By NBF News
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A courtesy visit by the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Niger State, Mr. Emmanuel Onucheyo, to Governor Babangida Aliyu, has raised doubts on the Independent National Electoral Commission's promises to conduct free and fair elections in the state in 2011.

Controversial visit formed part of major issues of concern raised by party, chieftains at a stakeholders' meeting organised on Tuesday by the commissioner at the UK Bello Arts Theatre in Minna.

The meeting, which was convened to sensitise stakeholders ahead of the scheduled voter registration exercise, became an avenue for opposition parties to put the REC on the spot concerning his parley with the governor.

Trouble started during the interactive portion of the meeting when the former governorship candidate of the All Nigerian Peoples Party, Mr. David Umaru, faulted the reported visit of the REC to the governor.

He expressed doubt that since the REC chose to visit only the governor in a meeting attended solely by members of the Peoples Democratic Party at the Government House, other contenders might not have a fair deal in the poll.

Umaru also subtly criticised the governor's public declaration of the birthday of the REC before the stakeholders, claiming that it had sent wrong signals to opposition parties.

Aliyu had earlier in his speech announced the birthday of the REC and called on the stakeholders to congratulate him.

But Umaru said, 'We read in the papers that you paid a courtesy call to the Government House in a meeting attended by the chairman of the PDP without representatives of the opposition parties. And the governor is here announcing your birthday to all of us.

'How will you assure those of us that you have not visited that you will conduct a free and fair election?'

Following the question, a mild drama ensued in the hall as Onucheyo responded to all questions but dodged the aspect that had to do with his controversial visit.

Onucheyo however, allayed the fears of the politicians and reiterated the commission's promise to conduct credible elections.

Observing the difficulties of the REC, the governor immediately intervened and explained that as the chief security officer of the state, the visit was in line with protocol.

He said, 'I am the chief security officer of Niger State and anybody coming to the state has the right to visit me.'