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Residents Lament Massive Police Deployment to C’River North
• Allege plot to manipulate Saturday’s polls for APC
• Govt, police fault claims, accuse PDP of raising false alarm
Bassey Inyang in Calabar
Residents of Cross River North have lamented the massive deployment of men of the Nigeria Police Force in the senatorial district ahead of Saturday’s governorship and state Assembly elections, alleging a plot by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to manipulate the poll.
In a swift reaction, however, the Cross River Government faulted the massive police deployment claims, accusing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of raising false alarms because they knew they would obviously go into political extinction after the next elections in the state.
The State Police Command also clarified the massive police deployment claim, noting that the command had only responded to intelligence reports that some political actors and parties had plotted to cause public disorder during the polls.
Residents of Ogoja and Obudu confirmed the massive deployment of police operatives to Cross River North Friday, linking it to the defeat of the APC in the state during the last presidential election.
Cross River has been under the control of PDP since 1999. But the state governor, Prof. Ben Ayade formally defected to the APC in May 2021 alongside most members of his cabinet, State House of Assembly and chairmen of 18 local government areas in the state.
Following his defection, Ayade contested the February 25, 2023 senatorial election in Cross River North on the platform of the APC, though lost the contest to the incumbent, Senator Jerigbe Agom Jerigbe.
Alleging the renewed plot to retain the control of the state Friday, one of the residents, who spoke anonymously with THISDAY, claimed: ”We have never seen this level of acrimony and desperation during elections in this state.
The resident lamented: “We will call on the International community and election observers to pay close attention to what’s happening in Cross River State.”
Also speaking privately with THISDAY for fear of being arrested, a chieftain of the main opposition party in Cross River North said these “are not the regular policemen we see around here.”
The PDP chieftain added: “Except they were sent to rig elections, the heavy presence of police operatives is not necessary because this area is usually peaceful during elections.”
The chieftain alleged that the unusual police deployment “is part of a grand plan to intimidate voters and militarise election in the area, which is believed to be PDP stronghold in order to rig the election for the APC.
An entirely different source claimed that the state police command released a signal on Wednesday, ordering the deployment policemen to conduct stop and search operations and mass arrest of the citizens in all the five local government areas of Cross River North including Bekwara, Obanliku, Obudu, Ogoja and Yala.
The source claimed that the intention “is to arrest and intimidate PDP members and supporters before, during and after the elections on trumped up charges, as they did during the presidential elections three weeks earlier.”
It further claimed that the two Police Mobile Squadrons in Cross River State, PMF 75 and PMF 11 had been ordered from Abuja to not release any of their personnel to the PDP governorship candidate, Prof. Sandy Onor.
Faulting the massive police deployment claim yesterday, the Special Adviser on Media to the Governor, Mr. Christian Ita explained that there was nothing different about the deployment of the police for Saturday’s elections.
Ita said the PDP was raising false alarms because they know they will go into political extinction after the Saturday election.
He said the PDP had every reason “to worry because they are aware that it will not be business as usual for them as it was during the presidential election when they used the military to arrest and detain APC members at will.”
He thus explained how chieftains and members of Cross River APC were arrested, detained and harassed during the just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections.
He said: “It was even the APC people that were arrested and detained. The Commissioner for Finance was arrested a day before the election. A former chairman of Yakurr Local Government who is a member of the APC was also arrested by the army and detained.
“In Obudu, one of our members was arrested and detained about two days to the election. We complained officially because it was clear the soldiers had been compromised by the PDP, ” Ita said.
Ita pointed out that the police authorities “have announced the deployment of about 440,000 policemen to provide security across Nigeria during the elections. Is it Ayade that has deployed the political operatives?
“If the PDP leaders do not intend to cause violence during the election, because they know they will be roundly defeated at the polls, why should they be raising false alarm over the normal deployment of the police to ensure peace and orderliness during the elections?”
According to the special adviser, nobody is above the law. So, the false alarm raised by the opposition party will not spare the PDP the impending political annihilation at the polls.
Also reacting to the claims Friday, however, Police Public Relations Officer, Cross River Police Command, Mr. Irene Ugbo, said the command was only reacting to reports that one of the political parties had herded people into the state to disrupt the peace during the elections.
Ugbo, a Superintendent of Police, said: “There is nothing like a massive deployment of officers and men. Rather, what we have is a regular operational plan to strengthen security during the elections.
“We have an intelligence report some political actors have brought in people outside the state to foment trouble, and we have to take action,” the command’s spokesman said in reaction to the massive police deployment claim.