Ex-militant leader says Bayelsa community is safe for elections •Urges INEC to disregard calls to shift venue

Posted by News Express | 15 February 2019 | 1,378 times

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• Paul Eris, ex militant leader

An ex-militant leader from Peremabiri in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Mr Paul Eris, has given the assurance that the area is safe and conducive for tomorrow’s presidential and National Assembly polls.

Hundreds of eligible voters who claimed to be displaced people of Peremabiri, a coastal settlement, had urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide alternative voting venue to enable them exercise their franchise.

The displaced persons, led by their traditional ruler, Chief Progress Neverdie, submitted a petition to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr Monday Udoh.

Addressing officials at INEC’s headquarters in Yenagoa, Neverdie said that no fewer than 3,000 adults had fled Peremabiri to Yenagoa and neigbouring communities over threats to their lives my militants.

However, Eris, in a statement issued on Thursday said that the call for alternative voting venue on grounds of insecurity was a ploy by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Bayelsa State government to avert looming defeat in the area.

He said that the impression being created that Peremabiri community was unsafe for voting was a blackmail aimed to create confusion and pollute the peaceful environment.

According to Eris, anti-developmental forces have gathered to tarnish the image of the community for political gains.

He said that as an ex-agitator who embraced the Presidential Amnesty Programme and had denounced violence, he took to farming and revived the Peremabiri Rice Farm which has created jobs for the once restive youths of the community.

He said that officials of the Bayelsa State government were envious of the success of the rice farm which has put food on the table for the impoverished masses due to their bad agricultural policy in the state.

“The Peremabiri protest was instituted by some anti-democratic forces in the state and was led by the recently appointed Vice Chairman of the Southern Ijaw Local Government Council, Madam Polomi Wonaemi and Chief Progress Neverdie.

“The foot soldiers for the protest at the peace park before heading to the INEC office in Yenagoa were rented crowd and were therefore not from Peremabiri town as was visibly seen.

“The protesters were asked to gather at the peace park were handed placards with inscriptions blackmailing and tarnishing the image of Peremabiri community.

“While they were doing that, cameras were on them,” Eris stated.

He said the allegations leveled against him that he was responsible for insecurity were baseless and unfounded aimed at scoring cheap political gains by their paymasters.

“It is commonly acknowledged that those who aspire to lead must first recognise the goodness in themselves as a springboard to goodwill to others.

“Any aspiring leader that fails to see the good in others must have evil lurking in their intentions. This trend of evil machination of these political non-starters must be seen entirely for what it's worth – ill mind, period,” he said.

He urged INEC to seek security advise from security agencies deployed to the area and explained that Peremabiri community is peaceful and law abiding, adding that, elections will be held peacefully in the area.

He said that insinuations of harassment and intimidation were a handiwork of his political detractors who are hell bent to pull him down, saying that Saturday’s poll will vindicate him.

“Chief Neverdie and Madam Wonaemi have become government political tools to destabilize the existing peace being experienced in the past.

“They were sponsored to frighten innocent law abiding citizens of the area for their inordinate ambitions to win elections by all means.

“They told lies that military destroyed my boats, No destruction and seizure that took place, the Joint Task Force (JTF) and other security agents have been in the area for the past years to maintain peace and order.

“The INEC should verify from them, therefore it is wrong for calling on INEC by the protest sponsors to create new voting centres in the state capital, as this was a calculated attempt to undermine the good people of Peremabiri

“It is a ploy to disenfranchise Peremabiri people who are in the community doing their legitimate business and to deprive their inalienable rights to vote during an election,” Eris said.

Reacting, the Administrative Secretary of INEC in Bayelsa State, Mr Lebai Samsi, said that security was beyond the control of the Commission.

He said that INEC relied on the security agencies assurances to do its job of conducting elections.

Samsi reassured that INEC remained committed to the conduct of free and fair credible polls on February 16 and March 2.

Also the Bayelsa State Government said it remained committed to protecting the residents’ right to vote in a safe atmosphere in the forthcoming general elections.

Mr Seweniowor Arthur, the State’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice said the state government was very much concerned about the voting rights of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the state.

According to him, government was aware that the Peremabiri community had petitioned INEC and the Police in the State over reported insecurity in the area.

Source: News Express

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