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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Bomb scare, anxiety as anambra voters elect their new governor today

. IG deploys 26 , 000
operatives, 300 hilux
vans
. Gunboats, helicopters
to cover coastal
communities
. IPOB predicts ' bloody
Saturday'
Olusola Fabiyi , Chukwudi Akasike ,
Ihuoma Chiedozie , Alexander Okere,
Tony Okafor and Saheed Olugbon
AS the people of Anambra State decide
who occupies the position of the state
governor today (Saturday ), there is
palpable fear that the election could be
marred by violence . This is happening
amid fears of bomb blast in Onitsha .
Some residents of the state were seen
gathered in different groups to
discuss , in trepidation, what the
outcome of the election might be .
It was also observed that security had
been beefed up at public places with
units of armed policemen stationed at
strategic locations .
Some other Anambra residents, who
spoke with Saturday PUNCH, expressed
their readiness to vote while many
others pointed out that they had their
reasons to be afraid that the exercise
could be marred by violence.
A resident of the state, Ifeanyi
Ogockukwu, from Ihiala Local
Government Area and a computer
operator , said , " I will remain indoors
tomorrow (today ) until I notice that
everywhere is calm because I do not
know what it will look like.
" But I will come out and vote when
everywhere is calm . I advise others to
also come out and vote for the
candidate of their choice . They should
not sell their votes for anything . "
The Nigeria Union of Journalists ,
Anambra State Council , in an
emergency congress, also expressed
fear that something untoward might
befall the state in the poll.
It' s communiqué , read partly , " That
the Council views with concern the
unusually heavy presence of security
operatives in the state in the build - up
to the election , noting that such could
lead to unnecessary tension and may
jeopardise peaceful conduct of the poll
and possibly dissuade voters from
coming out to exercise their
franchise . "
The tension in the state was further
exacerbated by the pro - secessionist
group, Indigenous People of Biafra ,
which issued what seemed to be a
fresh threat and prediction that the
Anambra governorship election would
be bloody .
IPOB had warned the people of the
state to stay indoors to avoid being
victims of bomb blast that could occur
during the election.
This is just as the Deputy Inspector
General of Police in charge of
Operations, Mr. Joshak Habila,
dismissed the threat by IPOB , insisting
that the voters should come out and
exercise their franchise without fear .
A statement by the proscribed group
signed by its spokesman , Emma
Powerful, indicated that all might not
be well with the exercise.
Powerful said IPOB had uncovered a
plot by Nigerian security agencies to
link it to series of bomb blasts that
would occur during Saturday 's
governorship election in the state.
The spokesman for the pro- Biafra
group claimed that the security
agencies , particularly the army , police
and the Department of State Services,
had planted explosive devices at
strategic places in the state , waiting to
set them off during the election .
Powerful explained that IPOB would
be blamed for the explosions, adding
that the alleged plot was meant to
justify the Federal Government' s claim
that the group was a terrorist
organisation.
The IPOB spokesman said , " We gather
(ed ) that the Nigerian military is now
planting explosive devices in all
strategic places in Anambra State to
justify their evil plan against the
people of Biafra .
" The Nigerian Government and her
security operatives especially, the
Nigerian army and police , including
the DSS, have lost the bid to label IPOB
a terrorist organisation among the
civilised nations . So, they have
resorted to crude evidence- planting as
they did with their so - called imported
double - barrelled hunting guns at
Apapa Wharf .
" Chief of Army Staff, General Buratai
and his military hierarchy are
desperately using every and any
available strategy to justify their
actions against IPOB family members
in Biafraland particularly in Anambra
State because of our boycott threat .
" We are warning every indigenous
person of Biafra to be wary of
tomorrow 's election in Anambra State .
Every man , woman and child should
remain indoors because Nigerian
security operatives have planted
military- grade explosives at key
locations in Anambra State to kill and
maim as many people as possible.
" Stay in your homes with your doors
locked because tomorrow will be very
bloody for anyone that ventures
outside ," Powerful stressed while
insisting that the IPOB was not a
terror organisation.
He added, " IPOB , under the command
and leadership of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu ,
remains a non- violent and peaceful
freedom fighting organisation,
irrespective of the continued attack on
us by the Nigerian Government and
her security operatives , especially the
army , police and the DSS. "
But , dismissing IPOB 's statement,
Habila said , " There is no cause to fear .
(In) virtually everywhere , space , you
will find police officers and other
security agents prepared . I want to
assure those who are getting scared ; do
not believe that something is pursuing
you when nothing is pursuing you.
" We guarantee your safety and ask
that you come out tomorrow (today )
and vote so that you can choose the
man you want to be at the helm of
affairs. There is no cause to fear . "
Describing the threat by IPOB as a
failed move, the DIG added, " I am of
the opinion that the threat , which was
put through , was just a dummy; it was
just a script written and rehearsed .
But I think that it has failed because it
has not been played .
" It was never played during the
campaign. I do not think that anybody
will go and dust those things and play
them anymore . If there is anyone,
then it is unfortunate.
" But I want to assure you that they
were just antics ; and that is why I say ,
vote and live, but not vote and die . "
Bomb scare ahead of Anambra
governorship poll
There was a bomb scare in Onitsha on
Friday ahead of Saturday 's
governorship election in Anambra
State .
Saturday PUNCH gathered that two
high calibre improvised explosive
devices were discovered near the
Onitsha North Local Government Area
Police Station .
However , our correspondents learnt
that the police anti- bomb squad
averted the explosion by demobilising
the IEDs .
But the development created tension
in Onitsha ahead of Saturday 's (today )
election amid palpable fear in
different parts of the state that the
election could be marred by violence.
Use of policemen as guards by VIPs
banned
Further assuring the people of the state
of security , Habila warned that the
police would not permit the use of
security personnel as guards by very
important personalities at polling
units during the governorship
election.
Habila told Saturday PUNCH at the
Independent National Electoral
Commission 's office in Awka that the
restriction of movement would be
binding on all persons except groups
and individuals accredited to monitor
voting .
" Tell all VIPs that they cannot be
accompanied by uniform personnel
because that also will intimidate
others. People are expected to walk a
short distance, cast their votes and go
back home .
" No VIP, no government official, no
individual should put onto themselves
the responsibility of monitoring ,
except the press and accredited
observers . International and national
observers will be given an
opportunity," he noted .
Speaking on the security arrangement
for the exercise , he explained that with
the massive deployment of additional
21 ,000 police personnel to join the
existing 6 ,000 operatives in the state,
five policemen were expected to man
each polling unit .
He further disclosed that while 300
Hilux vehicles had been positioned in
areas prone to violence, 15 gunboats
would be used to cover the riverine
areas.
The DIG also said that three helicopters
would hover around the three
senatorial districts of the state to
provide aerial view during the
election.
We'll not dictate to INEC – Police
Ahead of today 's governorship election
in Anambra State , the police also said
that contrary to speculations in some
quarters , they had no intention to
dictate to the Independent National
Electoral Commission on the conduct
of the poll .
The Deputy Inspector General of Police
in charge of Operations stated that the
police would only be involved in the
area of ensuring the security of lives
and property.
" We are not dictating to INEC . The
police are only interested in security .
Why would the police tell INEC what to
do? So, you think I would go and tell
INEC what they should do about the
election; has it ever happened ?
" Do you believe that one? Do you know
who these people (INEC heads ) are?
Some of them are professors and
technocrats. Then you would dictate to
them ; it is not possible. Is it with a
gun?
" Ours is to ensure security and not to
dictate to INEC. This is one of the
dummies they (politicians) want to
sell. That is a very cheap propaganda
intending to discourage people from
exercising their franchise and
defending their votes. Like I said
earlier , it can never happen and it is
not possible," Habila stressed .
We're not compromised, says INEC
The Independent National Electoral
Commission has denied the
speculation that some of its personnel
have been compromised by politicians
to interfere with the credibility of the
governorship election in Anambra
State .
There had been speculation that the
commission deployed additional ad
hoc workers to certain locations in
order to give an advantage to a
particular political party .
But the state Head of Voter Education
and Publicity , Mr. Leo Nkedife , said ,
" INEC is not in any way compromised .
The issue is that we do not have
enough corps members in Anambra
State . So , that necessitated us to go to
neighbouring states to source for corps
members to complement .
" At the stakeholders' forum, that issue
was raised. They said that corps
members from outside should not go to
a particular local government area
and we have effected that. So , INEC is
not in any way compromised. It is
totally false . "
He, however , stated that the
commission had not received any
complaint from its workers bothering
on security threats .
According to him , INEC has provided
enough incentives for the welfare of
the ad hoc personnel , including
transport allowances during their
training , feeding allowances and the
main honorarium .
" We have even made provisions for
their feeding at the RAC (Registration
Area Centres ). So , I think their welfare
is well taken care of and we have
warned them not to compromise their
positions," Nkedife added.
PDP demands free poll in Anambra
The national leadership of the Peoples
Democratic Party has demanded a free
and fair governorship election on
Saturday .
National Publicity Secretary of the
party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye , in a
statement in Abuja on Friday, said ,
" The PDP is prepared and ready for
the Saturday ' s governorship election
in Anambra State , and we are
charging the officials of the
Independent National Electoral
Commission and security agencies
deployed in the election to be neutral
in the conduct of the election.
" The Anambra State governorship
election is a litmus test for INEC and
another opportunity for the Ruling All
Progressives Congress to redeem itself
from the culture of impunity ,
inconclusive elections and rigging as
exhibited in previous elections in Edo,
Ondo and other by- elections in the
country . "
Adeyeye also condemned the recent
withdrawal of the personal security of
the Governor of Anambra State , Chief
Willie Obiano, by the Inspector
General of Police , Ibrahim Idris .
" Notwithstanding that President
Muhammadu Buhari ordered the
reinstatement of governor' s security
aides, this recent action by the Police
is a clear signal that the Force is
working to favour some individuals in
the state or destabilise the
governorship election in Anambra
State . "
Adeyeye warned that the PDP would
not accept any manipulation of the
result of the election in the state.
" The INEC and all security agencies
deployed for the election must remain
neutral and unbiased before , during
and after the election," he added.
He called on the people of Anambra
State to protect their Permanent
Voter's Card and come out en masse to
vote.
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