INEC, Security Agencies At Daggers Drawn Over Edo Poll | Independent Newspapers Limited
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INEC, Security Agencies At Daggers Drawn Over Edo Poll

OBASEKI, edo election
Posted: Sep 9, 2016 at 6:15 am   /   by   /   comments (0)
Edo Poll:  Will DSS, Police Co-operate With INEC?
Temidayo Akinsuyi

Lagos – There is the possibility that INEC may postpone the election from September 10…But no one has mentioned or communicated this to us yet. But we have it on good authority that the other side (APC) already knows about the development and are trying as much as possible to conceal it from us, so that by the time the postponement is announced, we would have outspent ourselves and you know what that means – Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s governorship candidate, July 28, 2016

Though the announcement by the  Nigerian Police  and the  Department of State Services (DSS) calling for the postponement of tomorrow’sgovernorship election in Edo came to many a surprise, the PDP and its governorship candidate, Osagie Ize- Iyamu were unfazed about the development.  This is because as alleged by Ize- Iyamu in the above quote, he had first-hand information that the ruling party in the state, All Progressives Congress (APC) led by Governor Adams Oshiomhole, in collusion with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had already perfected plans to shift the election at the eleventh hour so as to gain an upper hand when a new date will be fixed by the electoral umpire.

When Independent contacted INEC on Ize- Iyamu’s claim, a topmost official of the electoral commission said the September 10 date remains sacrosanct except there is an unforeseen occurrence that may necessitate a shift in the date.

“As at today, nothing changes the September 10 date for the conduct of the Edo governorship election. The Eid-el-Kabir celebration will not affect that date because the public holiday will likely be on September 14. The only thing that may alter that date is violence or any unforeseen occurrence which is beyond our capacity”, he said.

Though postponement of election at the eleventh hour by INEC is not novel in the annals of Nigerian politics, the statement by the Police and DSS citing “alleged threat by insurgents and extremists to cause mayhem in the country between September 12 and 13” came as shock to the national leadership of the electoral body which had expressed its readiness for the conduct of the exercise.

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Reacting to the statement, a lawyer, Asiriuwa Japhet described the statement of the Police and DSS as a ploy to truncate the democratic process in Edo. Accoding to him, “if the security agencies notice any security threats to the smooth conduct of the exercise, what is expected of them is to mobilise their officers to the affected spots and weed out the perpetrators and not to succumb to fear by asking INEC to postpone an election that has already caused a lot of tension in the state”.

Speaking further, he said “ How come the DSS and Police didn’t notice any security threat when the number one citizen of this country (President Muhammadu Buhari) came to Edo to campaign for the APC? I suspect something is fishy and I implore the leadership of INECnot to succumb to that demand. The election must go on as scheduled”.

Also speaking shortly after the announcement, the Chairperson of the Transition Monitoring Group, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the call for the postponement of the election was suspicious.
She stated, “The advice by the DSS to postpone the Edo 2016 election is suspect and one must be quick to say that it is coming rather late, especially because the election will take place in less than 72 hours.
“One would have expected that such advice would have been issued earlier. Such announcement, close to election, could also trigger apathy by voters and capable of building tension in the state, which can lead to electoral violence, which they are supposedly trying to prevent.”
However, Edo state governor,  Adams Oshiomhole, leader of the APC in Edo State, welcomed the postponement but said that it only shifted the burial of the PDP in the state. Declaring that the APC was more than prepared for the poll, the governor, however, called on INEC not to postpone the election for too long to enable the quick burial of the PDP. He said:
“The APC is ready for the election this Saturday, and that was why we held our mega rally on Tuesday and after that rally, our people across the state became more committed, more dogged and ready for the Saturday election”.
“I am already preparing to go to my village to also mobilise my people as other party leaders are doing; that is to let you know that we are not relaxing despite the fact that we know the PDP is already dead, and our people are just getting ready for the burial.
“However, security issues are security issues and as regards elections, they are very critical. If on their own they are calling on INEC for postponement, I am sure they must have their reasons because they are experts in it.”

On its part, The National Caretaker Committee, of the PDP in Abuja, however, described the call as shocking, given the presence of President Muhammadu Buhari in Benin the day before the call.

The NWC, in a statement by its spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said the party was “taken aback on this advice coming a day after  President Muhammadu Buhari was present at the Mega Rally of his party, the APC in Benin City, which was concluded without any hitch. “It is on record that INEC recently conducted a ‘hitch-free’ senatorial by-election in Borno State, which is a high-point of insurgency in the country, but the security agencies saw no reason to call-off the election”.

“It is, therefore, lamentable to hear from these same security agencies that the election cannot be held in a state where in less than 24 hours, the President and all the APC leaders and members an uninterrupted rally had”.

“We are calling on the President to caution the security agencies and direct them to provide full security, and also to desist doing anything that will jeopardize this forthcoming gubernatorial election in Edo State. We are equally counting on INEC not to succumb to this false alarm by acting independently and holding election as scheduled.”

Also speaking, a civil society leader, Ademola Oke said it appears that those plotting the postponement of the election acted in connivance with the INEC officials in Edo without carrying the national leadership along.

“That explains why the INEC Chairman was visibly worried and shocked when the announcement about the postponement was made” he said.

INEC has however vowed to go ahead with the election as scheduled tomorrow. The electoral umpire also said as the body statutorily set up to conduct elections in the country, it would not take orders from any institution with regard to the performance of its constitutional duties.

Mr Solomon Soyebi, INEC National Commissioner in-charge of Voter Education and Publicity, said during a press conference held at INEC’s office in Benin, that “the governorship election will go ahead on Saturday, September 10 as scheduled.’’

“We have therefore weighed all the consequences of a postponement in the election and have resolved to go ahead with the conduct of the election on Saturday as scheduled,’’ he said.

Will INEC, Security Agencies Synergise?

Now that the uncertainty over the conduct of the election has been put laid to rest, it however remains to be seen whether the securityagencies, especially the DSS and Police will give INEC the maximum security it desires for the protection of its materials and officers, including members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who will be serving as ad-hoc staff.

Speaking in a chat with Independent, constitutional lawyer, Fred Agbaje  who expressed concern over the development said in the eventuality of violence, the security agencies may not provide security for INEC and the electorates, having warned them in advance.

“That tells you there is a disorganisation in the house. If the security agents are saying one thing and INEC is saying another. There is cacophony of voices. They are supposed to act in unison in the best interest of Nigeria but now, they are singing discordant tunes”.

INEC is statutorily empowered with the organisation and postponement of election. The security agents are just to provide cover. But what is playing out now is that the security agents are now doing the work of INEC and that is very ominous for that election”.

“It will mean that if INEC decides to go ahead with that election and violence breaks out, those security agents will be the first to distance themselves.  That is why it is better for the security apparatus and INEC to work hand-in-hand”.

Also speaking, Monday  Ubani, the Second Vice- President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA),  also said he still at loss as to how INECwill conduct the election without the support of the security agencies.

According to him “I will be only speculating now. If the security agencies are saying there is a threat and INEC says they are going ahead with the election. Of course, INEC has the final say as to whether election will hold or not.  The only thing is that because of the kind of securitysituation we have in this country, which is why we get security agencies involved”.

“Ordinarily, in the United Kingdom, do you see security agencies giving advice to their electoral commission on whether election will hold or not?”

“So, this issue of generating security threats when none exists, INEC has already pooh-poohed that security alert that there is none and they didn’t communicate with them appropriately. All they did was informing the press without giving the information to INEC