There was palpable panic among residents in some key states of the country on Friday as the Nigerian Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance jets began air patrols over perceived flashpoints in the North-East, Kwara, Adamawa and Rivers states.
The patrol was going on just as soldiers and policemen deployed for the elections took over the streets and some strategic locations in Rivers, Delta, Adamawa, Bayelsa, and Akwa Ibom states ahead of the governorship and Houses of Assembly elections holding on Saturday (today).
Residents and indigenes of Adamawa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Kwara complained of intimidation by security forces patrolling parts of their states.
In Adamawa, our correspondents noticed the movement of security vans from Yola to other parts of the state on Friday morning.
Some of the indigenes who spoke to one of our correspondents said the stakes were high in the state because the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, is from the state.
Aisha had supported her brother, Mamhud Ahmed, in the race for the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress but he lost to the incumbent governor, Jibrilla Bindow, coming second in the contest.
Despite the loss, Aisha is said to be interested in proving her worth as the President’s wife by winning the state for the APC.
Moreover, the state governor is facing allegation of certificate forgery and if the court rules against him even after winning, it could pave the way for Aisha’s brother to emerge as the APC candidate.
The state is also under pressure because the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar’s political relevance depends on the success of the PDP in the state after the INEC declared him (Atiku) the runner-up in the recent presidential election.
Atiku won the state in the last presidential race by a slim margin but his party, the PDP, is of the view that the election was rigged to reduce Atiku’s votes.
A civil servant in the state, who simply gave his name as Gregory from Michika, said Michika was under security ‘siege.’
“I will vote in Michika but when I called on Friday morning to notify my family of my intention, they warned me to leave Yola early because already Michika was under police siege because of the election. The interest of Atiku and Aisha Buhari is putting a lot of pressure on the state. If Atiku loses the state to the APC, he would have lost his base. Aisha is fighting for her position as the wife of the President and the possibility of her brother becoming governor,’” he said.
But a NAF top source said, “The Air Force ISR platforms cannnot be visible in every state because of logistic constraints, you don’t expect us to deploy in the 36 states. But there are flashpoints and states where you suspect that violence may want to occur.
“The ISR will be visible as usual in the North-East axis, South-South, South-West, Kwara and other places that crop up on the election day.
“But the aircraft are mainly for surveillance and nothing more. The security personnel are on the ground to manage any situation.”
In Delta State, security has been beefed up around major flashpoints.
Our correspondent reports that more security operatives have also been deployed in the riverine areas including the creeks of Warri South-West, Burutu, Bomadi and Warri-North local government areas.
Our correspondent observed on Friday patrols by military operatives around the oil city of Warrri, Effurun, Udu and Ughelli.
There was also heavy presence of policemen on stop-and-check duties along the Otor-Udu/Otu-Jeremi road and along the DSC Expressway.
Some military trucks were sighted stationed at the Effurun Market along the PTI Road in Uvwie LGA near Warri.
In Bayelsa State, there was an uneasy calm among residents of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa capital and the indigenes of the neighbouring communities as more soldiers and policemen were seen moving around and stationed in strategic locations.
As early as 6am on Friday, the military presence in the state drawn from the Navy, Army and the Air Force were reinforced.
In Akwa Ibom State, soldiers, mobile policemen and three commissioners of police have reportedly taken over the state.
Four MOPOL units, including Special Protection Units, have been deployed in the state.
The state Commissioner of Police in charge of election duties, CP Sani Kaoje, who confirmed the deployment to our correspondent on Friday, said the additional deployment would join forces with over 9210 earlier deployed in the state. He however said some of those earlier deployed in the state had been withdrawn.