The national leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission expressed shock on Wednesday when it got report that the Department of State Services and the Nigerian Police Force had called for the postponement of the governorship election in Edo State.
The election is scheduled to hold on Saturday.
The NPF and the DSS had earlier on Wednesday in Abuja, called on the commission to postpone the election.
They said the call was as a result of alleged threat by those they referred to as insurgents and extremists to cause mayhem in the country between September 12 and 13.
Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Don Awunah, and Garba Abdullahi of the DSS, stated this at a media briefing in Abuja.
Awunah, who read a prepared statement which was jointly signed by himself and Abdullahi, said the power to shift the election resided in the commission.
The statement added, “The Nigeria Police and Department of State Services wish to inform the general public that credible intelligence available to the agencies indicate plans by insurgents/extremist elements to attack vulnerable communities and soft targets with high population during the forthcoming Sallah celebrations between September 12 and 13, 2016.
“Edo State is amongst the states being earmarked for these planned attacks by the extremist elements.
“The public will recall that similar threats were issued during the May Labour Day and Democracy Day celebrations as well as the Ed-el-Fitr holidays in July, 2016.
“However, the security agencies were able to decisively disrupt and thwart the insurgents’ plans.
“In the same vein, while election is important, the security agencies cannot allow the peace of the country to be disrupted, and we will continue to remain vigilant and ensure the consolidation of the successes gained in the current counter-insurgency fight.
“It is in regard of this, that we are appealing to INEC, which has the legal duty to regulate elections in the country, to consider the need for possible postponement of the date of the election in Edo State in order to enable security agencies to deal decisively with the envisaged terrorists’ threats.”
Awunah added that while the Police/DSS were mindful of the inconveniences this request might cause the various political stakeholders, he said the agencies believed that security agencies needed not be distracted from ensuring a peaceful and secure Nigeria now and always.
All efforts made by journalists at the short briefing to ensure that Awunah and Abdullahi elaborate on the development were rebuffed.
When the briefing was ongoing, the national leadership of the commission was attending a Stakeholders’ Forum in Edo State.
The meeting, which was presided over by the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, was also attended by representatives of all security agencies, including that of the Police and the DSS.
An official of the commission, who was at the meeting in Benin, said INEC was not aware of the advice coming from the police and the DSS.
In a text message to one of our correspondents, the source said, “That is news! But we are at a Stakeholders’ Forum now at which the Police and DSS are represented at the highest level.”
It was learnt that at least, four national commissioners were already in the state for the conduct of the election.
INEC’ll meet security agencies –Yakubu
But INEC said it would meet with the NPF and the DSS to decide if it would go ahead with Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State.
The National Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, said this during a meeting with political parties and other relevant stakeholders in Benin, the state capital, on Wednesday.
Some of the stakeholders, who spoke during the meeting with the INEC chairman, were divided over the call for the postponement of the poll.
Yakubu explained that though the electoral umpire was set for the election, having prepared for the poll in the last six months, the concern raised by the security agencies was one that would not allow the commission to take a definitive decision.
The INEC chairman added, “I said when we met earlier today (Wednesday) that out of the 14 activities outlined for the conduct of the Edo election, based on the calendar and schedule of activities, we successfully concluded 12 of the activities.
“Only two are outstanding – end of campaign, which is scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday), and then, the election, scheduled for Saturday. As far as the commission is concerned, we have taken every step necessary for the success of Edo election on September 10.
“But towards the end of the meeting, the news broke that the security agencies are advising the commission to consider postponing the election because of the credible evidence of threat available to the security agencies.
“The commission will return and take a decision and this will be communicated. We have consulted with you just as we need to consult with the security agencies to find out more and then, take a decision thereafter.
“Whatever the case, the commission will take a decision swiftly and communicate it to the Nigerian public.”
It was learnt that the commission would announce its position on the election on Thursday (today).
Election must go ahead, says PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party has, however, expressed surprise at the call for the postponement of the election by the DSS and the police.
It demanded that the election must hold as scheduled.
The party said it was taken aback by the “advice” by the security agencies, especially coming a day after President Muhammadu Buhari attended a mega rally of his party, the All Progressives Congress, in Benin City, which it said was concluded without any hitch.
A statement by the spokesperson for the National Caretaker Committee of the party, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, described the action of the DSS and the police as funny going by the fact that the commission conducted a by-election in war-torn Borno State.
Adeyeye said, “It is therefore lamentable to hear from these same security agencies that election cannot be held in a state where, in less than 24 hours, the President and all the APC leaders and members had an uninterrupted rally.
“We are equally counting on INEC not to succumb to this false alarm by acting independently and holding the election as scheduled.
“We hope that this advice from the security agencies is not in concert with the APC, having seen the indices of losing the Edo State governorship election to the PDP.”
Before the call for the postponement, Dazang had told The PUNCH that the commission was seriously working to make sure that the election was successful.
He explained that the commission was aware that the two leading candidates in the Saturday election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the PDP and Godwin Obaseki of the APC, are from the Orhionmwon Local Government Area.
He said because of this, the commission had requested that more security personnel be deployed in the area and the entire Benin City.
Dazang said, “The contest will be fierce there and Benin City.
“We are also aware that the state is one of the states in the Niger Delta which is prone to violence. There are also six local governments in the state, which are in the riverside.
“We are working with the marine police to secure these six local government areas.”
TMG says call for postponement suspicious, late
On its part, the Chairperson of the Transition Monitoring Group, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the call for the postponement of the election was suspicious.
She stated, “The advice by the DSS to postpone the Edo 2016 election is suspect and one must be quick to say that it is coming rather late, especially because the election will take place in less than 72 hours.
“One would have expected that such advice would have been issued earlier. Such announcement, close to election, could also trigger apathy by voters and capable of building tension in the state, which can lead to electoral violence, which they are supposedly trying to prevent.”
CD backs call for shift
The President, Campaign for Democracy, Usman Bako, called for caution on the call to postpone the election by security agencies.