Friday, 18 September 2020

Tension Heightens In Benin And Its Environs, As Edo Goes To The Poll On Saturday

After almost three months of campaigns laced with violence, mud-slinging and exchange of brick-bats among the major contenders, there is tension in Edo State as the governorship election holds tomorrow. No fewer than 35,000 security personnel, including 31,000 policemen, have been deployed to ensure safe and credible exercise. Some stakeholders, yesterday, harped on the need for an election devoid of rigging and violence. Indeed, there was tight security around the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Benin City, for the better part of yesterday which caused gridlock at Ring Road, the City Centre and adjoining roads, including Airport Road, Sakponba Road, Sapele Road, Akpakpava Road and others. As the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, commenced movement of sensitive electoral materials, which arrived on Wednesday evening, a police Armoured Personnel Carrier, APC, was parked at the entrance of the Bank.

 Only journalists with identity cards were allowed into the premises to witness the movement of sensitive materials. At the time of filing this report, 11 trucks had been loaded and driven out of the CBN premises while the dispatching exercises continued. Of the 2,210,534 registered voters, only 1,735,910, who collected their permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs, are eligible to vote in tomorrow’s election. Distribution of sensitive election materials Addressing Journalists at the premises of the CBN, the Head of Voter Education and Publicity, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Edo State, Mr Timidi Wariowei, said the distribution commenced with the farthest local government areas.

 “So far, we have loaded about 11 local governments. We started from Akoko-Edo, Etsako Central, Owan East and Owan West among others “Some have gone and others are completely loaded and are sorting out their security escort and very soon materials will move to all the local governments. “From the local government, the materials will move to Registration Areas Centres, RACs, and from the RACs they will move to the polling units and voting points on Saturday morning. “As you can see, we are fully ready for the election. 

This is the high point of our preparation, that is moving the materials from the CBN to local government areas”, he said The materials arrived at the CBN office on Wednesday and they were inspected by Wariowei and party chieftains. Security agencies in show of force To show their readiness, security agencies yesterday carried out its last joint exercise before the election tagged “Operation Show of Force” which is to alert Edo residents of the security agencies preparedness for election. Not fewer than 70 patrol vehicles loaded with fully armed men from the various security agencies paraded strategic streets and roads across Benin City. 

The Police Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor, who spoke to news men during the exercise, restated the agencies’ commitment to ensure that the election was peaceful, fair, free and credible He urged voters to come out en mass on Saturday and vote as their lives and property would be protected. Some of the security agencies that participated in the exercise include the Nigerian Army, Police Mobile Force, Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Customs Service, and the Directorate of State Services (DSS). Others were the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Air force, Federal Road Safety Corps, the Nigerian Correctional Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. 

The exercise commenced from the police command Headquarters through Sapele road, Country home road and Ugbo road. Other routes covered were the GRA, Adesuwa road, Ihama road and the entire stretch of the Airport road, Akenzua road, Ehaekpen street, TV road, Five junction, Uselu-Lagos road, Upper Mission road and the ring road. IGP orders restriction of vehicular movement Also, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohanmmed Adamu, has ordered the restriction of vehicular movement ‘’from 11:59 PM on Friday, 18th September, 2020 – 6pm on Saturday, 19th September, 2020,’’ Frank Mba, Force Public Relations Officer, Force Headquarters, said yesterday He said: ‘’The IGP notes that the restriction order is informed by the need to prevent the free flow, circulation and use of illicit arms and hard drugs and checkmate the movement of political thugs and touts and other criminally-minded individuals especially from contiguous States from hijacking and disrupting the electoral processes. 

He enjoins citizens to go out en-mass on the day of the election and vote, noting that the Police and other security agencies have been sufficiently mobilized to provide a safe, secure and conducive environment for the election. READ ALSO: INEC deploys 5 additional RECs, 3 national commissioners, 13,000 staff to Edo ‘’While regretting any inconveniences the restriction order may cause the citizens, the IGP enjoins the citizens to see the restriction as part of necessary sacrifices towards the enthronement of democracy. He however warns that the Force will not sit idly-by and watch citizens who may want to engage in any criminal act – violent and destructive acts, snatching of ballot boxes, vote buying, vote selling, hate speeches, and other act(s) capable of compromising the electoral processes. ‘

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