Military must not be involved in handling election materials – Gov. Dickson

Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Seriake Dickson, yesterday maintained that elections remained a purely civilian affair, insisting that the involvement of the military must be restricted.

This is as the police in Bayelsa have placed a 36-hour curfew on the state’s waterways to ensure safety during today’s general elections.

Dickson said that it was important for the people to recognise that as a civilian operation, the police and civil forces must play their assigned responsibility while the military operate from the outer corridor.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media Relations, Fidelis Soriwei, Dickson explained that the military could be assigned the responsibility of escorting sensitive electoral materials because of the terrain, but were neither to handle electoral materials nor intimidate voters.

“Our people should know that by the laws of this country, the duty of the military is to be at the outer corridor. Election is a civil operation, with the police and other civil forces playing their constitutional roles.

“However, the military because of our terrain are given support services to escort materials. They are not to handle any material, they are not to intimidate anybody,” he added.

The governor also directed traditional rulers and the CDC chairmen to extract binding undertakings from  party candidates and their parties during meetings designed to ensure the prevalence of peace in communities across the state.

Governor Dickson stressed that the state would not allow the influx of strange faces brought in as political thugs to foment crisis during the election.

While a 36-hour curfew emplaced on waterways is on, a 6a.m. to 6p.m. restriction of movement will  be enforced on land, a statement by the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr.  Asinim Butswat said yesterday.

Subsequently, the state police command urged all politicians to abide by the peace accord they signed earlier, noting that anything to the contrary would be stiffly resisted.

“The Bayelsa State Police Command wishes to inform the general public and well-meaning individuals in the state, that the command has beefed up security with enhanced visibility of patrol vehicles and men, as well as intensive surveillance in all nooks and crannies of the state.

“All political parties and their candidates are hereby warned to desist from any act capable of disrupting the elections. They are advised to abide by the peace accord they had earlier signed and comply with the electoral laws.

“Security agencies are directed to enforce restrictions of movement of boats and all rivercraft activities in the state waterways, from 7p.m. of Friday 22th February to 6a.m. Sunday 24th February 2019.

“Likewise, movement of motor vehicles, motorcycles and tricycles will be restricted on Saturday 23rd February 2019, from 6a.m. to 6p.m. Only those on essential duties will be allowed to move,” the Bayelsa Police Command said.

Still on today’s polls, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Bayelsa State said yesterday that they had distributed all sensitive materials for the presidential and National Assembly elections to the Registration Area Centres (RACs) in the  eight local government areas of the state.

Head,  INEC‘s  Voters Education and Publicity, Mr. Wilfred Ifogah, told journalists that the commission was fully ready for the polls.

He said: “Movement of non-sensitive materials and sensitive materials to area offices of INEC in the state  has been done; we started with non-sensitive ones on Wednesday and it continued until Thursday.

“For the riverine areas, it was on hold because of the terrain, so,  today which is Friday, a day before elections, the distributions of sensitive materials to the coastal communities have been completed.

“INEC is good to go, the security men are ready and we have about 10, 482 adhoc staff to perform the national duty,”   Ifogah stated.

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