U.S. cautions stakeholders on peaceful re-run polls

Members of Accord Women and Youth Initiative for Good Governance (AWYIGG) protesting against alleged refusal of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to allow Atiku Abubakar and PDP to access electoral materials and militarisation of polling units in Rivers, Kogi, Bauchi and other states, at the INEC headquarters in Abuja …yesterday. PHOTO: NAN

• IGP deploys AIGs, CPs to ensure security in states
• INEC vacates court orders on Bauchi, Adamawa polls
• Releases timeline for conclusion of Rivers State’s exercise

The United States of America has cautioned all political stakeholders to play according to the rule in tomorrow’s supplementary elections.

It urged them to work towards credible and peaceful supplementary elections, even as it expressed disappointment over cases of violence, interference by security forces, intimidation and vote buying during the presidential and governorship elections.

In a statement yesterday, the U.S. Embassy maintained that it does not have a preferred party or candidate, but as a democratic partner of Nigeria, it remains committed to working together to achieve mutual goals of peace and prosperity for the citizens of both countries.

Also yesterday, the police warned that the law would apprehend anybody who perpetrates violence during the election.

At a town hall meeting, Kano State Commissioner of Police Mohammed Wakili, represented by his Assistant Commissioner of Police Abubakar Subairu, declared: “If anybody wants to engage in violence, we are ready for such a person. We urged people to go about voting in a peaceful manner because the police will not tolerate any breach of the peace. But if anybody wants to test our might, the person can come out to foment trouble on the election day .”

He added: “I’m sure the person will live to regret his or her action. The police command has received reinforcement of more mobile policemen and additional backup to effectively man all the polling units where the supplementary gubernatorial poll will hold.”

The police in the state also announced restriction on movement in the 44 local government areas where the poll will hold. The Benue State command similarly warned troublemakers to back off or face the wrath of the law. The state Commissioner of Police Umar Muri gave the warning while briefing reporters at the command’s headquarters in Makurdi, the state capital.

He disclosed that all routes and flashpoints in the state had been fortified with patrol teams to protect voters, electoral materials and staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“The command is calling on parents, religious leaders and traditional rulers to prevail on their children and subjects not to allow themselves to be used to disrupt the electoral process,” Muri said.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Muhammed Adamu has ordered zonal Assistant Inspectors General (AIGs) and Commissioners of Police (CPs) in states where supplementary polls are taking place to ensure safe environments for the conduct of the elections.

The IGP also deployed five deputy inspectors general (DIGs), three AIGs and 15 CPs to provide supervision, direction and support to the existing security structure in the affected states. He charged them to be patriotic, steadfast, professional, neutral and civil, but firm in their conduct and actions.

The DIGs are Usman Tilli Abubakar, Adamawa State; Yakubu Jubrin, Benue State; Frederick Taiwo Lakanu, Plateau State; Anthony Ogbizi Michael, Kano State; and Godwin C. Nwobodo, Bauchi State.

Of the 15 CPs, three each were deployed in Benue and Sokoto States. Two each were deployed in Adamawa, Bauchi, Kano and Plateau States, while Imo State has one.

On other outstanding electoral matters, INEC said it had fixed between April 2 and April 5 for the collation of results for Rivers State governorship election. The commission has also released timelines for the conclusion of the state election suspended due to alleged violence.

INEC’s National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja yesterday.

He said according to the timelines for the state election, an Inter-Agency Consultative Committee Election on Security (ICCES) meeting would hold on March 29 in the state.

This would be followed by a stakeholders meeting in Port Harcourt on March 30 and the issuance of guidelines for resumption of collation of results from INEC headquarters, Abuja.

Okoye added that there would also be a re-validation of polling agents and observers for collation of results in the state between March 25 and March 31, in Rivers and Abuja simultaneously.

“Thereafter, there will be resumption of collation and announcement of result. This will take place between April 2 and April 5 and it will take place in Port Harcourt. The venue for this particular activity will be agreed upon within the commission and the critical stakeholders in the electoral process. Then on April 13, there will be a supplementary election where necessary. Thereafter, there will be an announcement of all results between April 13 and April 15,” he said.

According to Okoye, April 19 has been fixed for the issuance of all outstanding certificates of return in relation to the election.

He disclosed that the Saturday, March 23 supplementary election would take place in 18 states. “Some of you are already aware that the commission has conducted election in 29 states and returns have been made in 22 of those states. While the election was suspended in Rivers, it was declared inconclusive in six states: Bauchi, Adamawa, Benue, Plateau, Sokoto and Kano,” he said.

He explained: “The supplementary governorship election earlier scheduled to hold in Bauchi State is now a subject of litigation, which was initiated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Mohammed A. Abubakar. An interlocutory injunction to suspend the process has been served on the commission by the Federal High Court, Abuja.

“While the commission has complied in accordance with its policy to obey all court orders in deference to the rule of law, it has also taken urgent steps to vacate the order and dismiss the action. It should however be noted that the litigation and consequential order only affect the collation of results for the governorship election in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area.

“Consequently, the supplementary elections will proceed as scheduled on Saturday 23 March in the other 15 Local Government Areas of Bauchi state as well as the Kirfi State Constituency Supplementary Election in Kirfi Local Government Area.”

He said: “Similarly, the Adamawa State High court issued an injunction restraining the commission from proceeding with the supplementary election following the application by the Movement for the Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD), a registered political party which did not take part in the main election.

“While the commission has also complied with the order, it has equally taken steps to vacate it and dismiss the action. Notwithstanding the legal action over the supplementary governorship poll, election will hold in Nassarawo/ Binyeri state constituency in Mayo-Belwa LGA.

“This is where the election has to be countermanded following the death of a candidate before the poll, as well as the supplementary state constituency election and Uba/Gaya state constituency in Hong LGA.”

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