By Emmanuel Aziken, Innocent Anaba, Wahab Abdallah, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Gbenga Oke, Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Josephine Igbinovia
ADO-EKITI—Outrage, yesterday, trailed the fencing off of some governors of the All Progressives Congress, APC, from Ekiti State by agents of the Federal Government hours before the police placed a 60-hour restriction on movements into and out of the state.
The APC governors who were to join other party stakeholders for a rally in Ado-Ekiti on the last day of campaigning for tomorrow’s gubernatorial election were either physically stopped from entering the state or stopped from leaving their states. Other APC chieftains, including Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who succeeded in making the trip to Ekiti through Akure airport were, however, denied the opportunity to fly back and were compelled to return by road.
Meanwhile, the police has announced the deployment of an Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, Mr. Bala M. Nasarawa and five commissioners of police to ensure law and order during the election and thereafter in Ekiti State.
In another development, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has detailed plans to curtail rigging in tomorrow’s election among which are the use of customized ballot papers for the different local governments in the state.
The main contenders in tomorrow’s election are the incumbent, Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the APC; former governor of the state, Mr. Ayodele Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and a serving member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele of Labour Party. There are other 15 candidates representing fringe parties in the off season gubernatorial election.
Governors Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State were two of the governors who Vanguard confirmed were denied entry into Ekiti State by agents of the Federal Government yesterday.
APC in a statement detailing the development said that its governors were prevented by security agencies apparently acting on “orders from above” from travelling to Ado-Ekiti for the party’s final campaign yesterday, for the Ekiti State Governorship election scheduled for tomorrow.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the helicopter that was to ferry Governor Oshiomhole from Benin to Ado-Ekiti was refused permission to take off from the Benin Airport.
According to the APC, while the plane carrying Governor Amaechi actually landed in Akure, his convoy was stopped at the border between Ondo and Ekiti States and ordered to turn back, because he would not be allowed to reach Ado-Ekiti.
The party said while Governor Amaechi’s convoy was being detained in order to force him to turn back, the convoys of the Ministers of Defence and Police Affairs came and were allowed to pass.
“These acts are illegal and definitely not in line with the Electoral Act, which stipulates that campaign for the election will only end at midnight on Friday.
“It also represents a manipulation of the electoral process when all the candidates will not be allowed a level playing field to campaign for the election. There is no clearer manifestation of the federal government’s allergy to free, fair, transparent and violence-free election than this,” the party said.
“Several months ago, we warned that Nigeria under the watch of President Goodluck Jonathan was sliding into fascism and we were pilloried in certain quarters for daring to make such a statement.
“Today, we have sadly been vindicated. Not even in the worst days of the abhorrent military dictatorship were things done this brazenly, with citizens being denied their fundamental rights of free movement, free assembly and free expression, all because of the desperation by the ruling party to win elections at all costs.
“We therefore call on all good people of Nigeria and indeed all the country’s international friends to speak out against what is happening before things get out of hand. If democratically-elected governors could be so shabbily treated, despite the high office they occupy, what will happen to ordinary Nigerians in the hands of an increasingly-fascist government,” APC queried.
Yesterday’s developments were condemned by Governor Fayemi and other APC leaders who managed to come for the mega rally. They described it as a descent into dictatorship and urged Nigerians to resist the moves by the Federal Government.
“A situation where state governors and other citizens can no longer move freely in the country is highly condemnable. This is the height of intolerance.
“What has happened to freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of choice, which are well entrenched in the constitution of the country?”, they queried.
Civil right activists, lawyers and others also flayed the development.
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Chief Olarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, also a former Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, governorship candidate in Ondo State, said: “It is an unfortunate development and must be condemned by all well meaning Nigerians. It is fascism that is now in the offing and if we don’t nip it in the bud, it might consume all of us and the entity called Nigeria could be also consumed.”
Lagos lawyer, Mr. Bamidele Aturu condemning the stopping of the governors said: “The governor and any Nigerian can move from one place to other without let or hindrance or visit anywhere. They have the constitutional rights as guaranteed by Section 41 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Mahmud Magaji, SAN, said: “This is purely a constitutional issue. The constitution as it stands today guarantees every citizen the right of freedom of movement throughout the length and breath of Nigeria. Moreover, in a democratic setting, governors have certain privileges they ought to enjoy ahead of ordinary citizens as provided by the law. In the instant case, the governors that were barred by security agents from entering Ekiti State are members of the ruling political party in the state. They have the constitutional right to go to or leave any part of the country. The security agents by usurping such constitutionally guaranteed rights have gone beyond their powers. Their action is nothing but an invitation to anarchy”.
Sebastian Hon, SAN: “First of all, the action of these agents of the government breaches the right of the governors to freedom of movement. They have the right to move without restriction from any quarters. The action of the security agents also has the tendency to abridge their right of association. The constitution clearly gave them the right to associate with whoever they wish to associate with. Consequently, it is my view that the military has violated their constitutional rights as enshrined in sections 37 and 40 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
“Additionally, their immunity under section 308 of the constitution has been breached. With the way things are being done in this country today, we may wake up one day to hear that a governor has been arrested, which is clearly unconstitutional. The act of using military men to perform purely civil duties that ought to have been performed by the police is also highly unconstitutional.”
Jubril Okutekpa, SAN: “There is no law in the country that permits security agents to stop any citizen from visiting or entering any state of the federation. The action amounts to gross violation of fundamental rights of the governors as citizens of this country. This is a very dangerous precedence because if governors can be stopped from going to any part of the country then we are in for it. After all, these governors have the right to associate and share their political feelings with others. What is going on in this country shows that we are yet to learn our lessons and appreciate the tenets of the democracy we are practicing. We have simply shown to the world that we are under a civilian rule with a military mentality”.
Our democracy lacks justice, decency —ACF
On his part, spokesman of Northern Delegates to the ongoing National Conference, Mr. Anthony Sani said: “I do not want to believe the Federal Government has the moral right to prevent the movement of governors who are in the opposition, precisely because functionaries of the federal government have visited states that are controlled by opposition parties without the governors denying them such rights. Most of all, democracy without a viable opposition is a sham. “Therefore, it would be very necessary to let the affected governors to know the reasons for such denials lest such actions convey an impression that our own brand of democracy is lacking in liberty, justice and common decency.”
PDP is inviting chaos —Tsav
Also, a former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, said: “What the PDP has done is not fair, that is injustice at its peak. The party is allowing its governors access to Ekiti and denying APC governors entrance. It is grave injustice. What they are doing amounts to invitation to chaos in the country.”
Action carried out to ensure total security — PDP
Meanwhile, the National leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday threw its weight behind the restrictions placed on the way of some APC governors and party members who were travelling to attend the campaign rally for their Ekiti State counterpart. The party said it was completely in order.
Speaking with Vanguard, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh noted that the action was carried out as part of security measures to ensure a free and fair election in Ekiti State, and that tomorrow’s election is for Ekiti people and not those he described as strangers who were out to allegedly influence and manipulate the people with money.
PDP is determined to rig the election— Dakuku Peterside
Chairman House Committee on Petroleum, (Downstream), Mr. Dakuku Peterside described the incident as an act of intolerance and the determination of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to rig the elections.
His words: “The fears of many Nigerians, particularly lovers of democracy that the PDP controlled Federal Government is determined to rig the June 21 Ekiti Governorship elections has started manifesting and it marks another dimension in the impunity and desperation by the PDP controlled Federal Government to capture power at all cost even at the cost of lives of Nigerians. This is worrisome and should be condemned by all lovers of democracy and liberty”.
We have nothing to do with it —Ekiti Police Command
The Ekiti State Police Command, however, absolved itself of culpability, saying it knew nothing about the affair. The command’s Public Relations Officer, Mr Victor Babayemi, told Vanguard that “the police has got nothing to do with the issue.”
IG deploys Aig, 4 Commissioners of Police; restricts movements
Meanwhile, Police authorities in Abuja declared, yesterday, that the tough security measures being put in place for the June 21 Ekiti governorship election were informed by intelligence reports available to the force showing that there were plans by criminal elements to undermine the electoral process.
Consequently, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar has placed an order restricting movements within the boundaries of Ekiti State with effect from 6pm on Thursday (yesterday) June 19, 2014 to 6am of Sunday June 22, 2014.
The IG has also deployed one Assistant Inspector General of Police and four Commissioners of Police to Ekiti for effective coordination of security operations throughout the period of the election.
The Assistant Inspector-General of Police is AIG Bala M. Nasarawa. He is to supervise security arrangements and assisted by four Commissioners of Police. While CP Ikechukwu Aduba will function as CP in charge of Ekiti State for the period of the election, three other CPs will be specifically saddled with the responsibility of supervising security arrangements in the three senatorial districts of the state.
They are: CP Danladi Y. Mshelbwala (Ekiti-North), CP Mohammed Ibrahim (Ekiti-Central) and CP Augustine Eubakhabokum (Ekiti-South). CP Hosea Karma (CP in charge of PMF) will be charged with the responsibility of supervising the operations of the Police Mobile Force and other special Strike Forces.
Confirming the deployment, Force Public Relations officer, CSP Frank Mba said: “In this regard, the states of Kwara, Ondo, Osun and Kogi which are contiguous to Ekiti state will have increased police presence. Therefore, all entry and exit points in and out of Ekiti will be maximally policed.