There was palpable fear in Port Harcourt on Thursday as armed policemen besieged the Rivers State office of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The security agents had blocked the only lane leading to the INEC office on the ever busy Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway and stopping motorist from using the particular lane.
Motorists and passersby were worried about the heavy presence of the policemen, especially after a group of All Progressives Congress members, including its governorship candidate in the 2015 general election in the state, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, were tear-gassed at the INEC headquarters in Abuja.
About six different security vehicles with sophisticated security devices were stationed at the front and sides of the INEC office
An official of INEC in the state, who spoke with our correspondent on the basis of anonymity, said the heavy presence of policemen was in order to ensure maximum security and forestall any breakdown of law and order.
It was also gathered that three administrative secretaries were at the state INEC office to aid the commission in ensuring that the collection of Certified True Copies of documents by both the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress was achieved to enable the parties to prosecute their case at the tribunal.
Speaking shortly after the meeting inside INEC office, the Deputy Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, said he was at the commission to ensure that the CTCs used during the 2015 election were collected and sent to his party’s lawyers.
Nwanosike, who said he was an agent of the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, explained that the exercise became necessary based on petitions and protest by the state APC, adding that the state PDP would follow the rule of law.
“Few weeks ago, APC wrote a petition via the former governor of Rivers State to the Director of DSS that led to the arrest of all the principal of INEC, including the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Gesila Khan. The same APC Rivers State that wrote the petition has turned around and told the world that INEC has refused to give them the documents.
“The world is seeing clearly that all actions today has led the national INEC to send three administrative secretaries from Bayelsa, Cross River and Ebonyi States as task force committee to come and see that in seven days’ time that the certified true copies be given to both political parties.
“You can see the heavy presence of security personnel here. We have just risen from a meeting where we were being instructed on the modalities in which the current certified true copies of documents would be collected,” he said.
Reacting to the heavy presence of security agents at the INEC officer, the State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ahmad Mohammad, told The PUNCH that the deployment of police was aimed at forestalling a repeat of Wednesday’s incident in Abuja incident where teargas was used to restore calm.
“I believe you are aware of what happened at the INEC Headquaters in Abuja yesterday (Wednesday). The heavy presence of police at the state INEC office means that we are only being proactive to prevent any untoward development,” Mohammad stressed.