With about 24 hours to the Saturday off-season gubernatorial elections in Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo states, there is palpable tension and uncertainties across the three states with threats of violence and organised union’s activities feared to be capable of derailing the polls, Daily Trust reports.
But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it is working with all stakeholders for a hitch free exercise.
This is even as the Igala ethnic nationality group, Kogi East Elders Council (KEEC), has called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to declare a state of emergency in the state and postpone the election.
They made the call a few hours after the Inspector General of Police (IGP) stormed the state and launched an investigation into the killings recorded in the state earlier in the week.
Similarly, many passengers were left stranded on Thursday after the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) picketed the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos to ground all Owerri, Imo-State bound flights. This followed the reported brutalisation of the president of NLC, Joe Ajaero allegedly by agents loyal to the Imo State government.
And while some individuals have described the action of the organised labour as treasonable, especially in view of the labour union’s alleged move to frustrate the Saturday polls in Imo State, a legal luminary, Professor Auwalu Yadudu said while the actions of the organised labour could be described as inconsiderate and an overreach, it does not amount to treason.
Igala elders call for state of emergency, postponement of election
The KEEC, in a statement by its Secretary of Political Committee, Alphonsus K. Alhassan had urged President Tinubu to appoint an administrator to oversee the affairs of the state till normalcy is restored.
Also, the group demanded the redeployment of the State Commissioner of Police, Bethrand Onuoha, Director of DSS, Navy Commander NU Akalezi and Superintendent of Police Ojo out of Kogi State immediately, alleging that they have been compromised.
The Elders Council argued that a state of emergency is necessary to ensure that the upcoming election is free and fair.
“What we are seeing in Kogi State and Kogi East in particular leaves much to be desired. We cannot watch our people intimidated, harassed and slaughtered endlessly by anybody in the name of politics. We have had enough of this beastly behaviour”, they said.
Investigation on-going over Anyigba killings
Earlier, the IGP, Kayode Egbetokun during a Wednesday visit to the Government House in Lokoja, said investigation has been launched into Tuesday’s violent incident at Anyigba in Dekina Local Government Area of the state where many were reportedly killed, including one Inspector Samson Atabo.
Egbetokun, said the police authority was not happy with the pockets of pre-election violence already recorded in the state and that necessary precautions are being taken to prevent further violence before, during and after the election in the state.
“Although not conclusive, it seems to me like an operational error, but investigation will reveal what happened. I want to assure that police will be neutral and will do their job in the election”, he said of the killings that were reportedly carried out by police officers at the residence of the campaign director of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the state.
Protesting women barricade Bayelsa police headquarters, demand CP removal
In Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, hundreds of women yesterday barricaded the state’s police headquarters, demanding the redeployment of the Commissioner of Police, Tolani Alausa for alleged non-neutrality.
The protesting women who dressed in black attires, also called on President Tinubu, the IGP to ensure a non-violent November 11 election in the state, alleging that they have been threatened with violence in the state.
One of the protesters, Madam Alice Daniels, said, “All we are asking for is a violent free election in Bayelsa State. Is that a big thing to ask?”
Addressing the protesters, DIG in charge of Information and Communication Technology, Daniel Sokari Pedro promised that the election will be different from others marred by violence like 2015 and 2019.
Organised labour storms Force HQ, Abuja, Lagos airports
Daily Trust reports that early on Thursday in Abuja, protesting members of the organised labour led by President of the TUC, Festus Osifo and Deputy President of the NLC, Adewale Adeyanju, barricaded both major entry and exit of the airport, forcing many passengers to be stranded.
Our correspondent, who monitored the protest, reports that all the passengers going in and out of the airport trekked either to catch up with their flights or taxis outside the airport. The protest caused a heavy traffic gridlock on the airport road.
Osifo, who addressed the gathered crowd at the airport, said workers were at the airport to protest and disrupt flights going to Imo because “an injury to one is injury to all”.
“What is happening today is just the first step in a series of activities that will happen except the Nigerian government picks those people that perpetuated the evil on our president”.
At the Nigerian Police Headquarters, NLC General Secretary, Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja, went on to ask the IGP to fish out those responsible for the attack on the NLC president and make them face the wrath of the law.
Both NLC and TUC have scheduled to address the press today, Friday 10, to give further directive on the impending nationwide action starting from 14 November.
In Lagos, the organised labour gathered at the airport around 8:58am to enforce their directive to members working in the aviation sector to stop all flights to Owerri.
At the Domestic Wing of the Lagos airport, they stationed their members at the various counters billed to attend to Owerri bound passengers to stop any boarding activities.
At the terminal One and Two, Owerri flights that landed were barred from conducting return leg.
Daily Trust learnt that all flights going to Owerri from Lagos except one were barred.
The airline, it was learnt, took off as early as 6:30 before the arrival of the protesting workers.
A UK-bound passenger who was to travel to Lagos via Dana Air yesterday from Owerri had to reschedule her flight till tomorrow while taking the option of a road trip.
The travel agent, who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said, “Many of my clients have called me that their flights are not leaving. They said they wanted to know what was happening. There was one who was to travel to the UK today (Thursday), she had to reschedule her international flight till tomorrow (Friday).”
Some of the airlines operating to Owerri from Lagos and Abuja had to reschedule their flights till today over the blockage, Daily Trust reports.
Protest won’t hamper Saturday’s polls –INEC
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that Thursday’s blockage of the Abuja and Lagos airports would not affect the conduct of the Saturday’s governorship elections in the three states.
Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, told Daily Trust on Thursday that the elections will go on as scheduled in the three states.
“The NLC strike is not targeted at the governorship elections and is not expected to disrupt them. However, we urge the federal government and the NLC to resolve their differences amicably through dialogue as quickly as possible,” Oyekanmi said.
Oyekanmi said that all the non-sensitive and sensitive materials needed for the three elections on Saturday have already been delivered to the respective states.
“In fact, the sensitive materials for the elections are currently being disbursed in the premises of the respective Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) branches in the three states at this moment,’ Oyekanmi said.
Govt, labour must find peaceful resolution – Yadudu, Fage
Analysing the development, legal luminary, Professor Auwalu Yadudu and renowned political analyst, Professor Kamilu Sani Fage told Daily Trust in separate interviews that the federal government must find a way to resolve the impasse between the organised labour and the Imo State government.
Yadudu, who said while labour picketing the airports could not be termed as treasonable, disrupting flights activities and causing chaos is not within the purview envisaged by the law that permits labour to carry out industrial action, adding that this could be counterproductive to their cause.
On his part, Fage said the nature of off-season elections usually means it is very competitive and tense because of the concentration of resources, adding that it now becomes more challenging because the areas are already volatile.
He said while organised labour could be said to be politically inclined with recent actions, the major blame resides with the Imo State government with how it has acted overtime and its anti-labour activities, which has inflamed the situation.
Military raises alarm on fake soldiers
In a related development, the Military High Command, on Thursday declared that troops deployed for governorship elections in Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo States would inflict injuries on anybody that attempts to disrupt the exercise.
It specifically said it was aware of plans by some individuals to dress in military uniform to disrupt the electoral processes in the three states on Saturday during the gubernatorial elections.
Addressing journalists at Defence Headquarters, Abuja, the Director of Media Operations, Edward Buba, said the military was determined to give the elections the seriousness it deserved.
“We are aware of your plans to dress in military gear to mislead the public. Be assured of injurious consequences should you proceed with those plans. We will not allow our image to be dragged to the mud. You’re warned,” he said.