•Says national carrier not on the cards
•Amaechi promises to floor Wike in his ward
• State govt petitions UN, EU, 50 countries over rerun polls
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja with agency report
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, spoke for the first time on the recent political violence in Rivers State and vowed to deal with the sponsors of the violence decisively.
A statement by his media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina said Buhari condemned the violence, adding that the killing of people over political differences was primitive, barbaric and unacceptable.
“We will deal decisively with all sponsors of violence. I have given the security services clear directives in this regard.
“We will show that violence in any form will no longer be tolerated before, during or after elections,” the president said at an interactive meeting with Nigerians resident in Equatorial Guinea.
Buhari said that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would be encouraged to explore the possibility of Nigerians abroad voting in the 2019 general election, noting that some African countries had started allowing their citizens resident abroad to vote in national elections.
The president said that he fully empathised with the desire of Nigerians in the diaspora to vote in national elections, and promised to do all within his powers to fulfill that desire.
“I want all Nigerians to know that I respect them and their rights to choose their leaders,” he said.
The president also said that the establishment of a new national airline was not on the federal government’s list of priorities.
Buhari was responding to complaints by members of the Nigerian community about the absence of direct flights between Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.
Buhari declared that his administration’s main area of focus was reducing the level of poverty in the country.
The president said that developing the infrastructure needed to boost production in all sectors of the economy and create more jobs for young Nigerians, as well as other actions that would directly improve the living conditions of ordinary Nigerians remain the priority of his administration.
He assured them that his administration’s war against corruption would remain “fearless, relentless and merciless”.
“We will be merciless and relentless in pursuing all those who abused public trust. Nigerians will see how some of the elite conspired to run the nation down,” he said.
However, with the stage set for a showdown between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Saturday’s re-run polls in Rivers State, the state government has petitioned the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), African Union (A) and the governments of about 50 countries demanding global surveillance on the process to ensure the conduct of a free, fair and credible election in the state.
This came as the former governor of Rivers and Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, challenged Governor Nyesom Wike to stop him (Amaechi) if he (Wike) has the powers as he (Amaechi) would be at Wike’s ward on election day.
The petition from the state government, which was signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr. Austin Tam-George, and sent to the embassies of the 50 countries, read in part:
“I write on behalf of the government and people of Rivers State, Nigeria, to inform you respectfully of the imminent danger posed to the peace and stability of Rivers State by the actions and provocative utterances of the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC).”
The commissioner accused APC leaders in Rivers State, notably Amaechi and the APC candidate in the last governorship election in the state, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, of resorting to “intimidation and openly inciting violence against members of the PDP and anyone who holds a different political view in the state”.
The petition added: “In a series of media interviews that began with an appearance on ‘Focus Nigeria’ a live programme on African Independent Television (AIT) in Abuja and radio stations in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation in Nigeria, continues to use language that is both inciting and dangerously divisive.”
It said Amaechi had also publicly threatened to “flood” every polling unit in Rivers State with soldiers in a bid to rig the election in favour of the APC, and described the threat as “alarmingly dangerous and illegal”, noting that the military had no constitutional role in the country’s electoral process.
The petition further alerted that “homes of key leaders of the PDP are routinely raided and vandalised by Amaechi’s goons, and plans have already been perfected to arrest all leaders of the PDP in Rivers State 48 hours to the election”.
The state government expressed disappointment over the fact that repeated appeals to the president to call Amaechi to order had gone unheeded, and warned that the eruption of violence in a state like Rivers, with “multi-ethnic fault lines could cripple Nigeria’s ailing economy and reverberate across the country’s borders”.
The petition further called on the international community to urgently initiate and maintain diplomatic pressure on the federal government to allow a free, fair and violence free election in Rivers State.
The petition was sent to the governments of the United States of America, Australia, China, the EU, and Chairman of the AU, among others.
Also, the PDP in the state has raised the alarm over a plot by the APC to rig Saturday’s elections.
In a statement issued yesterday by the party Chairman, Felixstowe Obuah, through his media aide, Jerry Needam, the party said: “It is no longer a secret that the APC is poised to print ballot papers and result sheets to rig Saturday’s rerun elections in Rivers State.”
The PDP also said it had uncovered a list of election officers, returning officers, and other ad hoc staff of INEC, completely made up of APC card carrying and active members.
PDP further called on INEC not to use the list for the rerun elections, stating that it would compromise the standards of the election.
According to the party, the APC had brought to Rivers State from Lagos a printing press called “Sam Printing Press”, which would be used in printing all sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials for the rerun elections in the state, and which some APC members have been assigned to lodge in hotels in Port Harcourt and Owerri, the Imo State capital, fill the result sheets with already decided scores that would be announced by a compromised INEC official at the stipulated time.
He said the PDP believes that the apparent relaxed mode of the APC leaders and candidates not to carry out any serious campaigns in the state was a confirmation of their plot to rig the elections with the aid of the military, armed youths in camouflage military uniforms and fake results.
The party also noted that the arrival of the APC acting National Chairman, Chief Segun Oni, in the state was part of the grand plot to rig the elections, ignite a crisis in the state, adding that APC had resolved not to leave anything to chance.
The PDP warned all APC leaders and members to have a rethink of their plan to rig or manipulate the elections, stating that such efforts would be futile.
The party reiterated its commitment to free and fair elections, warning that any attempt to rig the polls would be resisted by the electorate.
It further called on the security agencies, particularly the police, to be on alert and to checkmate the activities of the APC in the state.
However, Amaechi has said he will monitor Saturday’s elections in Wike’s ward to prove that the governor has no powers to stop anybody from partaking in the elections.
Addressing the APC faithful in Etche and Gokana Local Government Areas, Amaechi said he has enough security to counter any threat that Wike would muster, adding that he was looking forward to an encounter between the forces.
“On Saturday, I will be in his (Wike’s ) local government area. Let me see how he will kill me with this kind of security that I have. I don’t need to be in Ubima, my hometown. I know Ubima will vote APC,” he said at Berra, home of the APC candidate for the Rivers South East Senatorial District, Magnus Abe.
He said the mission of the APC was to ensure that the party wins majority seats in the state House of Assembly and to stop Wike from implementing programmes that would be inimical to the interest of the people.
“On Saturday, remove shame from my eyes by voting APC. The House of Assembly will stop Wike from killing people. If we have 22 members of the House of Assembly, we will keep Wike in check. If he kills any person, he knows that it is an impeachable offence. He will not have the power to overrule us. The house will call for the police,” he said.
The former governor also took a swipe at the police, but added that military deployment in the state would bridge the gap.
“The Commissioner of Police in Rivers State has failed. So anywhere you see the military on Saturday, know that the police have failed,” he said.
On his part, Wike said yesterday that he had uncovered an illegal plot by Amaechi and the INEC National Commissioner, Mrs. Amina Zakari, to swap the authentic results from the polling units with fake results on Saturday.
Also, the governor declared that any attempt by the former governor to move around polling booths on election day would be vehemently resisted by the people who would publicly disgrace Amaechi for violating the electoral guidelines.
Speaking during the grand finale of the Rivers East Senatorial District campaign rally of the PDP at Elele in Ikwerre LGA, Wike said: “All those who plan to swap result sheets, may their souls rest in peace. Nobody will rig in Rivers State.
“Anybody who thinks Amaechi will give them result sheets to swap should be ready to swap their dead bodies. I have told the REC, you were here before, you can’t play games with me.”
The governor said it is his responsibility to take steps to stop politicians plotting to rig elections in the state with the connivance of Zakari.
He said that the University of Port Harcourt vice-chancellor was forced by Amaechi and the APC leadership to draw up a list of INEC ad hoc staff dominated by former APC caretaker committee chairmen and confirmed APC members to organise the rerun elections and revealed the names of the APC members on the list.
He disclosed that he had written a formal letter with proof and details to INEC national chairman, complaining of the issue.
The governor said Buhari should not allow Amaechi to trigger a crisis in the state because of his personal interest.
In his remarks, the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, stated that Rivers State is a PDP state and its people are satisfied with the performance of the governor.