did not intend to use the papers to rig election because, as you can see, there is no serial number and security marks on the papers,” a suspect, Usman Hassan, said.
The military officers, however, took the suspects to the 21 Armored Brigade, Maiduguri, for interrogation.
Lt. John Danbeki, the spokesman of the 21 Armoured Brigade, could not be reached for comment on the issue.
However, Mr Mike Zuokumor, the Commissioner of Police in Borno, declined to comment on the issue, saying that he had yet to be briefed on the arrest.
In a related development, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) arrested 50 aliens with voters’ cards in Borno before the election.
The Comptroller of Borno Command of NIS, Mr Babayo Alkali, made the fact known in Maiduguri on Friday when the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mrs Rose Uzoma, toured land border areas of the state to ensure compliance with the Federal Government directive on the closure of land borders before the poll.
He said the cards were seized from the aliens and the holders repatriated immediately to their countries.
The officer said although the borders were a bit porous, officers of the Command were doing their best to check illegal entry by foreigners, which could mar the conduct of the elections.
Also, the Copmtroller in-charge of Air Border Patrol, Mr Kelvin Vongman, said there was a need for air surveillance since the borders were porous and constantly infiltrated by illegal immigrants.
“This is a critical time. We all should be aware of the fact that we are at the threshold of an important poll and cannot afford to make mistakes,” Vongman said.
He said the Federal Government’s plans to make available aircraft with the latest and modern surveillance equipment to the Service was a welcome development and would help in tightening security at the borders.
He commended officers of the command for their efforts in ensuring that the elections were not compromised and urged them to do more to appreciate the government’s concern for the welfare of workers.
Uzoma, who was represented by the Assistant Comptroller-General in-charge of Land Border Patrol, Mr Joshua Ayo, toured the border towns of Tilden and Gomboru.
She said the fact that the borders were quiet without any activities was an indication that the directive was being enforced.
In Kwara, Mr Anu Ibiwoye, an ACN senatorial candidate in the National Assembly elections, said his arrest in the early hours of Saturday was politically motivated.
Ibiwoye, in a text message to NAN, alleged that his arrest was aimed at preventing him from participating in the presidential election.
He said that he was arrested at about 12:30 a.m. in his hometown, Esie, in Irepodun Local Government area of Kwara.
“I was picked up at my country home in Esie in Irepodun Local Government at about 12:30 a.m., following a violent clash between ACN and PDP supporters, which had nothing to do with me.
“My arrest is politically motivated and designed to prevent me from participating in today’s presidential election,’’ Ibiwoye said.
He said he was moved to the Criminal Investigation Department with 14 other innocent people, who were picked up with him in his house.
“It is interesting to note that I was the one who made the reports to the police and the army but to my surprise I was arrested and taken to the police station for an undisclosed offence,” Ibiwoye added.
Ibiwoye has been released, while others are still in police custody.
When contacted on telephone phone, the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Ezekiel Dabo, confirmed the report, saying that the Commissioner of Police, Mr Mamman Tsafe, would brief journalists at the end of the election.
Also in Kogi the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Alhaji Abubakar Ahmadu, on Saturday ordered the arrest of seven electoral officials, who allegedly violated guidelines for the conduct of the elections.
Ahmadu gave the directive when he monitored the Presidential Election in Dekina and Bassa local government areas and cancelled the poll in the three affected units.
Those arrested included three presiding officers.
The suspects were arrested for allegedly failing to adhere to guidelines for the conduct of the election.
The suspects were arrested in Abocho town in Dekina Local Government Area, as well as in Onyoji Wapa village in Bassa Local Government Area.
The staff were arrested for conducting the accreditation of voters and voting simultaneously contrary to the guidelines that accreditation be concluded before voting commenced.
No security agent was present at any of the three affected polling units at the time the commissioner visited.
The culprits are six serving NYSC members and one former corps member.
The commissioner took the decision in the presence of four members of NEPAD observer team and other international observers.
All the suspects admitted that the committed the offence but one explained that party agents prevailed on them to take the action.
The commissioner also instructed electoral officers in the 21 local government areas of the state to cancel elections in units, which violated the guidelines.
Ahmadu had earlier monitored the election in Ayangba, Dekina, Ajaokuta, Emewe Oapa, Abocho, ajiolo Ofalemu, Okowowolo towns in Kogi East Senatorial district
He said INEC was determined to conduct free and fair elections, adding that those arrested would be made to face the law.
NAN reports that the election was conducted in a peaceful atmosphere in all the areas visited, namely Lokoja, Kabba, Okene, Ankpa, Idah and Yagba.
Most voters were women and youths, although the turnout was low compared to that of the National Assembly elections.
A report from Minna said 17 underage voters were arrested in Bosso Local Government Area of Niger.
The Police Public Relation Officer, Mr Richard Oguche, said in an interview in Minna on Saturday that underage voters were caught while trying to vote after they had been accredited to vote by INEC officials
“The underage persons were arrested after they had been accredited, while waiting to vote in the election contrary to the electoral law which banned underage person from voting during the election.“
Oguche said the suspects would be charged after investigations.
Oguche also the police arrested 50 vehicles and 100 motorcycles, whose owners violated the restriction of movement order during the election .
He said the vehicles and motorcycles would be released to their owners at the end of the election. (NAN)