As at 9.15am the voting proper is yet to commence at Polling Unit 5, Ugbonla Ward 2, in the heart of Mahinland. When our reporter visited the unit, voters were on queue, but officials were quarreling with some party agents over the issue of identification. Many others within te riverine community were going about their businesses.

There are 10 wards in Ilaje Local Government. People are still hanging around their communities generally; the election process has not taken off anywhere yet.

The elections are available and ready but people are not coming forward yet to join the queue.

Policemen, military and paramilitary agents have fortified unit 11, ward four in Oke Ijebu where there was sporadic firing. Spokesman for the Police Command, Tee-Leo Ikoro said there was no casualty. An empty expended shell retrieved from the scene. No arrest made and voting has commenced there.

An 87-year old man, Mr. Okoromi David, who voted at polling Unit six, Ward five, Owo local government area has said that any political party he voted for does not lose election in Ondo State.

Mr. Okoromi who voted at PU six Ward five, said he has been participating in electoral process for a very long time.

“This one is different. My party has been winning elections since I started voting in elections.”

The Independent National Electoral Commission Supervisor for Owo, Ose and Akoko Southwest, Mr. Emeka Ononamadu, said he has not received any negative reports from any areas.

“Nigerians are responding positively to this election. There are observance of COVID-19 protocols

“No negative report from those areas. The conduct has been splendid and wonderful. The citizens are conducting themselves well. Citizens are cooperating well.”

Accreditation has commenced at polling unit six Ward five Owo local government where the Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, is expected to cast his vote.

The voters were screened before accreditation.

The Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) has clarified that its governorship candidate, Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi, has not withdrawn from the race.

The party said the purported statement on the social media is fake.

The Director of Media and Publicity, Ajayi Campaign Organisation, said on phone that the withdrawal was a figment of hyperactive imagination. He said those peddling rumours and falsehood are agents of potential losers of the poll.

Akinsola stressed “They are weak and afraid. Ajayi has not withdrawn. Ajayi will not withdraw. He is in the race to win.”

A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Engineer Ifeoluwa Oyedele has challenged former Governor Olusegun Mimiko to tell the people what he did in eight years that qualifies him to seek to foist one of his protegees on the state.

Speaking with reporters in his country home in Okitipupa today, Oyedele said Mimiko wasted the opportunity he had on projects that had no direct benefit on the people.

Oyedele, who the Executive Secretary of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company, said Mimiko did not leave any meaningful legacy that would qualify him to play he is now trying to play.

He 60 per cent of the people in Ondo State are unemployed and that those that are in employment are underemployed.

Oyedele said what the people need is a development plan prepared by experts and ratified by state House of Assembly, “such that any governor that takes over the reins of power would continue the implementation of the policy”.

He said he stepped down for Governor Rotimi Akeredolu before the APC primary to allow him to consolidate on his achievements in the last four years.

He urged the people to vote for the APC candidate to allow him to continue his good work.
Okitipupa, the headquarters of Local Government in Ondo South Senatorial District, is the home town the PDP Deputy Governorship candidate, Gboluga Ikengboju, who is currently a member of the House of Representatives.

The Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) in charge of election security, Leye Oyebade in Ondo State yesterday said there was robust mechanism on ground to ensure safety of all stakeholders.

He said the police have deployed tactical squads and experts who have worked behind the scenes and were able to crime map the state for adequate security planning.

Oyebade said the police in collaboration with the navy, have adequately secured the riverine areas of the state.

“We have been able to put a robust mechanism on ground what is going to work, mechanism such that it is going to give us the desired result which is safety.

“We have deployed to the riverine areas. At least three per unit. We have deployed men to all the collation centers and given adequate protection to INEC officials, materials and all the necessary areas that are meant to be covered.

“Our preparation has been ongoing before now, behind the scene, we have been able to crime map the state and noted the threat analysis.

“We will not be distracted. We have enough personnel to address the issues of banditry, kidnapping and all of that. We have our technical platform to track and do the needful. “We have adequate number to address the supervision of this election, personnel are sound technically. We are good to go.

“We have been able to structure the terrain, the waterways, land and air, all entry and exit points. We have been able to get adequate personnel lectured, trained, tutored to be professional.

“So, with the personnel we have on ground, appropriate logistics and with the mindset to sacrifice because this is a major event to celebrate our democracy; the police officers morale is very high. We know that the police and other security agencies are ready to protect lives and properties.

“We have been able to support in terms of protection of INEC officials and transportation of INEC materials that started for some days now and it has been ongoing without any issue.

“We have also had confidence building patrols and have assured the people of their safety. We are on ground to protect them and so, they should come out and cast their votes.

“I appeal to everyone to be guided by the guidelines for peaceful conduct of election.

“We have a code of conduct guiding the personnel that have been deployed. They have been given a tag with their names and pictures on it to identify them in the places they are posted. Their names and mobile numbers are also with the officials at the various places they are posted. That is how we will curb fake or illegal policemen.

“We have also sent out dedicated mobile numbers- 07049960674 and 09152784339. These two numbers are for members of the public to have access to us through calls and text messages. If they think there is an urgent matter going on, they can send a message or pictures, videos to us through WhatsApp on this number; 07049936417,” he said.

The DIG appealed to Nigerians to respect the movement restriction that would commence by midnight and relaxed at 6pm on Saturday, October 10.

Meanwhile, the Ondo State Police Commissioner (CP) Bolaji Salami said at least 25 suspects have been arrested in the last two weeks for illegal possession of firearms.

The suspects were alleged to be political thugs armed for the disruption of the electioneering process but were picked out by tactical sqauds following actionable intelligence.

According to Salami, most of them have been charged to court, adding that the police would leave no stone unturned to ensure peace and security during and after the voting processes.

“We have been picking them out. We have arrested like 25 for illegal possession of firearms and charged them to court. So far, there is calm and we are well prepared to ensure this exercise goes smoothly,” he said.

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) said it has deployed about 60 sniffer dogs and 7,079 officers and men drawn from the six South West states including Kogi and Kwara commands for today’s governorship election in Ondo State.

It said four Assistant Commandant General would be on duty during the poll.

Deputy Commandant General, Operations, Hilary Madu, who spoke in Akure on the preparedness of the corps for the Ondo polls six of the sniffer dogs would be deployed to INEC headquarters to complement personnel from Special Force, Intelligence Department and SWAT unit.

Madu stated that the NSCDC officials have been properly briefed on their roles during the poll.

He assured that the Ondo people’s right would be respected without compromising security of lives and property.

According to him, “We have come to monitor and provide security for the governorship election in Ondo State coming up on Saturday. We have deployed 7,079 security officers.

“When we go for election, we ensure that we have our eyes opened to ensure that we do not have money politics. That is, people bringing money or gifts to voting centres.

“Our men will respect people of this state. Nobody should indulge in use of excessive force on the indigenes of this state and our armed men would not be deployed close to voting centre. Sixty sniffer dogs will also be deployed across the state.”

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said its commitment to free, fair and credible governorship elections in Ondo State was unwavering, assuring that successes in the exercise would surpass that of Edo State.

Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Oluwatoyin Akeju, told The Nation on telephone that all arrangements have been made and voting materials moved to their various Registration Area Centres (RACs) for easy disbursement to respective polling units Saturday morning.

According to Akeju, the movement of both sensitive and none sensitive materials from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Akure to the local offices across the state on Thursday was without any hitch, adding that no complaints has been received on the evacuation of the materials to the RACs.

Akeju told The Nation that INEC moved the materials early enough to prevent hitches, adding that the idea was to make the electoral officials retire early in order to wake up early tomorrow and move to their respective polling booths.

“We have not only moved to the LGA offices but have successfully transferred the materials to the RACS. This is to ensure that they retire on time and wake up early enough, count and move the materials to the polling booths.

“We are being proactive this time around and we are sure that we will not make mistakes by the grace of God. So far so good, there has been no issues. There is calm here at the headquarters. Normally, if there were issues, they would have contacted us to report but we have not received any. That means there has been no issue.”

Asked how INEC intends to curb rigging and other electoral malpractices especially in Ondo South Senatorial District notorious for violence and rigging, Akeju said adequate arrangements have been made to curb illegality.

“This time, anybody that tries ballot box snatching will be dealt with accordingly. You need to go there to see what is on ground. Instead of two security operatives that we always have, we now have four.

“All our equipments are protected by ambitious police and naval officers and they have showed strong commitment to the process and loyalty. We have advocated for peace and also assured voters to have confidence in the process and not be afraid. We are going to do better than Edo.”
On vote buying, Akeju warned people to desist, stressing that both the buyer and seller would be made to face the law,” he said.

Our Correspondent who visited INEC’s Akure South Local Government Area office, observed that several cars were waiting outside the premises for their turn to load water, mats, ballot boxes, generator, card readers and other equipments needed, just as armed Police Mobile Force (PMF) operatives assigned to escort the vehicles were seated under a canopy inside the premises.

At Ward 7 RAC located at St. Martin’s Primary School, screening of adhoc staff was ongoing around 3pm with a handful of policemen restricting access into the premises.

Earlier at INEC’s headquarters in Akure, some observers were seen with their travel bags lamenting their inability to get accommodation in the state capital.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said the Returning Officer appointed for Saturday Ondo governorship election is not from the State as insinuated by chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) National Campaign Council and Oyo Governor, Seyi Makinde.

The PDP National Campaign Council had rejected the appointment of Professor Eyitope Ogunbodede, the Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, as Returning Officer for the election.

Makinde raised the alarm the election will be compromised if Ogunbodede is allowed to serve as the Returning Officer, alleging he is a crony of Ondo Governor Rotimi Areredolu and hails from Owo with the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate.

But National Commissioner & Chairman Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, in a statement, said the Commission will not be drawn into speculations relating to the performance of its constitutional and statutory functions.

He insisted that INEC does not share the responsibility of appointing Returning Officers for elections with any individual or political party.

He assured the Commission is focused on the conducting free, fair and peaceful election and can’t be distracted by speculations.

According to him: “The attention of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been drawn to a press conference addressed by the Chairman of the PDP National Campaign Council and Governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde, on Thursday October 8, 2020 to the effect that the Commission has appointed the Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Professor Eyitope Ogungbenro Ogunbodede, as the Returning Officer for the Ondo Governorship election taking place on October 10, 2020.

“While the Commission will not be drawn into speculations relating to the performance of its constitutional and statutory functions, it is imperative to set the records straight for the benefit of the people of Ondo State and the integrity of the electoral process.

“It is the sole responsibility of the Commission to appoint a Returning Officer for the Ondo Governorship election and does not share this responsibility with any individual, group or Political Party”.

The commission added: “For the avoidance of doubt, the Returning Officer for the Ondo Governorship election is not from Ondo State and not from the University mentioned in the said press conference.

“The Returning Officer appointed by the Commission will report to the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ondo State on the date conveyed in his letter of appointment issued several days ago.

“The Commission is firmly focused on the conduct of free, fair and peaceful election and implores all the stakeholders to cooperate and play their own part in ensuring peaceful election and not to engage in unhelpful speculation.

“The main concern of the Commission is in ensuring a credible electoral process while the outcome is in the hands of the people of Ondo State”.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has rejected Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Prof. Eyitope Ogungbenro Ogunbodede, as Chief Returning Officer of Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo.

The party alleged Ondo residents cannot get free and fair election with the present composition of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Chairman of the PDP National Campaign Council, Governor Seyi Makinde, who spoke at a briefing in Akure, said Ogunbodede was a known crony of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and hails from Owo, hometown of Akeredolu.

Makinde, who insisted that Ogunbodede would not be a fair umpire in the proceedings by virtue of his association with Akeredolu, called on INEC to immediately replace him.

Makinde said OAU Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Prof. A S Bamire, who conducted the training of Returning Officers was not a neutral party for the purpose of Saturday’s election.

The Oyo Governor threatened that anybody that attempted to rig Saturday’s election would be reported to the international community.

He said they were crying out because once the Returning Officer made a pronouncement, it would resort to the going to the tribunal.

“Why did INEC bring somebody from Owo? Why go to OAU? Are there no other universities? We don’t want Ondo people to be cheated.

“We also take this opportunity to call on all lovers of democracy around the world to pay attention to what the APC led administration in the center is trying to do in Ondo State.

“We call on the United Nations, the European Union, the United State and the United Kingdom and indeed all allies of democracy to call INEC to order.

“We call on all security agencies in Ondo State allow themselves to be used as a tool against the will of the people.

“We commend you for all you have done so far providing the needed support and security for our candidate and our people.

“We urge you to do more. Don’t forget that history and posterity have never been kind to anyone who allow themselves to be used as a tool for injustice.

“We urge you to read the mood of the people and act accordingly. Politicians may come and go, but the people will always remain. Remember, the world is watching.”

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