Police move against threats to Rivers rerun polls on Saturday
• Wike declares two-day holiday , clampdown on cult activities
Ahead of Saturday’s rerun national and state legislative elections scheduled to hold in Rivers State on Saturday, the Inspector General of Police,(IGP), Solomon Arase yesterday disclosed that the police had identified all the flash points that could mar the peaceful conduct of the polls.
He asserted, however, that all the affected areas “are now under the watchful eyes of the police and other security agencies.” Meanwhile, the Rivers State government has declared today and tomorrow as work-free days to aid the smooth conduct of the polls.
The state governor, Nyesom Wike, in a state-wide radio and television said the development “will enable workers in the public and private sectors to fully participate in the elections and exercise their franchise. Consequently, all public and private offices, including banks must remain closed for the duration of the holidays.”
Arase who spoke during a press conference with the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu yesterday in Abuja said: “The Intelligence Unit of the Nigeria Police has conducted a comprehensive security threat analysis of Rivers State.
The areas likely to present major security threats as well as individuals who are poised to make themselves available as political thugs to threaten the peaceful conduct of the electoral process have been identified.
We have identified the people we think we should isolate and keep our eyes on them and they are being monitored and if they dare go beyond their boundaries, they will regret it. Anybody trying to touch electoral personnel and materials before, during and after the polls, we will tackle them,” he said.
The IGP said also “there shall be restriction of non-essential vehicular movements around the state during the elections from 6:00a.m. to 6:00 p.m. while political actors and other personalities are not allowed to go to the polling booths in company of their security detail.’’
Earlier, INEC Chairman, Yakubu said: “To ensure the successful conduct of the rerun elections, INEC has engaged 24,930 ad-hoc staff drawn from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and students of federal tertiary institutions, specifically the University of Port Harcourt, the Federal College of Education (Technical) at Omoku and the Federal University in Otuoke in Bayeisa State.”
The youth corps members will serve as presiding officers while others will serve as assistant presiding officers I, II and III. In addition, we have engaged a total 379 collation officers and 37 returning officers from the three tertiary institutions mentioned earlier on the recommendations of their vice chancellors and provost who vouched for their integrity.
Smart Card Readers will be used for the confirmation of the PVCs and authentication of voters. The card readers have been configured and charged.
All non-sensitive materials have already been deployed in each of the 23 local councils.”Sensitive materials will arrive in Port Harcourt today and will be shared to the councils Registration Area Centres (RACs) tomorrow. All our sensitive materials are customised by councils and type of elections.
“Accreditation and voting will take place simultaneously from 8.00a.m. to 2:00p.m. while the collation of results at the polling units will commence in earnest as soon the last person on the queue has voted.
“In order to enhance the overall supervision of the elections, IN EC is deploying 3 national commissioners and 6 resident electoral commissioners for election duty in Rivers State. They are to assist the new Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) deployed a few weeks ago.
“In addition to these arrangements, lNEC has accredited 13 groups, including the British High Commission and the US Embassy for election observation on their own request.”
In order to prevent the breakdown of law and order, Wike directed security agencies “to arrest any person or group of persons, including government vehicles, that violate this order and or attempt to act in any way to undermine the peaceful conduct of the re-run elections in the state.”
Wike specifically called for a clampdown on gangs in nine local councils of the state which according to him, include identified flashpoints of cultism and banditry in Abua/Odual, Andoni, Akuku Toru, Ahoada-East, Ahoada-West, Emohua, Ikwerre, Opobo/Nkoro, and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Areas of the state to ensure a smooth conduct of the polls.
He also requested the armed forces to increase security surveillance in the local government areas that have recorded cult-induced violence and criminality in the last few days resulting in heightened political tension in the oil-rich state.
While appealing to the people to be law-abiding on election day, the governor said,”There is really nothing to fear for every law-abiding citizen of the State while exercising our right to vote. On the election day, simply take your Permanent Voters Cards (PVC), walk to your polling units to be accredited, peacefully cast your vote and, wait at a reasonable distance as allowed by law until the results are counted, announced and documented.
“Do not submit to any intimidation by those who seek to scare you away from voting with the military. Take note that no person is allowed to go to the voting areas with uniformed security personnel or thugs,” Wike said.