BY INUSA NDAHI, MAIDUGURI
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for Borno Central Senatorial District, and former Special Adviser to the late President Musa Yar’adua on National Assembly Matters, Sen. Muhammadu Abba-Aji, has said that the persistent attacks and road ambushes by suspected members of dreaded Boko Haram sect as well as heeding to security advises for not plying unsafe roads, were the major reasons that prevented him and his campaign team visit Gamboru Ngala and Kala Balge Local Government Areas of the state.
He also debunked the allegation that he was plotting to blackmail INEC by filing petitions intent on causing confusion ahead of Saturday’s election.
Abba Aji stated this on Tuesday to Newsmen while reacting to statement credited to Comrades Dennis Esumobi, Executive Director and Gabriel Gbajume, Publicity Secretary, both from Coalition of Civil Societies and Media Executives for Good Governance (COCMEGG), who alleged that he (Aji) and his campaign team boycotted five out of the eight local government areas in the senatorial District.
This is even as the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Borno state, Mohammed Ibrahim; has said that sensitive election materials have been retrieved from 27 councils to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for security.
Abba Aji however accused leaders of COCMEGG and described as “unfair,” attempt by anyone attributing any such statements against his candidature and his campaign train, knowing fully well that he will be costing home to victory come Saturday rescheduled presidential and national assembly general elections.
Addressing journalists in Maiduguri, Senator Aji said, “It is unfortunate that COCMEGG which I suspected were sponsored by my opponent accused me of not going to Gamboru Ngala and Kala Balge Local Government Areas on campaign.
” I have been campaigning in Ngala and Kala Balge for a long time, so when elections neared, I intended to go with my people, but whenever I have to go out of Maiduguri, I always seek clearance from the security agencies.
“All these while, the security agencies kept on telling me that the roads were not secured, and as a law abiding citizen, I had to heed to their advises by postponing the journey.
” Surprisingly, in one of my postponed journey when security agencies told me that the road from Maiduguri-Mafa-Dikwa-Gamboru Ngala was not secured, two soldiers were ambushed and killed by insurgents along that same route.
“The next time we planned to go to Ngala, I again sought clearance from the security, and they told us that it was not advisable, and we also heed the security advice, as we always do.
” It was at the same time precisely on Tuesday 12th February, 2019 that Governor Kashim Shettima who is my opponent also intended and indicated interest to go to Gamboru Ngala, and was similarly advised against going, but he insisted.
“The governor did not only insisted, but he required all civil servants of the ranks of Directors and Permanent Secretaries from the ministries to follow him as a must.
” So, a lot of people were compelled to follow him, and although, the Governor was in the safety of his own bullet prove official vehicle, he chose to embark on the journey in the night against security advice, and you have seen what has happened, lives were lost, vehicles and occupants were abducted, some were injured, and some are still missing.
In spite of the dead bodies that were littered at the scene of the attacks, governor Shettima still had the audacity of proceeding to Ngala, mount the podium and danced at the venue of the rally, and that is very unfortunate.
“I decided to heed to security advice not because I am afraid of my life, but the lives of those who would accompany me, as I have a duty to ensure the safety of my teaming supporters.
” The fact that I didn’t go to Gamboru Ngala or Kala Balge for campaign is not an issue, considering the circumstances we found ourselves. But it will interest you to know that our House of Assembly Candidates are fully in all the volatile areas heading campaigns for me and other candidates on the platform of our great party.
“Therefore, my advice to the general public is to always heed to the advice of our security forces. Our security forces are doing excellent in the fight against Boko Haram Sect, and we hope that when elected come Saturday 23rd February, we will contribute our own quota at the national assembly to end menace of Boko Haram in the state.
” I want to seek this opportunity to pray for God to grant eternal rest to soul of those who were killed in the Boko Haram attack on the Governor’s convoy while on their way to Ngala, grant quick recovery to the injured ones and rescue those abducted or still missing during the unfortunate incident.” Senator Abba Aji said.
Meanwhile, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Borno state, Mohammed Ibrahim; has said that sensitive election materials have been retrieved from 27 councils to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for security.
Ibrahim disclosed this Monday in Maiduguri, while briefing journalists on securing and deployment of electoral personnel to 3,933 polling centres, including eight IDPs voting centres.
He said that 5,071 card readers were retrieved and reconfigured, before distribution from CBN to the Local Government Areas.
He said that military escorts will be provided to “distribute and deploy election materials and personnel” to Gambouru and Banki, two border towns with Cameroon.
According to him, about 22, 000 ad-hoc staff will undergo refresher training, before the polling centres are opened on Saturday by 8am.
He urged the electorates to come out and vote in the designated polling centres, despite the postponement of elections last Saturday.