Ahead of Saturday’s Governorship and State House of Assembly elections, fear has gripped voters in states declared as violence-prone in the country.
The electorates’ anxiety is fuelled by the raging violence and renewed killings in the affected states. As at yesterday, political thugs in the concerned states returned to the trenches where several people were killed and others injured.
Top on the states rated as prone to violence and which the police authorities have placed under special watch are Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna, Bauchi, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Benue, and Gombe states. Others are Imo, Plateau and Plateau states.
Some residents of the affected states told Nigerian Pilot yesterday, that they would rather remain indoors than risk their lives going to polling units, while others said they would dare their odds and vote for the candidates of their choice no matter the intimidation.
The fears of some Lagos State residents to stay at home on election day was heightened yesterday as political thugs killed two persons and destroyed property worth millions of naira in Oshodi, a suburb of the state.
Nigerian Pilot learned that a political rally around Oshodi turned violent as supporters of the two major political parties shot at one another as residents fled for safety.
An eyewitness said members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW and political thugs carried dangerous weapons at a rally clashed with supporters of the opposing party.
He said a corpse was seen at the entrance to the Oshodi/Isolo Local Government Area headquarters located at Oyetayo Street, Oshodi.
The crisis disrupted activities in the area as shop owners and markets were hurriedly shut to avoid being hit by flying bullets.
He said calm returned to the area when men of the Nigerian Police and the Army manning major roads moved to the spot.
The situation is not different in Rivers State when a section of the electorate said that the current political violence does not encourage them to participate in the Governorship and House of Assembly elections.
They said that the fierce battle by the All Progressives Congress, APC to retain the state and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP’s determination to flush out the ruling party, had taken the election beyond a political contest.
The residents said that the victory of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election two weeks ago had made the APC to see the election as a do-or-die contest.
Reacting to the terse situation in the state, one of the leaders of Mile 1 Market Association, appealed to all his members to go out and cast their votes and go home to avoid being victims of any violence.
On the contrary, one of the elders of the market, Chief Charles Dike, said that nothing would stop him and his family members from casting their votes for candidates of their choice.
The political parties are also stoking the turf with their utterances. For instance, the APC in Ogun State yesterday accused the PDP of plotting to disrupt the gubernatorial election.
At a press conference yesterday in Abeokuta, the state capital, the Director-General of Senator Ibikunle Amosun Campaign Organisation, claimed that the PDP was planning to unleash terror through armed thugs and cult members in the state.
The PDP had on Monday alleged that “It has come to our notice that the Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun has purchased many of the uncollected PVCs for underhand use by the APC. While, Ogun INEC said about 400,000 cards remain uncollected, many of these cards are now in the possession of Amosun. This plot, according to what we learnt, is the first in the line-up of a system which the APC wants to deploy in rigging the gubernatorial and House of Assembly polls on Saturday.”
Also, the Osun State chapter of the APC alleged a plot by the PDP to create violence in the state during the polls.
In a statement issued by the Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy of the party, Mr. Kunle Oyatomi, he said that they have been informed of the PDP’s plot to create mayhem in the state shortly after Saturday’s election.
The PDP said that there was no such plan, noting that the APC was afraid of defeat at the polls.
The PDP Acting Secretary, Hon. Bola Ajao, said that following the outcome of last elections, the party had gone to the drawing board, mobilised to ensure that the results did not go the way it went the other time.
Ajao said further, “there was no such plan to cause any mayhem before, during and after the next election and I want to say that such an allegation is false and untrue. It is the figment of imagination of the APC.”
Meanwhile, a group with APC in Kaduna State known as the APC-National Progressives Network, has accused the PDP-led government of bribing officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in the 23 local government areas to perfect the rigging of the elections.
North-West Coordinator of the group, Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Rufai (rtd) made the accusation while addressing journalists in Kaduna yesterday. He said they were aware of a secret meeting between the PDP and INEC officials aimed at carrying out the nefarious act.
State Chairman of the PDP, Chief Abubakar Gaiya Haruna, said that there was no iota of truth in the claim.
Haruna noted that despite losing the presidential election to the opposition in the state, the party was saddled with the task of winning Saturday’s elections and would not want to be detracted.
IGP sends special squads to Lagos, Rivers, others
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Suleiman Abba, has deployed special squads to man security in Rivers, Lagos and other states adjudged as prone to violence.
Other states which fall into this category are Gombe, Bauchi, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Edo, Kaduna, Plateau and Sokoto.
In a statement issued yesterday by the Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, he said the special squads for Rivers State are 32 units of Police Mobile Force, PMF; four units of Counter Terrorism Units, CTU; four units of Special Protection Units, SPUs, and six Crack Teams of Detectives from Force Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, and complements of Intelligence officers.
Part of the statement reads: “In Rivers State, the following special units of the Nigeria Police Force have been deployed to address security concerns. These are 32 Units of Police Mobile Force (PMF); 4 Units of Counter Terrorism Units (CTU), 4 Units of Special Protection Units (SPU) and 6 Crack Teams of Detectives from Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) and complements of Intelligence officers
“Also, IGP has deployed a Commissioner of Police to command each of the senatorial zones of the following states: Gombe, Bauchi, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Benue, Edo, Plateau and Sokoto,” he said.
Ojukwu said in addition to the deployment of six Deputy Inspectors-General of Police to coordinate police activities in the six geopolitical zones, the IGP deployed 16 Assistant Inspectors-General of Police to supervise Saturday’s elections.
“The following Commissioners of Police were also deployed for election duties to states indicated as follows: Anambra State-CP Sam Okaula, Ekiti State 0 CP E. J. Ibine, Enugu State-CP Adamu Mohammed, and Osun State -CP Valentine Ntomchukwu.d Akintade, Osogbo; Philip Ezuma, Port Harcourt; Sulaiman Fasasi, Abeokuta; Patrick Obi, Lagos and Abba also ordered the restriction of vehicular movement in the 36 states of the federation from 8am to 5pm on Saturday.
Ojukwu said: “This restriction excludes vehicles on essential duty such as Fire Service, ambulances and vehicles used by INEC and law enforcement/security agencies.
“There is no restriction of vehicular movement in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT as there is no election taking place there on the said date.
“The IGP assures that adequate security logistics and manpower have been strategically deployed to achieve a most conducive electioneering atmosphere. In this regard, policemen on election duty have been properly briefed on their roles as stipulated in the Electoral Act. They are expected to be professional, non-partisan, civil but firm in their approach and relation to the public.
“Meanwhile, citizens are enjoined to remain vigilant and report all suspicious movements or dealings to appropriate Police authority,” he said.