Thousands of security operatives, including soldiers, riot and regular policemen as well as men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) yesterday embarked on a show of force ahead of Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State.
Security agencies yesterday carried out a joint exercise tagged “Operation Show of Force” along major roads in the state capital ahead of the election. The move was apparently to alert residents of the heavy presence of security personnel and demonstrate their readiness for the crucial poll.
At least, 70 patrol vehicles loaded with heavily armed personnel from various security agencies paraded strategic roads and streets in Benin City. Agencies that participated in the exercise include the Nigerian Army, Police Mobile Force, Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Customs Service and the Department of State Services (DSS). Others were the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigerian Air Force, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Nigerian Correctional Service, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). The state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Chidi Nwabuzor, told newsmen that the inter-agency commitment was to ensure free, fair, credible and peaceful election.
He urged voters to come out en masse on Saturday and vote for the candidate of their choice, assuring that their lives and property would be protected. Though the show of force stirred fear among some residents, some members of the contending political parties in the state were seen in groups carrying out last minute campaigns to sensitize the electorate ahead of the Saturday poll. This came as a detachment of security operatives also took over the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) located on Akpakpava road in Benin, the state capital, causing hours of gridlock at the Ring Road, the City Centre and adjoining roads within the town. Other areas affected included the Airport Road, Sakponba Road, Sapele Road, Plymouth Road and others.
The operatives were detailed to the CBN office for security purposes as officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday began the distribution of some sensitive materials meant for the poll. A police armoured personnel carrier (APC) was stationed in front of the CBN entrance gate while only accredited newsmen were allowed into the premises to witness the movement of sensitive materials. Addressing reporters at the CBN premises, the Head of Voter Education and Publicity, INEC, Edo State, Mr. Timidi Wariowei, said the distribution of materials commenced with the farthest local government areas. Wariowei said: “So far, we have loaded about 11 local governments.
We started from Akoko-Edo, Etsako Central, Owan East and Owan West, among others. “Some have gone and others are completely loaded and are sorting out their security escort and very soon materials will move to all the local governments. “From the local government, the materials will move to Registration Area Centres (RACs) and from the RACs they will move to the polling units and voting points on Saturday morning. “As you can see, we are fully ready for the election. This is the highpoint of our preparation, that is moving the materials from the CBN to local government areas.”
New Telegraph gathered that the materials arrived at the CBN office on Wednesday and they were inspected by Wariowei and party chieftains. It was also learnt that the commission included the braille ballot guide for persons with disabilities, especially, the visually impaired persons.