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ALLEGATIONS OF PLANNED RIGGING TRAIL N'ASSEMBLY POLLS, OSHIOMHOLE KICKS

By NBF News
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ALLEGATIONS ranging from planned rigging to intimidation of opposition political parties in different parts of the country have continued to dog the rescheduled National Assembly election, prompting calls on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies to exhibit practical commitment to neutrality and conduct of credible polls.

In Edo State, Governor Adams Oshiomhole yesterday alleged that soldiers deployed to the state to check electoral fraud have been compromised and are now taking sides with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He condemned events happening in several parts of the state, particularly in Owan East and West where political thugs suspected to be loyal to the PDP and are wearing special hand bands were used to identify 41 Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) supporters who were arrested and ferried to Abuja as thugs.

According to Oshiomhole, those arrested and labelled thugs were taken from local restaurants and several other places in the area.

The governor who alleged that the PDP is using the Chief of Staff to the president, Chief Mike Ogiadomhe to harass ACN members, said the 41 persons arrested were first taken to the residence of Senator Yisa Braimoh where they were tortured before handing them over to the police. The governor said in Akoko-Edo Local Council, suspected PDP thugs were identified by the people and handed over to soldiers but they were left off the hook 'because they wore red or yellow arm bands.' Besides, the governor said ACN leaders and members 'have been whisked to Abuja with predictable regularity, as if Edo State has now been taken over by Abuja'.

At a press briefing yesterday evening, Oshiomhole also alleged that former Defence Minister, Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma has relocated to Edo State to ensure that his wife becomes a senator even if it is against the wish of the people. He called on President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure neutrality of the army in the electoral process.

He said those being used to harass the peopleĀ  'are the people they want to use to maim and to disrupt the election because there is an understanding that if they cannot win the election, it should be disrupted since INEC has said that once there is disruption, they will cancel the election. They have prepared their men to go out and cause maximum destruction. So if they cannot win, election should not take place.

'I wish to restate my concurrence with the need to deploy the Nigerian Army to help ensure free and fair elections. As you recall, before the election, I had welcome the decision to deploy the Nigeria Army to complement the Police in the general maintenance of law and order during the elections. I still trust that the army and the police can play a positive role and they should be discouraged from indulging in anything that can undermine the success of the exercise'.

In Benue, the ACN has accused the PDP of producing fake ballot papers for the elections, alleging that the fake ballot papers were used by the PDP last Saturday before INEC cancelled the polls.

At a press conference in Makurdi yesterday, the ACN Benue North East chairman, Vincent Uji particularly accused the Special Adviser to Governor Gabriel Suswam on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Solomon Wombo of withholding the original ballot papers meant for the botched elections and introducing fake ones for two wards in Katsina-Ala Local Council.

Wombo has however denied the allegation, saying there was no way he could have hijacked the ballot papers when they were heavily guarded by soldiers and mobile policemen.

Uji insisted the governor's aide is still in possession of the original House of Representatives ballot papers, urging INEC to retrieve same from him. He stated that the ACN has made presentation on the matter to the INEC National Headquarters, where it attached evidence of its allegations.

Reacting to the allegations, Wombo described them as baseless and aimed at tarnishing his image. He said there was no way he could have printed fake ballot papers when he had no knowledge of the nature of ballot papers that would be used by INEC for the elections. Wombo stated that he was not a man of violence and would not encourage the use of violent tactics during any elections.

The Suswam's aide advised the ACN to go out and campaign for votes, rather than making unfounded allegations against the PDP.

Wombo defended himself as the opposition party members in Enugu State claimed to have uncovered a plot by the PDP to compromise National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members deployed by INEC to serve as ad-hoc staff for the re-scheduled polls.

According to the opposition, the PDP through the state government has instructed the 17 local council chairmen to organise parties for the corps members at their various areas on the eve of the election.

The opposition also accused authorities of NYSC in the state of being privy to this plot to compromise the corps members at the parties, where monetary gestures would allegedly be extended to them.

But in a swift reaction yesterday, the State Director of NYSC, Nathaniel Okpongete denied the allegation, saying that there was no approval, either from his office or any other quarters, for corps members to attend any party.

The Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, Dr. Okey Eze, said he would not want to join issues with the opposition, stressing that the focus of the party at the moment is on how to win elections.

The spokesperson of the Peoples for Democratic Change (PDC), Igbonekwu Ogazimorah, alleged that the plot to bribe the corps members was aimed at swinging victory for the ruling PDP.

The PDC spokesman stated: 'We have reliably gathered that the state government has instructed the 17 local government chairmen to organise party for the corps members in their various local governments on the eve of the election.

'We also gathered that some monetary inducement would be made to the corps members after the party. We believe that this is a plot to compromise them and make them to frustrate the elections, especially in the opposition's strongholds. We condemn this plot in its entirety and wish to advise the corps members to desist from accepting any monetary inducement from any council chairman,' Ogazimorah said.

He called on INEC and the State Director, and the Director General of NYSC to investigate the alleged plot.

In Oyo State, it was allegation by ACN of plot by the ruling PDP led by Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala to buy ballot papers for the Saturday's election.

The party said already, Alao-Akala has earmarked N5billion to achieve this ambition.

But in a swift reaction, the Director of Publicity, Akala/Arapaja Campaign Organisation, Dr. Morounkola Thomas described the allegation as spurious and baseless, saying the ACN actually bribed voters with N1,000 in the last Saturday's election.

Former Governor Lam Adesina who raised the alarm at a media briefing at the zonal office of the ACN in Alakia called on the chairman of the INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega to prevail on all electoral officers not to sell ballot papers.

To actualise his aim, Adesina said the governor held a meeting with members of his kitchen cabinet where he allegedly directed the 33 caretaker council chairmen to bring out N100,000 for each polling unit.

The ACN leader accused the governor of wasting about N1.9 million for the botched National Assembly election last Saturday, saying he has since jerked the money to N5 billion in his desperate bid to have his way in the polls.

Adesina warned of imminent crisis in the state should the PDP-led government make any move to rig the Saturday polls.

To avert crisis, the former governor insisted that there must be proper accreditation at polling units while the mutilated voters' register should be corrected with the manual register also on hand.

He also demanded the immediate withdrawal of all PDP supporters who allegedly replaced the corps members used for the election.

Thomas in his reaction alleged that the ACN brought in a lot of money from Lagos and Osun states where they are in power to bribe voters in the botched National Assembly elections.

'They did not only buy voters' cards and votes, they also compromised electoral and security officers. They also brought in thugs and mercenaries from Lagos State. The PDP does not have N5 billion; we do not use public money for our own political project. The violence unleashed on residents last Saturday was unimaginable, coming from a party that prides itself as progressive,' he said.