There was tension yesterday in Abuja following the insistence of All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders to march on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in protest against its plan to have a supplementary election in Anambra State.
Soldiers were drafted to the INEC headquarters in Maitama District as part of a heavy security build-up to stop the march.
Some INEC officials met with security agencies yesterday. Details of their talks were unknown.
But there were fears that the march might be used to call for the removal of the INEC chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega.
The APC had written the FCT Police Command for protection during the march.
But the police turned down the request.
Soldiers have been deployed at various entry points leading to INEC and the gate.
A source spoke of how: “security agencies had been meeting in the last 48 hours on APC’s request and they have aligned with the decision of the FCT Police Command because of the likelihood of hoodlums hijacking the protest march.
“With recent security challenges at the nation’s capital, we may not be able to permit such a march,” the source said, adding: “I think some security chiefs might relate with APC chiefs for their understanding.”
INEC is said to be treating the march as “purely a security issue”. “It is true that soldiers had been deployed in as part of security measures. We cannot ask security agencies not to do their job,” a source said.
In a statement last night by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the APC vowed to proceed with the march, despite the “illegal” move by the police to stop it.
The statement said: ‘’We are doing this as a patriotic service to the nation because INEC as presently constituted is not capable of organising a free and fair election again in Nigeria. If the Commission is not checked, its incompetence and conniving acts could plunge the country into chaos of unimaginable proportions.”
APC explained that ahead of the march, it wrote a letter to the FCT Police Command to inform it of the planned procession and to request for escort to forestall a possible hijacking of the march by hoodlums.
It added: ‘’To our dismay, however, the FCT Police Commissioner did not only turn down our request for police escort, but also cheekily advised us to restrict our activity to holding a press conference within our party headquarters to convey our grievances to INEC .
‘’We reject this very patronising directive from the partisan FCT Police Command and hereby states that in exercise of our constitutional rights, the leadership of the APC will go ahead with its planned peaceful procession on Thursday, the 28th of November, to express our dissatisfaction with the corruption-ridden INEC and to pass a vote of no confidence on the Commission.
‘’When we wrote this letter, we were quite aware of the ruling of the Appeal Court affirming the decision of Justice Chinyere of the Abuja Federal High Court the in the case of All Nigeria Peoples Party v Inspector General of Police (2006) CHR 181 which said, inter alia: ‘If
as speculated by law enforcement agents that breach of the peace would occur, our Criminal Code has made adequate provisions for sanctions against breakdown of law and under so that the requirement of a permit as a conditionality to holding meetings and rallies can no longer be justified in a democratic society.’
‘’Being mindful of the position of the law on this issue, but as a law abiding and a patriotic political party, we nonetheless in our said letter asked the police to provide us with escort during the procession, in line with international best practices. That the police turned down this request speaks volumes about its disdain for the rule of law.
‘’We will not be deterred by the blatantly-partisan police, who have missed another great opportunity to affirm their neutrality and respect for the rule of law. We will use this march to prove the point that we shall not condone a police command, however partisan or corrupt, abridging our constitutional rights.”
Source: The Nation