There was palpable tension and tight security in Ekiti State on Friday as security operatives embarked on patrol of major streets and feeder roads ahead of today’s governorship election.
Our correspondents, who moved round some parts of the state, observed that military personnel mounted checkpoints in all the roads leading to the state.
There was also heavy presence of soldiers, policemen and operatives of the State Security Service especially in Ado Ekiti, the state capital.
Security checkpoints mounted especially by the soldiers caused traffic snarls as motorists queued for sometime before they were asked to come down while their vehicle boots were properly checked.
Commercial buses and taxis did not experience scrutiny like private cars especially those with Lagos State and Abuja number plates.
Patrol vans moving in convoys were seen blaring siren and combing the streets.
The Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese, Rt. Revd. Felix Ajakaye, in a statement, decried the heavy presence of security personnel for the election, saying the number was too high.
Ajakaye said since Ekiti State was not in a state of war, there was no need for the deployment of a large number of security men.
He said the presence of security operatives could intimidate an average law-abiding citizen and prevent them from coming out to exercise their franchise.
Ajakaye said, “I urge the National Assembly and sincere and peaceful Nigerians to rise up, act and save our beloved country, Nigeria, from moving towards the precipice.
“We must wake up from our slumber. A ‘siddon’ look attitude will destroy our common heritage, Nigeria belongs to us. It is our country and we must not mortgage it.
“Indeed, to have such a huge number of security agents in a peaceful state is an invasion. The security agents are prowling round the state, and oftentimes, blaring their siren unnecessarily.
“Really, seeing the menacingly-looking gun–carrying soldiers, policemen and State Security Service agents alone is intimidating and it is a show of raw power.
“The question is why this massive deployment in one state when Nigeria is faced with Boko Haram insurgency? Honestly, I am sad and worried that this is happening at the same time our over 200 cherished children (girls) from Chibok in Borno State are still with Boko Haram insurgents since their abduction in their school on Monday, April 14, 2014.”
The bishop, however, urged the people of the state not to mind the presence of the security personnel and cast their votes.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, which is a platform for civil society groups, has appealed to the security agencies to ensure that the conduct of their men do not put fear into the minds of the electorate.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, one of the leaders of the group, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, said the group had deployed election monitors in all the 16 local government areas of Ekiti.
Some civil society groups which formed the NCSSR are: Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, CLEEN Foundation, Election Monitor, Development Dynamics, WANGONET, Action Aid Nigeria and others.
Nwankwo said they were going to observe the conduct of the Independent National Electoral Commission, security agencies, politicians and other stakeholders to see how they would comply with the Electoral Law.
Aside the multiple roadblocks mounted by different formations of the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police, helicopters were seen hovering around the state, especially Ado-Ekiti, the state capital.
A helicopter belonging to the police marked 5N ANS flew over the city for several hours on Friday.
Also, pick-up vans, lorries, buses and cars belonging to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and numbering about 30, were seen moving from the University of Ado-Ekiti end of the state capital towards Adekunle Fajuyi junctions.
Most of the NSCDC vehicles had officers wielding assault rifles.
Soldiers around the old Governor’s Office had shot into the air several times on Wednesday night to register their presence.
Major hotels, parks, junctions and roundabouts were manned by security operatives.
It was learnt from a hotelier, who pleaded anonymity, that security agents were also lodged in hotels “for security reasons.”
He said details of guests were to be taken and monitored, while security agents had been deployed in hotels where they would act as guests.
Meanwhile, residents of Ekiti State stormed markets on Thursday and Friday to buy foodstuffs against the governorship election on Saturday.
When Saturday Punchvisited two popular markets in the state, Oja-Oba and Oja Bisi, on Thursday evening, there was a mammoth crowd.
Most visible were women of various ages and they told our correspondent that because there was no movement during the election period, it was wise to buy foodstuffs before Saturday.
Among the food items mostly bought were rice, garri, yam, tomatoes, pepper, fish and meat. It was gathered that some traders seized the opportunity to increase the prices of their items.
At Oja-Oba located around Ewi Palace in Ado Ekiti, a woman simply identified as Iya Bola, told our correspondent that she specifically came to the market because she wanted to stock her house against the election.
She said, “I need to stock my house because from the look of things, everywhere would be filled up on Friday. I need to buy garri and ingredients for soup especially.”
Another lady, Sade Ajisafe, a student of Ekiti State University told Saturday Punch that her mother sent her to the market to stock the house with food items against the elections.
The scenario was not too different at Oja Bisi situated at Post Office also in Ado Ekiti. Women in various party branded shirts were seen bargaining for various food items.
It was evident that they were coming from different political rallies. A woman, who stated her name simply as Alhaja, said that she was just coming from a political rally organised by the All Progressives Congress.
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has called on voters to be vigilant as they go to the polls on Saturday to cast their ballots in the governorship election.
Fayemi in a state broadcast to the people of the state on Friday urged them to accord security agencies and other relevant authorities full cooperation to make the election a success.