There was unease among residents of Anambra State between Thursday and Friday due to the heavy presence of soldiers, policemen and other security operatives deployed in the state ahead of today’s governorship election.
Over 50,000 policemen, soldiers and other security operatives are in the state to ensure a hitch-free election.
Saturday Tribune correspondent who went round Awka, the state capital, on Friday afternoon, to monitor the situation found that markets, petrol stations, banks, motor parks and shopping complexes were shut.
A few commercial drivers, artisans and motor park workers (agbero) were however seen carrying out partial operations in areas like Unizik Junction, Aroma Junction and Amowbia Bypass. The popular Eke-Awka Market was deserted.
Onitsha and Nnewi were in a total lockdown as of the time of filing this report on Friday evening. Security operatives occupied the major roads and streets, searching vehicles, especially, private ones, due to the volatile situation in the state brought on by activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which, during the week, made a U-turn on its earlier stance to resist the conduct of today’s poll through a sit-at-home order.
Military and police checkpoints had sprung up across the state, especially in major cities like the capital, Awka; Onitsha, Nnewi and Ekwulobia, with no fewer than 30 military and police trucks carrying out patrols to build voters’ confidence.
However, there were fears that the election might record a low turnout of voters as a number of residents were sighted in commercial buses and in private vehicles moving out of the state on Thursday evening.
Sources at some motor parks in Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi said the outward movements were informed by fears of possible election-induced violence.
A woman in her 30’s who had four young children with her told our correspondent on Thursday that she was on her way to Ebonyi State and she planned on returning only after the election.
“In the neighbourhood where I live, all other people that happen to be non-indigenes have also fled. We all have our PVCs but we are afraid that the election might turn bloody,” she said.
A commercial driver who plied the Onitsha-Owerri said he stopped making trips on Wednesday due to the tension and the existence of many security checkpoints on the road.
He added: “I have my PVC but I will not go out to vote on Saturday because I don’t want to die now. Nobody, including the incoming governor, will take care of my wife and kids. Even some of the politicians that are begging the masses to go out and vote don’t have PVCs but they want me to go out and vote because of N500 or N1,000.”
Also, a motor spare parts dealer based in Nnewi simply known as Oga Frank said the large number of security agents might dissuade prospective voters from turning out en masse to vote. The vice president of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Damian Ogene-Okeke, had advised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies to carry out their duties professionally for the sake of peace and order.
Ohanaeze enjoins Anambra people to come out and vote
The President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Ambassador (Professor) George Obiozor, lauded the decision of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), to cancel the one-week sit-at-home order earlier scheduled to commence yesterday.
The statement by Emma Powerful, the spokesman of IPOB, that they had heeded the advice of well-meaning Igbos, he said, was a welcome development. In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia and made available to reporters, Ohanaeze maintained that IPOB is a child of circumstance occasioned by orchestrated national political decisions; and to this end, it required a political solution which the leadership of the South East were committed to.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo requests the Chief of Army Staff, the Inspector General of Police and all the Service Chiefs whose men are involved in the Anambra election to ensure that the security operatives observe strictly the best global standard of rules of engagement with the good people of Anambra State. The federal security operatives should synergize with the traditional rulers, town union presidents and local community vigilante for effective coordination of the voting process,” the statement said.
Let every vote count, INEC chairman appeals to staff
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday urged the saff of the commission to ensure that every single vote counts today.
Professor Yakubu in a statement he personally signed admonished the staff on election duty to be guided by the commission extant laws, guidelines/regulations and good conscience.
He further assured Nigerians that Anambra Governorship election would be an improvement on the high standards achieved in recent elections.
INEC had earlier commenced the distribution of permanent voter cards ahead of today’s election. Our correspondent, who monitored the exercise at the commission’s offices in Amawbia, Abagana and Ukpo local government areas, gathered that only a few people succeeded in obtaining the cards.
Some respondents at the INEC office in Amawbia, including Mr Patrick Nwume from Awka and Mrs Rosemary Arinze from Nibo, said they were disappointed for not being able to collect their PVCs despite text messages from INEC asking them to come for the cards.
Similar complaints were made by prospective voters at the INEC offices in Abagana and Ukpo.
An INEC official in one of the local government areas visited said the commission was ready for the exercise but called for patience, explaining that sorting of the PVCs was causing some delay in the distribution of the cards.
The INEC official, however, said voting cubicles, ballot boxes and other non-sensitive materials had arrived for the election.
In other local government areas, including Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Idemili North and Idemili South, a large number of people were seen waiting for their turn to collect their PVCs.
We are here to protect you —Police
On police preparedness, the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Operations, Mr Zaki Ahmed, said: “Our purpose of being here in Anambra State is to support INEC and the people of the state to ensure a peaceful election.”
Ahmed, who is also the head of the election monitoring group, held a meeting with civil society organisations, election observers and newsmen in Amawbia.
He said: “All the police officers deployed here for the exercise are trained professionally to respect the rights of the voters before, during and after the election.” He said he had directed all the officers and their commandants to arrest anyone who violated the electoral order and not to shoot or kill.
“There will be no movement on that day except for those on essential duties and those on election duty,” the DIG noted.
The Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali, had ordered the restriction of non-essential vehicular movements in and out of the state from 11.59 p.m. on Friday to 11.59 p.m. on Saturday (today). Alkali, in a statement by Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said the measure was aimed at protecting the sanctity of today’s election.
He said no vehicular movement would be allowed into and out of the state during the period.
“The restriction order becomes necessary following pointers from the election security threats assessments conducted by the police.
“This assessment indicates a high likelihood of infiltration by criminally-minded individuals to Anambra before, during and after the polls.
“The IGP further noted that the measure would also avail security forces a firm grip of the state to checkmate the movement of political thugs and touts, and prevent the free flow, circulation and use of illicit arms and hard drugs throughout the period and beyond,” the statement said.
The IGP assured INEC officials, accredited observers, journalists and other authorised officials of safety as they to go about their lawful duties in respect of the election.
He, however, urged them to observe all relevant rules guiding their deployment, including the visible display of their accreditation tags.
He said police officers and other security personnel deployed for the election would be appropriately supervised to ensure that they carried out their responsibilities in the most humane, firm and professional manner, especially to emergency service providers.
The IGP implored citizens, particularly motorists and travellers who might want to use the routes within Anambra during the period of the restrictions, to seek alternative routes.
He called on citizens in the state to go out en masse and exercise their franchise without any fear as the police and other security agencies were on hand to ensure a safe and conducive environment for the election.
The candidates contesting in today’s election signed a peace accord at a ceremony held on Thursday in Awka.
The signatories were Mr Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Obiora Okonkwo of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Professor Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr Godwin Maduka of the Accord Party and others.
The peace accord signing was facilitated by the National Peace Committee, Abuja, headed by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd).
In his address, the INEC chairman, Professor Yakubu, noted that “without peace, our deployment plans, new innovations in result management, safety of personnel, security of materials and, above all, credibility of elections will be undermined.”
He stated that the commission was committed to conducting a transparent election.
The chairman of the peace committee, General Abdulsalami, disclosed that the signing of the peace accord by the governorship candidates was “a way of reaffirming that they must conduct themselves in a professional and peaceful manner.”
He appealed to the stakeholders to cooperate with INEC and security agencies for a successful exercise.
Others present at the signing are the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah; security chiefs, state party chairmen, party supporters and traditional rulers. Bishop Kukah urged residents of the state to file out and vote during the election.
He said there were no threats to the election, hence the electorate should come out and vote. What could have constituted a threat to the election, IPOB’s six-day sit-at-home order, which was meant to commence on Friday (yesterday), had been cancelled.
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