By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Wednesday convened a meeting of traditional rulers, security agencies and leaders of political parties in Benue state as part of efforts to ensure peaceful electioneering in the state.
Addressing the gathering at the State’s headquarters of INEC in Makurdi, the Administrative Secretary for the State, Alhaji Shehu Adulwahab, urged all parties and stakeholders to ensure peace during the electioneering campaigns, saying without that “achieving peace on actual election day may be a mirage.”
He said “indeed for us in INEC, we have over the years observed that some of the violence/crisis experienced on election days were carryover from political campaigns.”
On the lifting of ban on campaigns and announcement of election timetable by INEC, Shehu said it was premised “on the provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria particularly section 94(1) of the 2022 Electoral Act which states that ‘the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 150 days before polling day and end 24hrs prior to that day.”
He said in order to facilitate and ensure peaceful electioneering campaigns, “there are laws set out in the Electoral Act 2022 as well as the guidelines and regulations on rallies and campaigns issued by the Commission” which he said should be strictly adhered to.
In his remarks, the Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse, represented by Tor Lobi 1, Chief Moses Anagenge, said if stakeholders were to participate in peaceful campaigns and elections, IDPs should be relocated to their ancestral homes.
The Tor Tiv who wondered how politicians were embarking on campaign in unsecured villages noted that INEC lacked the powers to relocate the IDPs to their villages “so the Federal and State Governments should do the needful before the general elections.”
Also speaking, Benue State Police Commissioner, Mr. Wale Abbas, urged INEC to be an unbiased electoral umpire, assuring that the police would eradicate cultism in the state before the forthcoming elections to prevent thuggery.
Also speaking, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, State Commandant, Mrs. Esther Lami urged politicians to avoid the use of thugs who she said were always under the influence of drugs and alcohol and ready to cause violence.
In his remarks, State Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr Solomon Omale represented by Joseph Ijir, said the duty of the agency was to propagate gvernment’s programmes and policies and as the country was to go into another election, they would not relent in their efforts to sensitize both candidates and their supporters to achieve peaceful campaigns and elections.
Spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Dan Morgan Ihomun and the acting Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Isaac Teryila Mffo, assured that candidates of their respective political parties would maintain issue based campaigns up to the general elections.
Present at the meeting were representatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC and the Federal Road Safety Corps
The highpoint of the meeting was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, by the political parties.