Facts emerged yesterday on why the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reversed its earlier decision not to postpone today’s scheduled governorship election in Edo State. The commission had announced that it was going ahead with the election despite advice by the Department of State Service (DSS) and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to shift the poll due to alleged security threats.
The police and the DSS at a joint press briefing on Wednesday noted that: “Credible intelligence available to the agencies indicate plans by insurgent and extremist elements to attack vulnerable communities and soft targets with high population during the forthcoming Sallah celebrations between September 12 and 13. The state is amongst the states being earmarked for these planned attacks by the extremist elements.”
The statement was signed by Don Awunah, for the police, and Garba Abdullahi, for the DSS. But INEC said it would not be “teleguided”, adding that the cost of demobilising, after reaching at least 97 per cent readiness level, will be immense.
The commission’s National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity (VEP), Solomon Soyebi, assured Nigerians that INEC: “Would not do anything that would mortgage Nigeria’s democracy.”
But less than three hours after the statement, INEC reversed itself and said the election would no longer hold. Soyebi who said the commission had been officially communicated by police and the DSS, added that: “the commission notes the request of the security agencies and, considering the security implications of proceeding with the election, the safety of eligible voters, electoral officials, including ad hoc staff, and other stakeholders, has decided to reschedule the Edo governorship election to Wednesday, September 28, 2016.”
Investigations, however, revealed that INEC was practically coerced to shift the poll. According to a source, the DSS and police were not happy with the decision by the commission to go ahead with the election despite the security advice. The INEC source alleged that there was a plan to sabotage and punish INEC for “its stubbornness.” “There is no security to escort (ad hoc staff and electoral materials) simply because they are unavailable… At the moment, it is no longer feasible to deploy and conduct the election.
“NYSC has advised us that many parents called to withdraw their children from the election duty. Since they form the bulk of the election duty personnel, their withdrawal is a major challenge.” The source added that INEC reasoned that it does not have enough personnel to conduct the election if corps members pulled out.
“And you know if there are no security personnel, the incidents of ballot box snatching will be high. We foresaw a situation where violence would characterise the election, and that is what we don’t want.
“These are the reasons why we postponed the election, otherwise, just like the commissioner said, we were ready to go ahead and conduct the election,” the source stated. Another source added that security agencies saw the decision by INEC to go ahead with the election despite the advice, as a slight.
“Last year, elections were postponed based on security reasons, so why not this time?” the source queried. When reminded that the concern was only for about two or three states in the North East that were under the control of Boko Haram, the source said intelligent report showed that Edo State is one of the states being targeted for attack. “We didn’t want to take chances. There had been reports of political thugs being ‘imported’ from other states,” he said.