LESS than 24 hours to the governorship poll in Imo State, there is a heavy security patrol in Owerri, the state capital, The ICIR reports.
The armed officers are largely made up of combined forces of the military, para-military, and the Police.
Our correspondent sighted their patrol vehicles within Owerri municipality and around major hotels within the popular World Bank road, the Concord Hotel, and the All Season Hotel avenue.
Informed sources told our reporter that some of the security officers were co-opted from neighbouring Anambra and Enugu states to ensure a peaceful election which will be held on Saturday, November 11.
Power outage hits state
For almost a week, Owerri and its neighbouring communities have been hit by a power outage.
Checks by our reporter Thursday night -around the capital city showed a city in darkness, with residents and businesses exploring alternative power sources, including generator sets.
One of the residents, Nonye Okoloma, who spoke with The ICIR, said the development was not unconnected with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) threat to the Imo State government following the attack on its president, Joe Ajaero.
The popular World Bank avenue, which houses several hotels in the capital city and the state-owned Concord Hotel, is without national grid power and has resorted to alternative power supply sources.
The street lights at Owerri were mainly powered by solar.
Residents express willingness to vote
Many residents in Owerri and its environs have expressed their willingness to exercise their franchise by voting for a candidate of their choice tomorrow, Saturday, November 11.
“I’m prepared to cast my vote. The candidates have campaigned, and God’s willing, by Saturday, we shall all go out to cast their votes,” said Ebuka’s Uzodie, who resides at the World Bank road in Owerri.
Another resident, a Point of Sales (PoS) operator, Oluchukeu Uzoka, told our correspondent that she was prepared to vote for the candidate of her choice.
” Yes, I’m prepared to cast my vote tomorrow, after which I will re-open my business, she said.
When asked about her general reactions to the security build-up before the election, she said the presence of security officers on patrol provided some assurances that the exercise could be peaceful.
The ICIR reports that Imo State is one of the South-East states that have faced insecurity in recent years. It is also one of the three states participating in the off-cycle election on Saturday. Others are Bayelsa and Kogi.
What survey says of poll
A recent pre-election environment risk assessment by Kimpact Development Initiative (KDI), an independent non-governmental organisation advancing good governance, democratic rights, public policy, and public engagement, showed that violence could mar the poll in Imo.
The activities of secessionists – The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Eastern Security Network – and other armed non-state actors are a threat to the poll, KDI stated.
It suggested that if all stakeholders carried out strategic violence prevention interventions, there was a high chance that the election would be peaceful.
“Recognising the wide-ranging implications of election security in Nigeria, this study explores the impact of the actions and activities of various state and non-state political actors on the electoral landscape in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States,” the report summary stated.
It explained that while Imo State had not experienced much electoral and non-electoral violence for most of 2023, Kogi and Bayelsa had seen a surge in electoral violence in the last two months preceding the election.
KDI also predicted a keenly-contested poll because of the many political parties fielding candidates.
Local government areas that are likely hot spots for a crisis during this election, according to KDI, are Oru West, Oru East, Orlu, Okigwe, Nwangele, Isiala Mbano, Ikeduru, Ngor Okpala, Ahiazu Mbaise, Obowo and Orsu.
Major contenders for the election in the state are the incumbent Governor, Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Sam Anyanwu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Anthony Nnaji of the labour Party (LP).
This report published by The ICIR earlier today highlights the party’s chances in the election.
This organisation further reports that Imo state has 2.3 million eligible voters with PVCs out of 2.4 million registered voters.
The election winner will take an oath of office on January 14, 2024 when the current administration’s tenure ends.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.