A peace meeting organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission ahead of Saturday’s governorship election in Imo State ended in confusion on Tuesday in Owerri, the state capital, after the INEC National Commissioner representing South-East, Kenneth Ukeagu, ordered journalists to shut down their cameras and other gadgets.
Participants, particularly traditional rulers, at the session fled the hall as the interactive session ended in disarray following the opposition to Ukeagu’s directive by the Labour Party and the Peoples Democratic Party members.
Also, in what could be described as another unsavory development, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress on Tuesday directed the workers in Imo State to commence a strike on Wednesday (today) in protest against Governor Hope Uzodimma who is seeking a second term in office in the poll.
There was anxiety that the strike could jeopardise the election as the INEC might not be able to distribute and transport materials due to the planned shutdown of the transport system and other public facilities in the state.
Trouble started during the Owerri meeting when Ukeagu, who represented the INEC chairman, directed journalists to switch off their equipment.
But the state chairman of the APC, Ebere Macdonald who briefed journalists, said that the opposition parties were making baseless and unfolded claims.
INEC faults parties
INEC had announced in a statement issued on Tuesday that Agu would not be withdrawn from the state, adding that people calling for her transfer had not tendered any compelling evidence to warrant the move.
The electoral umpire declared that the REC would be assisted by several other national commissioners who would be physically present in Imo State to support her on Election Day.
But the National Publicity Secretary of LP, Obiora Ifoh warned that if the commission insists on running along with its decision, it may be counterproductive.
Reacting via a phone chat with The PUNCH, Ifoh alleged that the party had tabled sufficient evidence to prove that Agu is a relative to one of the APC chieftains.
He said, “We have given evidence to show the woman is not competent to oversee the election in Imo State. First, she is a blood relation to the APC Deputy National Chairman, Emma Eneukwu.
“Secondly, she was at the centre of the crisis the Labour Party has in Nkano East Constituency in Enugu State.
“We don’t need anybody to tell us the REC is completely compromised. If the INEC refuses to remove her, it means they are also collaborating to rig the election.”
The Spokesman for the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, also advanced the same arguments.
Tanko warned that INEC should stick to the tenet of rotating its state resident electoral commissioner for fairness and equity sake.
“INEC statement has shown the level of state capture we are talking about. That will make Nigerians to be in total opposition. But we believe if the election is going to be free and fair, why are they insisting on retaining her? Is she the only REC in the system that can conduct elections?
“Normally before the election, INEC reserves the right to switch their RECS up and down to give semblance of fairness. This is because you have stayed too long in a place, you must have had some contacts with people who are in government who may want to maintain their offices et al. Why is INEC not doing that now?
“The danger here is that when they keep on forcing people to accept whoever they put in power, they are preparing the state for anarchy. If it reaches a point, the people will rise up to protest. Before it gets to that stage, we urge INEC to do the right thing,” he stated
The victims were reportedly killed by thugs allegedly operating in the guise of a state joint task force. They allegedly attacked the residence of the SDP Campaign Director-General, Sheikh Ibrahim, in the early hours of Tuesday.
Ajaka and others later held a meeting with the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun.
Regardless of the strike directive by the organised Labour, the police authorities have scaled up their preparation for the governorship election with the deployment of Deputy Inspectors-General of Police, Ede Ayuba, Frank Mba, Habu Sani, and Daniel Sokari-Pedro to oversee the polls in Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo states.
Ayuba, who is the DIG in charge of Operations will coordinate the overall election security from the Force headquarters.
Mba will coordinate the election security in Imo State, Sokari-Pedro will superintend the poll in Bayelsa, and Sani has been mandated to ensure a hitch-free exercise in Kogi State.
Meanwhile, the IG on Tuesday announced that there would be no vehicular movement as well as movement of canoes, ships, and other means of transportation via waterways in the three states starting from 12.01 am to 6 pm on Saturday.
Egbetokun, who said the decision was in line with measures put in place to ensure free, fair and credible elections, also barred quasi-security outfits from carrying out operations during the exercise.
Speaking further, he stated, “This election will be different. DCPs and ACPs will coordinate the election security at LGA levels, in the towns and villages. These are officers whose ranks are higher than the DPOs. So, electorates should have no cause to worry, as security will be tight.”
Meanwhile, in a move to ensure water-tight security during the election, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps has said that it will deploy 22,600 officers for the November 11 governorship polls in Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi states.
This was disclosed to our correspondent on Tuesday by the NSCDC Spokesperson, Babawale Afolabi.
“The NSCDC would be deploying 22,600 personnel for the governorship election in Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo states,” he stated.
According to Afolabi, the deployment by the NSCDC Commandant General, Ahmed Audi will provide “water-tight security for the electorate, officials, other stakeholders and non-sensitive materials before, during and after the exercise.
“Our personnel are adequately briefed on how to discharge their duties in synergy with other security agencies and stakeholders.
“Undercover operatives, Arms Squad, operatives in the Counter-Terrorism, CG’s Special Intelligence Squad, Female Special Force, Rapid Response Squad, Crack Squad, and Anti-vandal Unit are all detailed to prevent any vacuum which saboteurs may leverage on to perpetrate any act that could breach the peace in the states.”
According to the statement, 34,704 agents were uploaded for Bayelsa State, 65,274 for Imo State, and 37,995 for Kogi State.
“Sixteen political parties are sponsoring candidates for the election in Bayelsa State and 18 in both Imo and Kogi States. The elections will be held in 10,470 polling units (excluding the 40 polling units without registered voters).
“Each political party is expected to nominate polling agents for all the polling units as well as 649 Ward, 56 LGA, and three state collation centres.
“However, at the close of the deadline for uploading the list of agents to the INEC dedicated portal by political parties, 34,704 agents were uploaded for Bayelsa State, 65,274 for Imo State, and 37,995 for Kogi State, making a total of 137,973 polling and collation agents for the three States.
“However, the detailed breakdown shows that not all the parties nominated agents for the polling and collation centers across the states. Indeed, some political parties have no polling unit or collation agents in some States despite having candidates in the election,” the statement read.