Following reports that accredited INEC officials were restricted and stopped by some soldiers from conducting their lawful duties in parts of Edo North, Governor Adams Oshiomhole said the report is shocking as electoral officials should not be restricted on their own day.
The Governor who noted that the soldiers must have got an illegal order from their Commander said, “yesterday (Friday) I addressed the Press and I did say that Brigadier Odidi has chosen to frustrate this exercise in Edo North. Ironically, Brigadier Odidi is from Agenebode and he is the one who is giving this unlawful order.”
INEC officials who were taking election materials to Ward 10, Unit 1 in Iyamho, Etsako West Local Government Area were stopped by soldiers who had laid siege to the home town of Governor Adams Oshiomhole. The INEC officials told reporters that were forced to sit on the ground, alongside their police escort for several hours.
They were later allowed to leave after they got calls from their superiors. The soldiers said they were acting on strict orders from above.
Even journalists were not spared the soldiers’ ordeal as the INEC accreditation cards and reflective jackets were ignored while each reporter was asked to produce their company ID cards. The soldiers said the reporters were not permitted to monitor the exercise from one unit to another as they were only allowed to monitor a particular unit.
Miffed by the restriction of INEC officials, Oshiomhole continued, “Why the Nigerian Army will be used in this manner, only God knows. So I am surprised that they are restricting INEC Officers from distributing materials.
I have told the Brigade Commander and I am waiting to see what he is going to do but when you bear in mind that time is if the essence, if we finally go and beg the General to please allow democracy, time is gone.
First there is no light across the country so we are going to have everywhere in the dark. Under such situation, nobody knows what happens but I refuse to be frustrated and I appeal to our people not to be frustrated, we will sort things out.
“It is clear they have serious problem taking off. As you can see I am here and they say the card reader is not well programmed, it is not functioning and I got report from my Ward Headquarters that there are materials that are there and apparently the returning officers are trapped there because the soldiers wouldn’t let them cross their barricade. From Apana the Ward Headquarters to this place, my voting centre takes about 10 minutes because of the good roads we have done.”
The Governor maintained, “I have complained to the soldiers here. I have also called the Brigade Commander to draw his attention to it. This one is completely incomprehensible because I do not know what the briefing of the Army is but what Professor Jega said is that in the event of a machine not working, they have spare to use and they have officers who would put them to work.
“Now if the Army is blocking INEC officials from moving, this is a new dimension that we have not heard of before and I thought the business of the Army is basically to check people who are carrying offensive weapons, I do not know if card reader is now an offensive weapon. I have complained to the Brigade Commander, Major General Olaleye and you have also heard me mentioning it to the Electoral Officer (E.O).
“My appeal; our people have a proverb that when you know that enemies are surrounding you, you do not go and rub yourself with an inflammable chemical such that when they just push you a little bit and you sit near fire, you get roasted.