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Police bar guns, grenades from Eagle Square


The police authorities on Wednesday announced that guns, hand grenades and tear gas canisters would not be allowed into the Eagle Square, Abuja, venue of today’s presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party.

To ensure compliance with the security measure, a special task force, said the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, had been set up to prevent all security personnel, including police orderlies from entering the venue with weapons.

The measure, according to him, is to avoid any untoward incident like accidental discharge, harassment of delegates or threat of any kind from securitymen.

Ringim, who addressed a news conference at the Force headquarters, Abuja, said that all delegates would be screened at their state liaison offices before being conveyed in authorised vehicles to the venue.

He added that the Central Business Area of the Federal Capital Territory had been cordoned off and would remain under heavy security surveillance until the end of the primaries.

The IG apologised for the inconvenience which he said was necessary in view of the recent bomb blasts at the Mogadishu Barracks, Abuja. Before then, twin bomb blasts had rocked the city on October 1, 2010, the day Nigeria marked its 50th independence anniversary.

Ringim said, “On no account will vehicles be allowed to park or move around the square. There would be no street hawkers and no orderly with arms and ammunition will be allowed into the square.

“The public should be aware and be their brothers’ keepers; they should report any suspicious movement or bags.”

He said though the security measure was to be implemented in collaboration with other security agencies, the police would be in charge of the operation.

Responding to questions on the series of attacks by an Islamic fundamentalist group, Boko Haram, in some states in the northern part of the country, Ringim said that some members of the group had been arrested and charged to court.

He assured that adequate security measures would also be put in place nationwide during the April elections.

Before Ringim announced the security measures, the National Organising Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Uche Secondus, had said that 5,000 delegates from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory would vote at the presidential primaries.

Secundus, who added that the delegates had been accredited at the International Conference Centre and the International Women Centre, Abuja, said that the open secret ballot system would be used.

He said, “We are expecting about 5,000 delegates for the primaries and I can tell you that we are ready for the event. We are going to adopt the open secret ballot system, which we have been using in the past and I can tell you that it would work.

“We have put everything in place to ensure an free and fair primaries. All the sub-committees are working to ensure that we have a free and fair primaries.”

Our correspondents learnt that over 20,000 regular and riot policemen as well as men of the bomb disposal units would man strategic locations in Abuja during the event.

Three aspirants — President Goodluck Jonatha, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Dr. Sarah Jibril— are jostling to clinch the Peoples Democratic Party presidential ticket.

Before the commencement of voting, the aspirants will address the delegates.

Also, the National Secretary of the party, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, will speak on the state of the party while the National Auditor, Dr. Sam Ortom, will present the audit report.

Meanwhile, the Co-ordinator of the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation, Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State, has appealed to delegates from Ekiti and Osun states to vote for Jonathan.

His appeal followed grumblings by members of the party in the two states who believe that the President ought to have intervened to save the PDP governors in the two states from being removed by the Court of Appeal.

But he still expressed optimism that the South-West delegates would vote en masse for Jonathan.

The governor said, “I will appeal to the people of the two states to know that the President is still the best candidate. We have analysed them and have found out that he is the best.

“We have presented our agenda before him and he has shown that he is ready to tackle them. We need to give him our votes.

“With the reports I have from the zone, I can tell you that majority of our people are going to vote for him. Yes, the other candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is not a pushover. But I can still say conveniently that the President would win.”

The only female PDP presidential candidate, Mrs. Sarah Jubril, has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to stop the PDP from considering Abubakar as a consensus presidential candidate of the North.

Joined in the suit which was filed on Tuesday are the party’s National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, and the Chairman of the Northern Political Leaders’ Forum, Mallam Adamu Ciroma.

Jubril, through her lawyer, Mr. Mike Ugwuanyi, sought an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the “defendants and their agents, privies, and/or successors, from presenting and/or considering Atiku as its consensus presidential candidate in the upcoming election.’’

She argued that as an aspirant from Kwara State, a northern state, she ought to have be considered also as the Northern consensus candidate.

She prayed the court to order the PDP not to consider Abubakar as consensus candidate of the North until the determination of the substantive suit.

The plaintiff said all her attempts to make Ciroma’s group to rescind its decision were futile, hence her resort to the court for redress.

“The basis of refusal is a violation of my constitutional right of fair hearing and constitutional right not to be discriminated against on the bases of my sex and/or religion,’’ Jibril said.

According to the aspirant, if the court fails to intervene, she would be put into a great political disadvantage and unequal playing ground with Abubakar during the presidential primaries.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole fixed the matter for January 21 for mention, and directed the plaintiff to serve the defendants with court processes.

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