As part of its preparations towards a peaceful election in Ondo State on October 10, the Independent National Electoral Commission says it has enlisted the help of the military, police and other security agencies to flush out threats to the peaceful conduct of the exercise, especially in the creeks and other black spots in the state.
The commission noted that there were 62 creeks and more than 270 Polling Units in the riverine areas of Ese-Odo and Ilaje Local Government Areas of the state.
INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said in an interview on Friday that the commission was in touch with the Nigerian Navy and Marine Police to protect and escort the commission’s personnel and materials to the difficult terrains.
He added that the commission would leave no stone unturned to prevent rigging and violence in the election.
In previous elections in the state, the riverine communities had often been identified as flashpoints, given the peculiarity of the terrain as security agents often encountered difficulties in navigating the terrain.
But in a bid to ensure a peaceful exercise in the flashpoints, Okoye said, “The police, Navy and other security agencies have been mandated to engage in clearance operation and flush out groups and individuals that threaten the peace of the state and the electoral process especially in the creeks and other black spots.
“More than 270 of our Polling Units are in the riverine areas of Ese-Odo and Ilaje Local Governments, with over 62 creeks, and we are in touch with the Nigerian Navy and the Marine Police for the purpose of protecting and escorting our personnel and materials to these difficult terrains.
“The security agencies will carry out mop up operations, deploy adequate platforms and conduct massive show of force especially in identified flashpoints. We will continue to appeal to the political parties and the candidates to eschew violence.”
Meanwhile, Saturday PUNCH gathered that each polling unit is usually manned by between four and five election officers. Thus, given that there are no fewer than 270 polling units in the riverine areas out of the 3,009 in the state, the number of staff in the area would be about 1,080.
Okoye added, “Section 29(3) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) gives the commission the power to request the assistance of any section of the Armed Forces for the delivery and protection of its staff and materials during elections.
“We shall therefore request for the assistance of the Navy for escort in the riverine areas, and the Army will block the entrance and exit out of Ondo State on election day.”