• Buhari orders security agents to deal decisively with trouble-makers   
  • PDP: Oyegun inciting people to violence 
  • We didn’t tell our supporters to kill, says APC 
  • Ararume accused of bribing collation officers  
  • UK, US, EU, France warn against violence

By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt, Tobi Soniyi, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Alex Enumah in Abuja

Uneasy calm pervades Rivers State as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) holds the rescheduled legislative rerun elections in 1,840 Polling Units spread across the 23 local government areas of the state today.

To ensure the success of today’s election, President Muhammadu Buhari has called on law enforcement agencies to deal decisively with trouble-makers and those bent on violating the sanctity of the electoral process during today’s federal and state legislative rerun elections in the state.

The bulk of the voting today will be in seven local government areas of Andoni, Akuku-Toru, Bonny, Etche, Ikwerre, Khana and Gokana.

Following anxiety over violence in the state, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, announced the deployment of 28,000 policemen, in addition to equipment for the election.

As at yesterday evening, there was massive build-up of security operatives made-up of the Nigeria Police, the Nigeria Army, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Air force and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

Also there was intensified patrol by the Nigeria Police and other security agencies in parts of the state, especially areas where rerun election will hold, apparently to scare away hoodlums.

While the Police are patrolling roads in parts of the states along with operatives of the NSCDC, marine policemen are patrolling the waterways along with Nigerian Navy.

 Also, policemen, who are on aerial surveillance of the state with the three helicopters deployed by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, are being assisted by men of the Nigerian Airforce.

The Nigerian Army yesterday ordered deployment of troops to flash points to prevent breakdown of law and order before, during and after the December 10 legislative elections in Rivers.

The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division Port Harcourt Maj.-Gen. Kasimu Abdulkarim gave the order while addressing officers and soldiers at the Divisional Headquarters in Port Harcourt.

He said troops would be deployed to strategic locations including oil and gas installations and other critical assets in and around the state.

According to him, commanders will embark on early planning, coordination and liaison with civil authority, Nigerian Police Force, INEC and other stakeholders to ensure hitch-free elections.

The INEC has also said it would conduct elections in only 12 polling units in Tai Local Government Area, a move the PDP has said is against the ruling of a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt on that matter.

The state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Aniedi Ikoiwak, said the commission’s interpretation of the court judgment did not say the commission should hold elections in all parts of the local government area.

But in its reaction, the PDP said the commission was only out to disrespect the judgment of the Federal High Court and a plot to derail the democratic process in the state.

The Rivers PDP advised INEC to conduct the rerun elections  in Tai LGA  as ordered by the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt .

It will be recalled that Justice Liman of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt ordered INEC to ensure that the results of Tai LGA emanate  from the rerun elections in the area.

Justice Liman said: “It is hereby ordered that the result of the re-run election in respect of the National and the State House of Assembly election, which the 1st Defendant has fixed a date to conduct in Khana, Bonny, Gokana, Andoni, Eleme and Tai Local Government Area or any part thereof must emanate from the said re-run election.

Buhari orders security agents to deal decisively with trouble-makers

Meanwhile, President Buhari has called on law enforcement agencies to deal decisively with trouble-makers, while ensuring that they are non-partisan while monitoring the conduct of the elections.

The president also sued for a peaceful and orderly election.

Buhari, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina urged all political parties, their candidates, other stakeholders and the people of the state to ensure that the polls are conducted without rigging, violence and intimidation of opponents and electoral officials.

He asked politicians and their supporters to put the higher interest of the people of the state in mind, as they go to the polls today.

“The rerun elections should not be seen as a do-or-die affair to the extent that people will be killed, maimed and property destroyed in a mindless display of crude primitive instincts. Innocent blood should never be sacrificed on the altar of political contest for temporary power,” the president warned.

PDP Accuses Ararume of Bribing Collation Officers

In a related development, the PDP in Rivers State has accused a former Federal Lawmaker, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, of meeting with 200 INEC Collation Officers at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike where he bribed them with N20,000 each to write results in favour of the APC.

The collation officers for the Rivers rerun elections are being trained at the institution by INEC.

In a statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday, the state Publicity Secretary of PDP, Samuel Nwanosike, alleged that Ararume concluded the meeting with a pledge to pay the collation officers their balance of the agreed sum after the Rivers Rerun Elections.

He however said the PDP in Rivers State has vowed to resist any attempt by the agents of the APC to use collation officers to subvert the electoral process.

He said it was revealed that Ararume at the meeting, arranged with the electoral officers to concoct results in favour of the APC.

He disclosed that the former Federal Lawmaker, who hails from Imo State, was a major revenue contractor in Rivers State under the Chibuike Amaechi’s administration and that Ararume told the collation officers that he was working for Amaechi, who is his benefactor.

According to him, it was learnt from sources at the meeting that Ararume told the Collation Officers that the N20,000 he gave each of them was for their transport and that they would be paid in full after delivery of results that favour APC during the rerun elections.

We Didn’t Ask Our Supporters to Kill, Says APC

Also yesterday, the APC denied ever urging party supporters at Thursday’s campaign rally in Port Harcourt to shoot and kill during today’s legislative re-run elections as was reported in the media.

The PDP had accused the APC, especially its top echelon that spoke during the  Port Harcourt rally of gingering their supporters to violence by asking them to shoot and kill supporters of opposing parties.

PDP quoted the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun of having openly incited the members and supporters of his party saying “If they push you, push them back. If they slap you, slap them back. As you can see, we came in full force; the whole federal might is here”.

However, APC has described such allegations and reports as false, saying it is a wicked fabrication which is also at odds with the party’s zero-tolerance policy for violence.

In a statement, Oyegun’s Chief of Staff, Edwin Ikhinmwin said the APC’s national chairman had consistently advocated for peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible elections.

But in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by the PDP’s spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the party said the APC had been working to reverse gains of democracy and to foster full blown dictatorship in Nigeria.

“It was another sad day in Nigeria as top echelon of the ruling party in the country, the APC, on Thursday, December 8, 2016, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State took turns like garrison commanders, ordering their supporters to shoot and kill any member or supporter of our party.”

Don’t Export Non-payment of Salaries to Rivers State, Wike Tells APC Governors

Also on Thursday, Governor Wike berated APC governors for refusing to pay salaries to their civil servants and pensioners, saying that they will not be  allowed to  export hardship  from their states to the  treasure base of the nation.

Flagging off the construction of Elimgbu-Atali Road, Rumuokoro Market and Motorola Park and the Psychiatric Hospital in Obio-Akpor Local Government Area on Thursday, Wike said that APC governors represent the failure of governance in some states.

“These APC governors are beneficiaries of Amaechi’s corruption. Amaechi stole our resources and used the funds to sponsor Lalong, Abubakar of Bauchi State, Ortom of Benue State and the APC National Campaigns”.

Wike also said the Kano State Governor, Ganduje failed to set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate who killed the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Kano State and his family.

UK, US EU, France warns against inciting violence

Leaders of developed countries across the globe have appealed to all political parties in today’s election, including the electorates to toe the path of peace and avoid anything that would breed chaos and destruction in the state.

Ambassadors of the US, UK, EU and France made the appeal in a joint statement signed yesterday in Abuja.

“We call on the leadership of all political parties and their supporters in Rivers state to allow elections to go ahead peacefully. We encourage INEC and the security forces to perform their duties responsibly and impartially. We urge all parties to respect the electoral process and raise any grievances peacefully and through official channels”, the statement read in part.

The ambassadors further stressed that the leaders of all parties are accountable for the actions of their members and as such should urge their supporters not to use or incite violence.