From Rose Ejembi and Scholastica Onyeka, Makurdi
Ahead of electioneering campaigns, political parties in Benue state, have signed a pact with the state police command to hold only peaceful rallies and campaigns in the state.
The State Commissioner of Police, CP Wale Abass, at a meeting with representatives of various political parties, in his office, tasked their leaders and supporters to desist from any act capable of disrupting the peace in the state.
He said the essence of the meeting was to rub mind and provide a level playing field and enabling environment for all the political parties to carry out their campaign activities in a peaceful manner.
According to him, “The security situation in the country calls for this kind of meeting and I said there was need for all of us to come together and rub minds and see how we can create an enabling environment for all the political parties to operate without being molested by anybody.
“We have been having issues and people’s expectations are that when this political campaigns start, there will be problem here and there.”
CP Abass said the only way to avoid the problems and achieve peace was to meet and finetune the mode of their campaigns.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the meeting, he said, “I have asked them to sign an undertaking. It’s an MOU saying that all of us, we are going to work together, we are going to work for the goal which is peace. We need peace in Benue and once there is peace everybody will go about their business without being molested. That is the aim.
“I have asked for their itinerary so that we can avoid friction where one party will have campaign here and another party will be thinking of having campaigns in the same venue. This kind of thing will bring about friction.
“We do not believe that any political party is either small or big. Political parties are equal and we are treating them equally.”
CPAbass urged the party leaders to go back and educate their members and followers especially the youths, to be devoid of violence saying “violence will not solve anything, it will only create more problems.”
He disclosed that a pool of combat ready police officers are being trained at the command for the quick response unit to enable them deploy and respond to issues across the state.
The commissioner who noted that it will no longer be business as usual, warned strongly that anybody found destroying campaign materials; posters, billboards, or disrupting the peace in the state will face the wrath of the law.
“I have sounded that note of warning to everybody. Once you are arrested, it’s not a question of anybody coming to appeal to the CP. If you are arrested, you must face the wrath of law.”
He further allayed the fears expressed by some of the parties that the ruling party would use the newly inaugurated security outfit, Benue State Community Volunteer Guards, BSCVG, to prosecute their campaigns and elections against other political parties.
He noted that “the IG has spelt out the roles of security agencies, police, civil defense and all other sisters agencies, saddle with responsibilities in the course of the elections. The quasi security outfits are not to be seen except if only individual basis they are coming to perform their constitutional rights of voting.”
Speaking earlier at the meeting, representatives of the various political parties in the state pledged their commitment to the peace agreement saying they will ensure their members conduct themselves in a peaceful manner.
The state acting chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Emmanuel Mffo and state chairman of All Progressives Party, APC, Austin Agada, all commended the police commissioner for the meeting saying it was timely, a welcome development and a right step in the right direction.
The party representatives in the separate remarks raised some concerns bothering on use of thugs by political heavyweights and bigger political parties, heavy taxation by the state government on billboards as well as destruction of campaign materials by rival party supporters and urged the commissioner to address the situation.
Those in attendance include state acting chairman of the PDP and his Secretary, Emmanuel Mffo and Joes Nyam respectively, state chairman of APC, Austin Agada, Vihityor Janet from Labour Party, Isaac Orshio of Young People’s Party, Emmanuel Nyianshima of Zenith Labour Party.
Other parties also represented include All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, New Nigeria People’s party, NNPP, Action Peoples Party, APP, Action Alliance, AA, National Rescue Movement, NRM among others.