Tension in Rivers as assemblies rerun holds today
• Police Warn Would-Be Troublemakers
• Increases Security Around Polling Booths
• Operatives To Respect Electoral Law
• Denies Plans To Arrest PDP Members In Rivers
• Observers decry poor accreditation
As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducts the re-run elections for legislative representatives in Rivers State today, the Police in the state has said security around polling booths would be doubled, while armed Police personnel, in collaboration with other security operatives strategically stationed across the state, are prepared to take on would-be troublemakers.
Meanwhile, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 6, with headquarters in Calabar, who was redeployed to Port Harcourt for the election, Baba Bolanta, has denied any planned arrest of members of political parties, saying it was an unfounded rumour.
Bolanta told The Guardian yesterday in Port Harcourt that adequate preparations have been put in place to ensure a hitch-free exercise, as the deployment of armed personnel was already completed.
He said: “My advice and warning to those who want to make trouble is that they should desist from it. It is in their interest that they should not, because any heat generated by any troublemaker would consume the person that starts the fire alone, as we would not allow it to extend to another person.”
Asked if he has any particular area of concern, Bolanta said they have identified the trouble spots and have already doubled security around those areas.
He said his men were already stationed in those flash points to forestall any violence that might be considered by political thugs.
“We have conducted our risk assessment and identified some areas that are problematic and we have taken notice of that.”
“We are giving these areas special attention.”
Detachments of armed Police personnel manned the state INEC office and all the local government offices of the electoral body, as the electoral materials were being distributed.
The AIG explained that the security personnel in the three senatorial districts were well coordinated, with a Commissioner of Police (CP), assisted by two Assistant Commissioners (ACPs) and four units of Mobile Policemen, all to forestall security breaches.
“So, we have also provided security in such a way that it would be secured. We are aware that we are not supposed to, by law, deploy armed security men to the polling units, but within close proximity to the polling units, in accordance with the electoral law.”
“We have also deployed what we call Rapid Response Units (RRUs), at least seven men each, within close proximity of the polling unit, since we cannot deploy armed men there.”
“At the polling units, we have three men posted, but of course, unarmed. The RRU can quickly respond to any emergency at a polling unit if the need arises.” he stated.
Governor Nyesom Wike had alleged that there was a plan by the Police high command to arrest the state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Felix Obua.
But Bolanta said: “I am not aware of anything of that nature, there is no such thing.”
“We are gong to provide an even level ground for everyone to operate on. We are not going to harass anybody. Whatever party you belong to, we are not going to meddle, but our role is to provide security and ensure law and order during and after the election.”
Uneasy calm pervaded Rivers State yesterday as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) battles for rerun state and national legislative seats today.
Controversy trailed the conduct of today’s polls, as Governor Nyesom Wike has raised alarm over missing result sheets.
Following the end of campaign, unease calm pervaded the state, as the various politicians engaged in last minute plans to ensure the victory of their candidates.
Twenty-two House of Assembly, 12 House of Representatives and three Senate seats are being contested in today’s polls.
This is due to the nullification of last year’s state and national legislative results by the Election Tribunals and Court of Appeal.
The Guardian gathered that soldiers yesterday raided a hotel owned by an aide to the governor, Mr. Elemechukwu Ogbowu, at Abomnema in Akuku Toru Council.
Ogbowu, who confirmed the search, however, explained that no weapon or any incriminating material was found by the military.
Ahead of the polls, there has been mass deployment of security operatives across the state, particularly in areas identified as flashpoints of cultism and banditry, such as Abua/Odua; Andoni; Akuku Toru; Ahoada-East; Ahoada-West; Emohua; Ikwerre; Opobo/Nkoro; and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Councils to ensure smooth conduct of the contentious polls.
Security operatives, comprising the military and Police, have been deployed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) state headquarters along Aba-Port Harcourt road to secure electoral materials that were being distributed to the various registration centres.
Amid concern that the electoral process might be compromised, Wike yesterday raised fresh alarm that result sheets were missing for some wards in the state ahead of the elections, as revealed by vigilant PDP agents at INEC office when the materials were being distributed.
Wike told a delegation, led by the Consul-General of the United States (US) Embassy in Nigeria, Mr. John Bray, that PDP, had prior to yesterday, been complaining about the integrity of the process because of its commitment to credible and peaceful polls.
Meanwhile, international observers have decried the few number of observers accredited to monitor the rerun elections in Rivers state. They also have implored security agencies deployed to ensure a peaceful and orderly election to avoid being partisan.
The Executive- Director of West African Network Of Election Observers, Prince Herbert West Ezechinyere told journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday that only12 of them were accredited to cover today’s election, adding that they were not provided with life jackets to travel through the riverine areas to observe the elections. “As observers, we observed that there are only 12 groups including American Embassy instead of 20. There is shortage of observers. There are 44 observer groups for FCT election group. INEC accredited only twelve. INEC should always consider observers in their arrangement. They should consider security of observers, we have no access to life jackets to access riverine communities,” he said.