Olusola Fabiyi, Chukwudi Akasike, Ihuoma Chiedozie, Alexander Okere, Tony Okafor and Saheed Olugbon
AS the people of Anambra State decide who occupies the position of the state governor today (Saturday), there is palpable fear that the election could be marred by violence. This is happening amid fears of bomb blast in Onitsha.
Some residents of the state were seen gathered in different groups to discuss, in trepidation, what the outcome of the election might be.
It was also observed that security had been beefed up at public places with units of armed policemen stationed at strategic locations.
Some other Anambra residents, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, expressed their readiness to vote while many others pointed out that they had their reasons to be afraid that the exercise could be marred by violence.
A resident of the state, Ifeanyi Ogockukwu, from Ihiala Local Government Area and a computer operator, said, “I will remain indoors tomorrow (today) until I notice that everywhere is calm because I do not know what it will look like.
“But I will come out and vote when everywhere is calm. I advise others to also come out and vote for the candidate of their choice. They should not sell their votes for anything.”
The Nigeria Union of Journalists, Anambra State Council, in an emergency congress, also expressed fear that something untoward might befall the state in the poll.
It’s communiqué, read partly, “That the Council views with concern the unusually heavy presence of security operatives in the state in the build-up to the election, noting that such could lead to unnecessary tension and may jeopardise peaceful conduct of the poll and possibly dissuade voters from coming out to exercise their franchise.”
The tension in the state was further exacerbated by the pro-secessionist group, Indigenous People of Biafra, which issued what seemed to be a fresh threat and prediction that the Anambra governorship election would be bloody.
IPOB had warned the people of the state to stay indoors to avoid being victims of bomb blast that could occur during the election.
This is just as the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Operations, Mr. Joshak Habila, dismissed the threat by IPOB, insisting that the voters should come out and exercise their franchise without fear.
A statement by the proscribed group signed by its spokesman, Emma Powerful, indicated that all might not be well with the exercise.
Powerful said IPOB had uncovered a plot by Nigerian security agencies to link it to series of bomb blasts that would occur during Saturday’s governorship election in the state.
The spokesman for the pro-Biafra group claimed that the security agencies, particularly the army, police and the Department of State Services, had planted explosive devices at strategic places in the state, waiting to set them off during the election.
Powerful explained that IPOB would be blamed for the explosions, adding that the alleged plot was meant to justify the Federal Government’s claim that the group was a terrorist organisation.
The IPOB spokesman said, “We gather(ed) that the Nigerian military is now planting explosive devices in all strategic places in Anambra State to justify their evil plan against the people of Biafra.
“The Nigerian Government and her security operatives especially, the Nigerian army and police, including the DSS, have lost the bid to label IPOB a terrorist organisation among the civilised nations. So, they have resorted to crude evidence-planting as they did with their so-called imported double-barrelled hunting guns at Apapa Wharf.
“Chief of Army Staff, General Buratai and his military hierarchy are desperately using every and any available strategy to justify their actions against IPOB family members in Biafraland particularly in Anambra State because of our boycott threat.
“We are warning every indigenous person of Biafra to be wary of tomorrow’s election in Anambra State. Every man, woman and child should remain indoors because Nigerian security operatives have planted military-grade explosives at key locations in Anambra State to kill and maim as many people as possible.
“Stay in your homes with your doors locked because tomorrow will be very bloody for anyone that ventures outside,” Powerful stressed while insisting that the IPOB was not a terror organisation.
He added, “IPOB, under the command and leadership of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, remains a non-violent and peaceful freedom fighting organisation, irrespective of the continued attack on us by the Nigerian Government and her security operatives, especially the army, police and the DSS.”
But, dismissing IPOB’s statement, Habila said, “There is no cause to fear. (In) virtually everywhere, space, you will find police officers and other security agents prepared. I want to assure those who are getting scared; do not believe that something is pursuing you when nothing is pursuing you.
“We guarantee your safety and ask that you come out tomorrow (today) and vote so that you can choose the man you want to be at the helm of affairs. There is no cause to fear.”
Describing the threat by IPOB as a failed move, the DIG added, “I am of the opinion that the threat, which was put through, was just a dummy; it was just a script written and rehearsed. But I think that it has failed because it has not been played.
“It was never played during the campaign. I do not think that anybody will go and dust those things and play them anymore. If there is anyone, then it is unfortunate.
“But I want to assure you that they were just antics; and that is why I say, vote and live, but not vote and die.”
Bomb scare ahead of Anambra governorship poll
There was a bomb scare in Onitsha on Friday ahead of Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra State.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that two high calibre improvised explosive devices were discovered near the Onitsha North Local Government Area Police Station.
However, our correspondents learnt that the police anti-bomb squad averted the explosion by demobilising the IEDs.
But the development created tension in Onitsha ahead of Saturday’s (today) election amid palpable fear in different parts of the state that the election could be marred by violence.
Use of policemen as guards by VIPs banned
Further assuring the people of the state of security, Habila warned that the police would not permit the use of security personnel as guards by very important personalities at polling units during the governorship election.
Habila told Saturday PUNCH at the Independent National Electoral Commission’s office in Awka that the restriction of movement would be binding on all persons except groups and individuals accredited to monitor voting.
“Tell all VIPs that they cannot be accompanied by uniform personnel because that also will intimidate others. People are expected to walk a short distance, cast their votes and go back home.
“No VIP, no government official, no individual should put onto themselves the responsibility of monitoring, except the press and accredited observers. International and national observers will be given an opportunity,” he noted.
Speaking on the security arrangement for the exercise, he explained that with the massive deployment of additional 21,000 police personnel to join the existing 6,000 operatives in the state, five policemen were expected to man each polling unit.
He further disclosed that while 300 Hilux vehicles had been positioned in areas prone to violence, 15 gunboats would be used to cover the riverine areas.
The DIG also said that three helicopters would hover around the three senatorial districts of the state to provide aerial view during the election.
We’ll not dictate to INEC –Police
Ahead of today’s governorship election in Anambra State, the police also said that contrary to speculations in some quarters, they had no intention to dictate to the Independent National Electoral Commission on the conduct of the poll.
The Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Operations stated that the police would only be involved in the area of ensuring the security of lives and property.
“We are not dictating to INEC. The police are only interested in security. Why would the police tell INEC what to do? So, you think I would go and tell INEC what they should do about the election; has it ever happened?
“Do you believe that one? Do you know who these people (INEC heads) are? Some of them are professors and technocrats. Then you would dictate to them; it is not possible. Is it with a gun?
“Ours is to ensure security and not to dictate to INEC. This is one of the dummies they (politicians) want to sell. That is a very cheap propaganda intending to discourage people from exercising their franchise and defending their votes. Like I said earlier, it can never happen and it is not possible,” Habila stressed.
We’re not compromised, says INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission has denied the speculation that some of its personnel have been compromised by politicians to interfere with the credibility of the governorship election in Anambra State.
There had been speculation that the commission deployed additional ad hoc workers to certain locations in order to give an advantage to a particular political party.
But the state Head of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Leo Nkedife, said, “INEC is not in any way compromised. The issue is that we do not have enough corps members in Anambra State. So, that necessitated us to go to neighbouring states to source for corps members to complement.
“At the stakeholders’ forum, that issue was raised. They said that corps members from outside should not go to a particular local government area and we have effected that. So, INEC is not in any way compromised. It is totally false.”
He, however, stated that the commission had not received any complaint from its workers bothering on security threats.
According to him, INEC has provided enough incentives for the welfare of the ad hoc personnel, including transport allowances during their training, feeding allowances and the main honorarium.
“We have even made provisions for their feeding at the RAC (Registration Area Centres). So, I think their welfare is well taken care of and we have warned them not to compromise their positions,” Nkedife added.
PDP demands free poll in Anambra
The national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party has demanded a free and fair governorship election on Saturday.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, in a statement in Abuja on Friday, said, “The PDP is prepared and ready for the Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra State, and we are charging the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission and security agencies deployed in the election to be neutral in the conduct of the election.
“The Anambra State governorship election is a litmus test for INEC and another opportunity for the Ruling All Progressives Congress to redeem itself from the culture of impunity, inconclusive elections and rigging as exhibited in previous elections in Edo, Ondo and other by-elections in the country.”
Adeyeye also condemned the recent withdrawal of the personal security of the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
“Notwithstanding that President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the reinstatement of governor’s security aides, this recent action by the Police is a clear signal that the Force is working to favour some individuals in the state or destabilise the governorship election in Anambra State.”
Adeyeye warned that the PDP would not accept any manipulation of the result of the election in the state.
“The INEC and all security agencies deployed for the election must remain neutral and unbiased before, during and after the election,” he added.
He called on the people of Anambra State to protect their Permanent Voter’s Card and come out en masse to vote.