As about two million eligible voters in Edo State go to the polls today, the All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party have continued to trade blame on the alleged plot of some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission to compromise the credibility of the exercise.
The PDP on Tuesday accused the APC government of Governor Adams Oshiomhole and the electoral umpire of allegedly inducing election supervisors to compromise the outcome of the poll in nine out of the 18 local government areas.
The state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chris Nehikhare, who spoke to journalists in Benin, said the party had received information of an alleged distribution of N2m by a senior official of INEC to the supervisors on behalf of the state government.
Nehikhare, who also alleged that the results of the affected areas had “been written”, ready for announcement on Wednesday (today), vowed that the PDP and its supporters would resist with “the last drop of their blood” any attempt to switch election results.
He stated, “It has come to our attention that INEC and the state government have seriously compromised the election that is going to take place tomorrow (Wednesday). People involved in this conspiracy are those that have leaked this information to the PDP and to us to act very fast.
“She (INEC official) has been sharing N2m to supervisors in at least nine local government areas of Edo State.
“What they have done is that they have written results for the nine local government (areas) on behalf of the APC. These results are being held by the supervisors and the collation officers at a point where they plan to switch the results with the real ones at the local government level once the election is done.”
Attempts by our correspondent to reach the spokesperson for INEC in Edo State, Mrs. Priscilla Imoudu-Sule, were unsuccessful as she neither return calls by The PUNCH nor responded to a text message sent to her as of the time of filing this report.
The Edo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Kassim Afegbua, denied the rigging allegations by the PDP.
He said, “There is nothing like that. They should go and face their election and forget all these issues of name-calling and making false allegations.”
Also, the state Chairman of the APC, Anselm Ojezua, described the claim as a figment of the imagination of the PDP.
Ojezua said, “That is a figment of their own imagination. They have lost the election already. I’m the state Chairman of the APC. I have been in my home area for three days. So, what time will I have to go and talk about bribing INEC?
“If anything at all, it is the PDP people that know the INEC people. After all, most of these INEC officers were employed during the PDP government. We have trained our agents and they are determined to be very vigilant.
“The truth is that all the plans the PDP made to create havoc in Edo State have virtually failed. All the efforts they have made to manipulate the process have also failed. They can now see that there is nothing other than the true transparent process that will give us result in this election.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has called on the political parties participating in the Wednesday governorship election to conduct themselves in a manner that would not encourage violence by their supporters.
The NCSSR stated that the parties would be held liable for their supporters’ activities that triggered violence during the poll.
The NCSSR is made up of over 70 civil society groups taking part in the monitoring of the governorship election.
Addressing journalists in Benin on Tuesday, the Convener, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, said election observers had been deployed in the 18 local government areas of the state for the election.
Referring to a statement by INEC that it was ready for the election, Nwankwo said the Situation Room would hold the electoral umpire accountable for conduct of the exercise.
He explained that the group would look out for INEC’s early distribution and deployment of personnel; timely opening of poll; knowledge of procedures by personnel; voting procedures, particularly the efficacy of the Smart Card Readers; and the collation process, which he said had always been a source of concern.
Nwankwo, while describing the security arrangement for the election as “really very positive”, however, said Situation Room’s observation of the performance of the security agencies would include the exercise of restraint in dealing with voters and avoidance of acts of intimidation, inappropriate use of force, and other acts capable of undermining the electoral process.
Among other aspects the Situation Room would observe, he said, included the actual presence and deployment of personnel, reflective of the 25,000 personnel said to have been deployed by the security agencies for the election; and the welfare of security personnel during and after the election.
In a related development, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps says it has deployed about 15,250 personnel in Edo State to ensure a hitch-free voting in the governorship poll.
The acting Deputy Commandant-General in charge of Operations, Hillary Madu, who disclosed this on Tuesday, while addressing some officers of the corps in Benin, explained that the personnel comprised 15,000 armed and unarmed officers.
Madu noted that 250 others were drawn from the specialised units of the NSCDC, including the special weapon and tactics unit, kernel unit, counter-terrorism unit, undercover officers and others.
He, however, said the corps would work in collaboration with other security agencies across the 18 local government areas, adding that some flashpoints had been identified.
He warned individuals and groups planning to cause violence or interfere with the poll to have a rethink as there would be no sacred cow.
Reps PDP caucus demands free poll
Also, the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives has urged INEC to ensure nothing short of free, fair and credible election in Edo State.
The leader of the caucus, Mr. Leo Ogor, said this while speaking to journalists in Abuja on Tuesday.
He described Wednesday’s election as a litmus test for the commission as well as the APC-led Federal Government on its commitment to credible polls.
He alleged that there was a plot by the ruling APC, working in cahoots with some INEC officials, to rig the poll.
Ogor added, “We call for a free and fair election and nothing short of that. We urge INEC, as an independent and unbiased umpire, to forestall these evil arrangements and uphold its integrity.
“The issues raised therein should be taken seriously and acted upon by civil society, the Nigerian public and the press to give credibility to the electoral process.”
He alleged among other things that INEC “surreptitiously, and in conjunction with the APC”, compiled names of persons sympathetic to APC to superintend over the election and skew it in favour of the ruling party.
Ogor also claimed that as part of the plot, members of staff of INEC, earlier trained and listed for the election, were replaced with persons from a “particular part of the country on the pretext that most persons from the South-South were sympathetic to the PDP.
Ogor added, “There is an arrangement to issue sensitive materials, particularly result sheets and incident forms, to the APC before the election to enable them to originate, take results and submit same with the assistance of security men, who will be deployed in the state from Abuja to act as conveyors into the collation centres and same shall be declared by their compromised returning officers at the police stations and other collation centres under police protection.”
The Deputy National Chairman (South) of the APC, Mr. Segun Oni, said the APC was focused and was poised to win the election because of the party’s track record of performance.
“We will win the election convincingly. By Thursday God willing, Nigerians will join the people of Edo State in celebration,” Oni, a former Ekiti State governor, said.