Presidential poll: Heavy security as tribunal decides Atiku, Obi’s petitions against Tinubu
•Police block entrance to Court of Appeal, warn politicians against violence
•Five justices decide Atiku, Obi’s petitions today, security agents patrol Abuja
There was heavy security deployment at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal and other flash points and dark spots in Abuja on Tuesday ahead of the delivery of the judgment on the election petitions challenging the election of President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday (today).
This was as the supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar, Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, and President Tinubu awaited the verdict with earnest expectations.
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Supporters of the petitioners have been exchanging brickbats online even as they expressed optimism that the ruling would favour their candidates.
In preparation for the judgment, scores of armed riot policemen, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and other security operatives in plainclothes were deployed at strategic locations in the Federal Capital Territory in a bid to prevent a breach of law and order that might arise after the judgment.
The judgment will be delivered by the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Haruna Tsammani, assisted by other members of the panel-Justices Stephen Adah, Monsurat Bolaji-Yusuf, Moses Ugo, and Abba Mohammed.
The proceedings will be held at the Court of Appeal, Three Arms zone, Abuja.
The Chief Registrar, Court of Appeal headquarters, Umar Bangari, had disclosed in a statement on Monday that the tribunal verdict will be delivered on Wednesday and aired live on television stations.
This, he noted, was to promote transparency and openness and for Nigerians to watch the proceeding.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had on March 1 declared Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress as the president-elect after polling 8.8 million to defeat the PDP standard bearer, Atiku, who scored 6.9 million, the LP candidate, Obi, who polled 6.1 million and 15 other candidates.
However, five of the 18 political parties that participated in the elections challenged the outcome of the polls.
Besides the PDP and the LP, other aggrieved parties included the Action Alliance, Action People’s Party, and the Allied Peoples Movement.
The major contenders-Atiku and Obi asked the tribunal to nullify the ex-Lagos governor’s victory in the February 25 presidential election.
Ahead of the proceedings, the authorities Monday carried out heavy deployments of security personnel across the FCT.
At about 6.50 pm, truckloads of policemen were brought to the Court of Appeal, and the police vehicles were used to barricade the court entrance while several policemen were also patrolling the city in vehicles.
A police team was seen taking instructions from their superiors shortly after they were brought to the court premises.
A court worker noted that in the memo sent to the staff informing them not to come to work on Wednesday, it was stated that there would be a heavy presence of security operatives around the court premises.
The official said, “Part of the reason workers were told not to come tomorrow (today) was that there would be a heavy presence of security operatives in strategic locations at the court premise.’’
Our correspondent gathered that lawyers and litigants may be frisked before entering the courtroom while access to the premises would be tightly controlled.
Scores of agents were seen at strategic locations in the Three Arms Zone, Julius Berger, Area One, Wuse, and other parts of the city.
Police patrol vehicles were also seen moving around along the Federal Secretariat, Muhammadu Buhari Way, and Ladoke Akintola Boulevard.
Meanwhile, all major roads leading to the Court of Appeal would be also barricaded by the police before the court proceedings commence, it was gathered.
A senior security source revealed that the acting Inspector-General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, had ordered all police commands and formations across the country to secure all major hotspots under their jurisdictions to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order.
It was further learnt that the police made both covert deployments of operatives and equipment across the nation, especially in Abuja and Lagos State.
The authorities were said to be concerned about a possible eruption of protests which may be instigated by disgruntled political elements.
“Everyone is concerned. The police, military, DSS, and others are concerned. There’s an ongoing strike, and the PEPT judgment is expected to be delivered tomorrow (Wednesday), which puts a lot of pressure on all security agencies.
“This is because some politicians and groups may want to use the opportunity to sponsor protests or cause violence if the PEPT judgment doesn’t favour them or their choice candidate,” a senior officer said.
In preparation for the possible aftermath of the judgment, the police said they had put in place all necessary deployments and security measures.
The force also disclosed that its officers and men were fully prepared to maintain order and enforce the laws while respecting the rights and freedoms of all citizens.
The Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumiyiwa Adejobi in a statement on Tuesday cautioned “mischief makers and political gladiators to be cautious in their actions and statements.”
The NPF further noted that it would not condone activities capable of inciting violence or causing a descent into anarchy, adding that all citizens must embrace peace and maintain calm, regardless of their political affiliations, to ensure a peaceful and secure environment.
Adejobi said, “In its bid to fortify security architecture and forestall any breakdown of law and order across the country as a result of the forthcoming Presidential Election Petition Tribunal Judgment scheduled to be passed on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, the Nigeria Police Force has strengthened its deployment across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
‘’The Police wish to reiterate the commitment to ensuring the safety of lives and property before, during, and after the judgment. The NPF has diligently emplaced all necessary deployments and security measures during this critical period as officers and men are fully prepared to maintain order and enforce laws while respecting the rights and freedoms of all citizens.
“Furthermore, the NPF strongly cautions all individuals, including mischief makers and political gladiators, to be cautious in their actions and statements as the Force will not condone activities capable of inciting violence or causing a descent into anarchy.
‘’ It is imperative for all citizens to embrace peace and maintain calm, regardless of their political affiliations, to ensure a peaceful and secure environment. The Nigeria Police Force is dedicated to its duty of protecting and serving the Nigerian people and is committed to carrying out these roles with professionalism, impartiality, and utmost dedication. Together, we can ensure a peaceful and secure environment for all during this period.”
An Atiku supporter, Reno Omokri, who served as the media aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, said no reasonable court would order another election.
“Nigeria spent over a billion dollars on the last election. There needs to be a very compelling reason to order a rerun for a court to make us spend another billion dollars. And Peter Obi has not provided even a scintilla of proof to invalidate the #NigerianElections2023,” he said on X via @renoomokri.
Obi supporters are hopeful of “reclaiming” the mandate.
@PO_GrassRootM tweeted, “Obi’s mandate will be recovered and Nigerians shall celebrate. H.E Peter Obi and Datti Baba-Ahmed will be victorious tomorrow They are unstoppable a new Nigeria is possible through them.
@orlharOpeyemi said, “Nothing shakes our own PBAT’’