Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers says he has received assurances from heads of security agencies in the state that adequate measures are in place to ensure a peaceful local council poll.
A media aide to the governor, Mr Simeon Nwakaudu, in a statement on Thursday quoted Wike as saying that government would “hold the security agencies professionally accountable should insecurity be experienced in the state in the course of the election.’’
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that there are 23 local government areas, 319 electoral wards and 4,442 polling units in Rivers.
The governor also urged community leaders and members of the public to be alert and report suspicious characters and movements in their neighbourhoods to law enforcement agencies.
“Also, the security agencies have definite instructions to strictly enforce the restrictions on human and vehicular movement on election day and arrest any person or group of persons that violate this order.
“All those who have no official business with conducting the election should therefore stay away from the polling units after casting their votes or risk arrest and prosecution,’’ he said.
According to the governor, there is no legal instrument stopping the conduct of Saturday’s election in the state.
“As things stand now, we have no other choice but to conduct the local government election and allow democracy to settle and thrive once again at the grassroots and drive the development of our communities.
“I can confirm to you that the election will take place as scheduled in all the 4,442 units, 319 wards and 23 local government areas of the state as there is no legal obstacle significant enough to warrant otherwise.
“Let me therefore appeal to all registered voters to turn out in their numbers to vote for the candidates of their choice.
“This is a civic responsibility you must exercise in order to rekindle the touch of democracy, good governance and accountability in the local government system.
“I am very pleased with the information that 67 out of the 68 registered political parties have fielded candidates for the election and are therefore participating,’’ Wike said.
He expressed happiness with the assurances by the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RVSIEC) that it would conduct free, fair and credible election on Saturday.
“For us, this is an irreducible minimum and we demand nothing less as government will hold the commission strictly accountable for any act or omission that compromise the integrity of both the process and the election,’’ Wike said.
In a broadcast to the people of the state, the governor had given reasons for the delay in the conduct of the election.
“After three years of legal vacillation, it is now clear that the subject matter or fundamental interest of the claimants in that case has practically been wasted by effluxion of time.
“ And whatever remedies derivable by the parties, if any, can only be nominal.
“While the legal challenge continues, the people of Rivers State are denied their rights to freely elect officers to run the councils democratically.
“However, as things stand now, we have no other choice but to conduct the local government election and allow democracy to settle and thrive once again at the grassroots and drive the development of our communities,’’ he said. (NAN)