HEAD of the November 6 Anambra State Governorship poll, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Usman Baba, yesterday, said that the massive deployment of security personnel to the state might discourage voters turnout but the measure was necessary to stop criminals from disrupting the process and causing mayhem.
The police will deploy 34, 587 personnel including two DIGs, five AIGs, 92 other top officers and three helicopters to Anambra for the election.
The Police boss’s stance came as the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, said it had neither made any official statement on the poll nor called for its boycott, contrary to several blackmailing statements against the group.
Meanwhile, the Voters Rights International, VRI, has dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to court seeking to postpone the governorship election to February 15, 2022, over insecurity.
IGP Baba, featuring at the ministerial media briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said to ensure that the electorate come out to exercise their franchise the police had been releasing jingles and talking to stakeholders to assure them of safety.
He explained that most of the officers that would be assigned to polling booths would be unarmed as they would be involved in checking vote rigging and illegal campaign at venues.
Asked if the mass deployment would not be counterproductive, he said: “As for the massive deployment, yes, it has its advantages, and disadvantages.
“Knowing the fact that it has the disadvantage of maybe militarising the electoral process we try to engage in public enlightenment and enlightenment of stakeholders that our presence is to police the situation in two ways.
“That is while we are asking people to come out and vote, another group or other subversive elements are saying ‘don’t come.
“If you come, we will do this, we will do that.’ So, there must be some level of assurance that we would give to these people to come out.
“That requires massive deployment of officers and men who would also ensure that the subversive elements do not take over the process.”
According to the police boss, personnel would be deployed to polling stations ”to ensure orderliness and checking of electoral malpractices, like vote buying, campaigning in the place and so forth, this does not even require carrying of arms”
Also, ”there is need to put officers on standby, on patrol that would check the would-be persons that can carry arms against the state.
“We are trying to educate and enlighten people that our presence is for the benefit of everybody, ensure that electorate come out and exercise their franchise of voting who they want.
“That is the essence of the jingles we are doing, the essence of going to do community engagements, stakeholders meetings, talking to their religious leaders and so forth.
“It is for the advantage of everybody that the massive deployment should take place.”
PDP tasks IGP on peaceful poll
Reacting to the comment, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, called on Inspector General of Police, IGP, Usman Baba, to restrict the role of his men to orderly and peaceful conduct of the governorship election.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan said: “The Inspector General of Police must be reminded that the eyes of the world are on him and his men.
“The police should provide a peaceful condition for election to hold.
“They must not in any way conduct themselves in a manner that will make it possible for election results to be written.
“As far as the PDP is concerned, voters will be out to cast their ballot but we insist that they should be protected. On no account should they be intimidated. The role of the police is clear.
“The people are behind out candidate Valentine Ozigbo. So, we are very optimistic of victory.”
No statement on poll boycott —IPOB
Meanwhile, the IPOB has denied directing a boycott of the governorship election.
Rather, the pro-Biafra group explained that what it said was that the entire Biafra land would be locked down from November 5 to November 10, 2021, if by November 4 the Federal Government failed to release its Leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, unconditionally.
A statement by IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, also said IPOB position had nothing to do with Anambra election, noting that what the group needed was the release of their leader, who they said committed no crime and being held in custody.
IPOB’s statement read in part: “The global movement and family of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, ably led by our great and indefatigable leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu wish to clarify that contrary to speculations and blackmail, IPOB has never made any official statement or called for the boycott of Anambra State gubernatorial election coming on 6th of November 2021.
“It will therefore be wrong for people to speculate or peddle falsehood against us when there is no basis for such.
“For the sake of clarity, what we said was that the entire Biafra land would be locked down from November 5 to November 10, 2021 if by November 4 the Federal Government fails to release our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally.
“Our position has nothing to do with Anambra election. All we need is the release of our leader who committed no crime to be held perpetually in custody.
“We have gathered through intelligence the plot by Nigeria Government to keep our leader in detention perpetually through frivolous court adjournments.
“Politicians must leave IPOB out of their predicaments. They should stop dragging IPOB into their election.
“We knew their evil plans when they were killing their fellow politicians and blaming it on IPOB. They should leave us alone.
“Using social media to link IPOB to Anambra election shows most of them are not informed about plots by Nigeria Government and her security operatives to hijack this election and give it to whom they like, to perfect theit plan of establishment of Ruga in Anambra State. But that won’t work for them because IPOB is ahead of their game plan.”
Group seeks postponement
Meantime, VRI’s President Dr. Jezie Ekejiuba, asked the court to shift the election from November 6, 2021 to February 15, 2022, over insecurity.
In an originating summons, marked Suit No FHC/AWK/CS/103/2021 filed at the Federal High Court, Awka, the plaintiff, is asking the court to compel the defendant, INEC, to postpone and or extend the time limited by the constitution to conduct the governorship election in Anambra State.
Ekejiuba is praying the court to declare that in view of the provisions of Sections 33(1), 46(1), 178(1) (2) & (5) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended, Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and Section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended and the undisputed emergencies of killings, murders and deaths of many citizens of Anambra State caused by insecurity crises in Anambra State the Defendant is under a legal duty to postpone and or extend the time limited by the constitution to conduct the Anambra State Governorship election earlier scheduled to be conducted on November 6, 2021 to February 15, 2022.
The plaintiff also prayed the court to declare that in view of the provisions of Sections 33(1), 46(1), 178(1) (2) & (5) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended, Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and Section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended and the undisputed emergencies of killings, murders and deaths of many citizens of Anambra State caused by insecurity crises in Anambra State the conduct of any Anambra State Governorship election by the Defendant on November 6, 2021 is a violation and or threatened violation of the Plaintiff’s fundamental right to life as well as his constitutional right to freely vote at an election to the office of Governor of Anambra State.
He therefore sought an order of the court ab initio setting aside, nullifying and or voiding the result or outcome of any Anambra State Governorship election conducted on November 6, 2021 by the Defendant in violation and or threatened violation of the Plaintiff’s fundamental right to life as well as his constitutional right to freely vote at an election to the office of Governor of Anambra State .
He further sought an order of the court ab initio setting aside, nullifying and or voiding the election of any Governor-elect and or issuance of any Certificate of Return to any Governor- elect that emerged in the said November 6, 2021 poll by the Defendant in violation and or threatened violation of the Plaintiff’s fundamental right to life as well as his constitutional right to freely vote at an election to the office of Governor of Anambra State.
The plaintiff has filed an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendant, INEC either by itself or through its servants, lawful agents, officers, privies or assigns from issuing a Certificate of Return to any Governor-elect or recognizing him as the winner of the November 6, 2021 Anambra State Governorship election planned to be conducted by the Defendant under a heavily militarized security zone or cordon as a result of insecurity crisis in the state in violation or threatened violation of the Plaintiff’s fundamental right to life as well as his constitutional right to freely vote at an election to the office of Governor of Anambra State, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
Poll more expensive than Edo, Ondo — INEC
Regarding the cost of conducting the election, the INEC, yesterday said the amount expended on rehabilitation of its burnt office and materials is the reason for the high cost of the Anambra governorship election.
On May 23, gunmen burnt the commission’s office in Awka, Anambra State, and also destroyed some sensitive and non-sensitive materials.
Commenting on the election, Festus Okoye, INEC’s commissioner for information and voter education, said the cost is high because of the “unusual circumstances.”
Okoye who spoke yesterday on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, said the electoral commission had to replace 326 generating sets, rebuild the facility where electoral materials were stored, and also replaced non-sensitive materials.
Although he was unable to disclose the amount expended on the Anambra election, he said “it is costlier than the Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections.
“We are conducting this election in a very unusual circumstance because we had to rebuild our offices in Nnewi North and Idemili North, where our local government offices were burnt.
“We had to replace over 326 generating sets that we mopped up from our local government offices and stored in the headquarters thinking that it would be more secure.
“We also had to rebuild our stores, where we normally store non-sensitive materials.
“We had to also replace over 60 percent of the non sensitive materials we already deployed to our Akwa office, getting ready for this election.
“We had to repay six utility vehicles that were all burnt, we almost had to rebuild our state office that was also burnt.
“So, in terms of cost, it’s been very very costly and we can’t compare it to Ondo and Edo states elections, because we are in unusual circumstances, we had to do things differently.
“We are hopeful that when we get to Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, things will calm down much better and things will return to its normal trajectory.”