Ahead of Saturday’s governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections, the Nigerian Air Force has deployed fighter planes and attack helicopters in some potential flashpoints across the country.
The air wing of the Nigerian military also said it has concluded airlifting of electoral materials to 31 locations in the country for onward distribution to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) locations and polling stations.
In a chat with newsmen, NAF spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said attack helicopters, fighter planes and intelligence gathering platforms have been put on standby for potentially violence-prone areas.
He said: “We have other aircraft, the ISR platforms, attack platforms, and helicopters; they have been deployed in different locations across the country.
“Depending on where they are, they provide surveillance, reconnaissance in a show of force. They give feedback to operations or situation room.”
On the airlifting of election materials, he said NAF had concluded delivery and was looking forward to a successful election.
According to him, “In terms of delivery of electoral materials to all the 31 locations that have been done because that is where they have airfields and we used the transport aircraft.
“From those locations, the materials are moved to the various CBN locations and local government areas that cover INEC logistics responsibilities. We are good to go.”
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, had at a meeting with Air Force commanders, said contingency plans were put in place in case of any breakdown of law and order.
He said NAF hospitals and medical centers were put on the alert to assist in attending to any medical emergencies.
On election materials, Abubakar said eight aircraft were deployed in the airlift operations flying a total of about 340 hours in 257 sorties with about 120 crew members comprising pilots, technicians and other specialists operating on a round-the-clock basis.
Also briefing on the elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared its readiness, adding that all materials for the elections have been delivered to all states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
There would be governorship elections in 29 states and assembly polls in 36 states, with FCT holding its area councils contests.
The commission also warned that it would not tolerate the act of holding its official’s hostage and forcing them to declare winners under duress, saying that if such occurs, it would not issue Certificates of Return to any culpable politician.
The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this Thursday during the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) meeting held at INEC Headquarters, Abuja, where he equally decried the loss of its electoral materials to hooliganism and violence.
He added that all materials and relevant personnel would arrive at the Registration Area Centres (RACs) today, noting that with this arrangement the commission is confident that all polling units will open at 8 a.m. nationwide.
Yakubu stated: “On Saturday, 9th March 2019, Nigerians are once again going to the polls to elect governors in 29 States, 991 members of Houses of Assembly in all the states of the federation, 6 chairmen as well as 62 councilors for the Area Councils in the FCT.
“A total of 1,082 candidates will be elected by citizens across the country. Learning from the experience of the presidential and National Assembly elections held two weeks ago, the commission has effectively tackled the challenge of logistics. Materials for the election have been delivered to all states and the FCT. The movement to the Local Government Areas will be completed Thursday.
INEC withdraws Certificates from lawmakers
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has so far withdrawn 25 Certificates of Return issued to some candidates that won during the 2019 general election, following court orders. Twenty of the 25 certificates of return were withdrawn from All Progressives Congress (APC) members to other APC members; while two from People Democratic Party (PDP) members were withdrawn and issued to other PDP members.
The Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Mr. Festus Okoye, said that the other three were withdrawn from APC and PDP; and given to other political parties. Okoye made the disclosure at a ‘Forum on Media Coverage of 2019 General Election’ held in Enugu yesterday and in a statement. The APC has lost one House of Representatives seat each to the PDP and Accord Party respectively, based on the order of the court. Also, the party lost a state constituency seat to the PDP. Okoye, in a statement yesterday, however, disclosed that there are still many cases still pending in various state and Federal High Courts arising from pre-election matters.
“The commission, pursuant to orders of court, is still updating the list of candidates that contested the 2019 elections or deemed to have contested the elections. “As at the 16th May 2019, INEC withdrew the certificates of return issued to 25 candidates of the different political parties in Nigeria and issued fresh ones to other candidates,” Okoye said. Based on the order of court, Okoye disclosed that the commission withdrew certificates of return from the APC candidates in Ekiti North federal constituency and Ehime-Mbano/Ihitte Uboma/Obowo federal constituency of Imo State and issued them to PDP and Accord Party respectively.
“In Darazo state constituency of Bauchi State, the commission withdrew the certificate of a candidate of the APC and issued to the candidate of the PDP,” he further explained. Okoye stated that the commission withdrew a certificate of return from APC senatorial candidate in Bauchi South senatorial district and issued to another APC candidate. “In Delta State, the commission withdrew the certificate of return issued to the candidate of the PDP in Delta North Senatorial District and issued to another candidate of the PDP.
“Before we left INEC national headquarters on Friday (May 17, 2019); the commission has withdrawn 25 certificates-of-return from the first owners to their new owners following court orders to do that,” he said. Speaking at the Enugu event, President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isiguzo, said that the media and its practitioners enjoyed a vast and robust consultations and meetings with INEC before, during and after the elections. Isiguzo said that INEC performed creditably given the resources and length of cooperation from other stakeholders involved in the electoral processes. “However, we are here to evaluate the entire process and see where we can strengthen our engagement and better the electoral system,” he said. In his address, the Enugu State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr. Emeka Ononamadu, noted that evaluation of processes of the elections would help better the electoral processes as well as strengthen institutions and stakeholders involved in the entire processes.
“Nigeria is safe”
Information, Culture & Tourism Minister Lai Mohammed has declared that Nigeria is safe and there is no cause for alarm. The declaration came yesterday despite uncovering an alleged plot to disrupt the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for the second term on May 29.
He said world leaders, who will attend the maiden June 12 Democracy Day, have nothing to fear.
Mohammed, who made the declaration at a news conference in Abuja, said security agencies were on top of the recent security alarm.
He, however, emphasized that the presidential inauguration on May 29, would be a low-key event in order to save cost.
Muhammed said: “On the invitation of world presidents to the presidential inauguration, I said leaders will be invited instead to the observance of Democracy Day and that invitations have since been sent out.
“Nigeria is safe and sound for world leaders to attend the celebration. I will not tell you the measures taken for safety. I have no reason to doubt the credibility of the security alarm raised by security agencies. There is no cause for alarm as the security agencies are on top of the matter.”
According to him, the swearing-in of the President and the Vice President at the Eagle Square would be followed by a State Banquet at the State House.
Mohammed noted that the event marking the June 12 Democracy Day would start on June 7 with a historical exhibition in arts, pictures and immersive environment, and would run through June 12.
On the inauguration activities that began with yesterday’s news conference, the minister said: “This will be followed on Tuesday by the commencement of three-day national youth entrepreneurship empowerment summit in Abuja.
Tinubu visits Buhari in Mecca, cautions politicians
All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has urged political elite to refrain from statements that could heat up the polity. Speaking in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, where he met President Muhammadu Buhari over dinner, Asiwaju Tinubu appealed to the leaders to avoid inflammatory statements that could undermine peaceful co-existence among the nation’s diverse communities.
At the dinner with them were: the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar and Emir of Kazaure, Dr. Najib Hussaini Adamu.
Speaking after the Iftar (fast-breaking meal), the former Lagos governor urged all citizens to consider the enormity of challenges facing the nation and support the President.
According to him, President Buhari should be supported to succeed in the quest of solving the nation’s problems and stabilizing the polity.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, quoted Tinubu as saying: “The President worked hard and will continue to do so to ensure peace and stability in the country, which are important for the economy to make progress. These are the key pegs of his agenda. Let us all come together to support him.
The statement said that the APC leaders counseled Nigerians to disregard the provocative statements being made by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he was quoted as saying, “is reputed for ‘saucy and distractive statements’, Nigerians should not be angry with the opposition party, but assist them to overcome their ‘colossal defeat’ in the February 2019 elections.”
“Don’t blame them. They are handicapped by the traumatic feelings of the colossal loss of the election. You should help them to manage the trauma.”
Tinubu commended President Buhari for recognizing June 12 as Democracy Day.
EFCC investigating Okorocha
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has confirmed that it is investigating the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha. The anti-graft commission has also explained that it froze N5 billion funds belonging to the state government because Okorocha was spending too much money in a suspicious manner during the general election.
The Acting Chairman of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Ibrahim Magu confirmed the investigation of the governor by the EFCC in an interview with Channels Television. Asked if an investigation is ongoing regarding the governor, he responded, “definitely”.
“Of course, we are doing a couple of checks and investigations here and there. We are investigating almost everybody,” he said.
He said the commission has to get to a certain level before it can disclose any information about an ongoing investigation.
Magu explained that this was necessary to prevent any action that can jeopardize or interfere with the process of the inquiry.
He said though he was aware of reports of the investigation on the social media, the details the anti-graft agency has is different from what is in the public space.
The anti-graft czar granted the interview in the United Kingdom where he traveled to meet with investigators assisting the federal government in solving cases of money laundering and financial crimes.
Meanwhile, the anti-graft commission has also explained that it froze N5 billion funds belonging to the state government because Okorocha was spending too much money in a suspicious manner during the general election.
The EFCC further stated that N8 billion Paris Club loan refunded to the state for the payment of salaries was mismanaged by Okorocha.
The EFCC’s Zonal Head for South-east, Usman Imam, said this during a chat with journalists.
Imam said their timely intervention saved the state over N5 billion that would have been deployed in vote-buying by the Okorocha’s administration during the last elections.