•Directs police commissioners to beef up security
•APC, PDP trade blame over allegations
By Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja, James Sowole in Akure and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, has raised the alarm that politicians in Edo and Ondo States are arming thugs ahead of the governorship polls scheduled for September 19 and October 10 respectively.
He has, therefore, ordered the commissioners of police in both states to rejig their security system to forestall a possible breach of the peace during the elections.
The directive, according to a statement yesterday by Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, a deputy commissioner of police, came against the backdrop of security reports that politicians in the two states are planning to foment trouble on Election Day as they are arming thugs to be deployed to rig the polls.
The IG, therefore, warned the politicians to conduct themselves properly, play by the rules and steer clear of tendencies capable of undermining the electoral process.
However, the two major political parties in the two states, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have traded blame over the IG’s allegations.
While the Edo State APC said the IG’s warning was an affirmation of the party’s previous petitions and warnings on alleged arms build-up by the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, and his PDP, the Edo PDP accused the opposition party in the state of sponsoring thuggery and violence.
The APC and PDP in Ondo State have also denied any involvement in arming thugs or encouraging violence.
The IG said the warning and the directive to beef up security were informed by the election security threat assessment reports submitted by the commissioners of police in the states at a meeting held last Tuesday.
“The election security threat analysis reveals amongst other indicators, arming and movement of political thugs, use of inciting statements during political campaigns, high likelihood of violence and possible cross attack by political opponents, misinformation/disinformation aimed at heating-up of the polity and deliberate efforts at delegitimising government institutions involved in the electoral processes,” he said.
The IG ordered the commissioners of police in the two states to rejig their preparations for the elections to accommodate and address the threats and emerging trends as contained in the security reports.
He noted that the force leadership was evolving customised security architecture to protect the people and ensure hitch-free elections.
“The IG, however, warns politicians and their supporters in Edo and Ondo States that the force will not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law on anyone or group, irrespective of status that may want to sabotage the security arrangement being emplaced for the elections,” Frank’s statement said.
He assured Nigerians, particularly the people of Edo and Ondo States, that the police remained committed to protecting the sanctity of the ballot.
“The police would be neutral, apolitical and will work assiduously with all stakeholders in ensuring a level playing ground for all in the elections,” he added.
APC, PDP Trade Blame
The APC in Edo State has described the IG’s warning on arming of thugs as an affirmation of its previous petitions and warnings on the alleged arms build-up by Obaseki and the PDP.
Reacting to the IG’s warning, the Chairman of the Edo APC Media Campaign Council, Mr. John Mayaki, said the security report cited by the IG backed its previous allegations of arms build-up against Obaseki and the ferrying of thugs from neighbouring PDP states, notably Delta State.
Citing an alleged attack on the Edo Assembly complex and the arrest of seven persons caught with firearms during the invasion, the APC said the incident exposed Obaseki’s alleged involvement in the arming and funding of thugs to carry out attacks on the state.
The APC also accused the governor of shielding his aides from investigation after they were allegedly mentioned by the suspects as their direct contacts in the state government by securing a court order precluding them from arrest and prosecution.
The APC, in a statement, said: “The Election Security Threat Analysis report is an affirmation of all our previous petitions, alarms and warnings that Mr. Godwin Obaseki and his party, the PDP, are planning to mar the September 19 governorship election with large-scale violence to scare away voters because they are afraid of the people’s verdict after a four-year term of non-performance.
“We have filed video evidence of some of the violent attacks staged by known and identified thugs of Governor Godwin Obaseki and the world bore witnesses to others as they took place on live television. One of such is the attack on the Edo Assembly complex, in which Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Mr. Philip Shaibu, led thugs and other supporters to loot, vandalise and remove the roof of the complex in broad daylight.”
But the PDP Publicity Secretary in Edo State, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, exonerated the party of any involvement in thuggery and violence.
He accused the APC of sponsoring thuggery and violence.
He added that he has a video in the social media where the candidate of APC, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, in the midst of people who described themselves as “lions and tigers,” was directing suspected thugs to disrupt the election.
“He (APC candidate) even said some of you are dangerous that you can move to the next local government,” he stated, noting that such uncomplimentary words coming from such calibre of person can encourage people to violence “because by so doing, you are telling them they are covered.”
“In PDP, we condemn anybody involved in thuggery, especially thuggery that is intimidating other members of the public in the state. We condemn it and it is unacceptable to us.
“It is unfortunate that the IG made such a statement and we want him to fish out those involved and bring the full weight of the law on anyone involved,” Nehikhare added.
However, the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Ondo State, Mr. Alex Kalejaye, said the party would not engage or encourage any act that can bring pains to the people.
“The APC has been preoccupied with engaging the people. We have reminded the people about our promises to them four years ago and told them how far we have gone in fulfilling some of the promises.
“We are not arming thugs and we do not have an interest in doing that. Our works shall speak for us and we shall not do anything that will cause violence and bring pain to the people,” Kalejaye said.
Also reacting to the IG’s allegations, the Publicity Secretary of PDP in Ondo State, Mr. Peretei Ikandu, said the party was not arming any thug.
He said: “We have tried as much as possible to make our campaign issue-based. The IG that has the intelligence that politicians are arming thugs should use the same intelligence to follow up and nip the matter in the bud, before they will unleash violence on people before, during and after the election.
“The IG is not saying anything new. He should be proactive and that is when we will know that he is doing the right thing. The police should be on the top of the game.
“We saw what happened in Kogi State during the election, when the IG said thugs in police uniform attacked people.
“Since IG has the information, he should do the needful by being proactive on the information available to him.”
Similarly, the spokesman of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP)’s governorship candidate, Mr. Allen Sowore, said the IG should know the direction he should look considering some comments recently made by some leaders of the APC in the state.
Sowore said the ruling APC had shown its desperation with some attacks on members of the ZLP in the state.
“ZLP is relatively a new party. The party is not part of the arming of thugs. The IG should ask the former aspirant of the APC, Mr. Isaac Kekemeke, what he meant when he said thugs would unleash terror against other political parties in the state during the election.
“The statement by Kekemeke, which was circulated through social media in a video, is enough for IG to know the direction to go and not by telling us that politicians are arming thugs. He should know those who are doing this by their acts and comments,” Sowore said.