At least 27 different parts of Ondo State will be receiving special security attention when voters file out today to elect the governor of the state for the next four years.
The 27 areas have been identified by the security agencies as flash points and it is expected that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will also give them due attention.
Security has already been beefed up in all boundary towns with the police pledging the safety of all stakeholders.
However, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of over 400 civil society organizations, cried out yesterday over what it called an invasion of the state by some governors.
The Chairman, Transition Monitoring Group, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said at a pre-election press briefing that the refusal of these governors to leave the state constituted a threat to the peaceful and credible conduct of the election.
The INEC debunked the allegation by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that it had appointed a townsman of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as the Chief Returning Officer for the election.
The commission said not only was the allegation untrue, it would not share its responsibility of appointing officials with anyone.
A highly placed INEC source said, ahead of the election, that more attention was being paid to security in order to protect the sanctity of the ballot.
“So far, security agencies did their assessment in Ondo and they have identified 27 flashpoints,” the source said.
Continuing, he said: “They named the affected places and the concerned local government areas.
“Since we have the intelligence at our disposal, we are taking to the advisory. We have also done our own risk assessment too.
“In terms of coverage, Ondo State has more wards than Edo State. We have 3,009 polling units in Ondo State, unlike Edo with 2,600 plus. Also, there are 192 wards in Edo compared with 203 in Ondo.
“Definitely, we need to deploy more resources and security personnel in Ondo. We are considering the intelligence at our disposal.
“We had a meeting with the Nigerian Navy on protection for electoral officers and the ballot process in coastal areas of the state. The Navy has promised to provide adequate escort on the sea to the remotest parts.
“In fact, there are some coastal towns and villages where officials will spend four hours on boat to get there. With the support of the Navy and other security agencies, these coastal areas were the first to get all the needed materials.
“The Army was simply superb in Edo State where they blocked all the entry points to the state. We are adopting the same strategy in Ondo for Saturday’s poll.”
Responding to a question, the source said INEC was expecting a peaceful poll.
The source added: “Historically, it has been politically volatile in Ondo State, but we are looking at another good outing. Overall, we hope it will be a peaceful poll.
“In 2016, there was tension in Ondo and we were worried. But a former National Commissioner said the threats were Shakara (mere hype).
“We didn’t believe but it came to pass. We are expecting that the same peaceful outlook will repeat itself.
“Like we did in 2016, INEC will ensure a free and fair poll. Since the election of ex-Governor Adebayo Adefarati in 1999, it was only the 2016 poll that was not challenged in court.”
The source said INEC would sustain its uploading of results at the polling unit to earn the confidence of voters.
“This uploading of results at the polling unit level was a test-run and it worked because voters were able to track the voting process and the outcome.
“INEC won’t compromise on the standard it has set in Edo. We will rather build on it.”
Also speaking on Friday ahead of the polls, Police Deputy Inspector General in charge of the election security, Leye Oyebade, said a robust mechanism was already in place to ensure the safety of all stakeholders.
He said tactical squads and experts had been deployed to crime map the state for adequate security planning.
Oyebade said the police, in collaboration with the Navy, had adequately secured the riverine areas of the state.
His words: “We have been able to put a robust mechanism on ground that is going to work; a mechanism that it is going to give us the desired result, which is safety.
“We have deployed to the riverine areas at least three per unit. We have deployed men to all the collation centres and given adequate protection to INEC officials, and materials in all the necessary areas that are meant to be covered.
“Our preparation has been ongoing before now behind the scene. We have been able to crime map the state and noted the threat analysis.