There was heavy security deployment at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal and other flash points and dark spots in Abuja on Tuesday ahead of the delivery of the judgment on the election petitions challenging the election of President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday (today).
This was as the supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar, the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, and President Tinubu awaited the verdict with earnest expectations.
Supporters of the petitioners have been exchanging brickbats online even as they expressed optimism that the ruling would favour their candidates.
In preparation for the judgment, scores of armed riot policemen, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and other security operatives in plainclothes were deployed at strategic locations in the Federal Capital Territory in a bid to prevent a breach of law and order that might arise after the judgment.
The judgment will be delivered by the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Haruna Tsammani, assisted by other members of the panel: Justices Stephen Adah, Monsurat Bolaji-Yusuf, Moses Ugo, and Abba Mohammed.
The proceedings will be held at the Court of Appeal, Three Arms Zone, Abuja.
The Chief Registrar, Court of Appeal headquarters, Umar Bangari, disclosed in a statement on Monday that the tribunal verdict will be delivered on Wednesday and aired live on television stations.
This, he noted, was to promote transparency and openness and for Nigerians to watch the proceedings.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had on March 1 declared Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress as the president-elect after polling 8.8 million to defeat the PDP standard bearer, Atiku, who scored 6.9 million, the LP candidate, Obi, who polled 6.1 million, and 15 other candidates.
However, five of the 18 political parties that participated in the elections challenged the outcome of the polls.
Besides the PDP and the LP, other aggrieved parties included the Action Alliance, the Action People’s Party, and the Allied People’s Movement.
The major contenders—Atiku and Obi—asked the tribunal to nullify the ex-Lagos governor’s victory in the February 25 presidential election.
Ahead of the proceedings, the authorities carried out heavy deployments of security personnel across the FCT on Monday.
At about 6.50 pm, truckloads of policemen were brought to the Court of Appeal, and the police vehicles were used to barricade the court entrance while several policemen were also patrolling the city in vehicles.
A police team was seen taking instructions from their superiors shortly after they were brought to the court premises.
A court worker noted that in the memo sent to the staff informing them not to come to work on Wednesday, it was stated that there would be a heavy presence of security operatives around the court premises.
The official said, “Part of the reason workers were told not to come tomorrow (today) was that there would be a heavy presence of security operatives in strategic locations at the court premise.’’
Our correspondent gathered that lawyers and litigants may be frisked before entering the courtroom, while access to the premises would be tightly controlled.
Scores of agents were seen at strategic locations in the Three Arms Zone, Julius Berger, Area One, Wuse, and other parts of the city.
Police patrol vehicles were also seen moving around along the Federal Secretariat, Muhammadu Buhari Way, and Ladoke Akintola Boulevard.
Meanwhile, all major roads leading to the Court of Appeal would also be barricaded by the police before the court proceedings commenced, it was gathered.
A senior security source revealed that the acting Inspector-General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, had ordered all police commands and formations across the country to secure all major hotspots under their jurisdictions to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order.
It was further learned that the police made both covert deployments of operatives and equipment across the nation, especially in Abuja and Lagos State.
The authorities were said to be concerned about a possible eruption of protests that may be instigated by disgruntled political elements.
“Everyone is concerned. The police, military, DSS, and others are concerned. There’s an ongoing strike, and the PEPT judgment is expected to be delivered tomorrow (Wednesday), which puts a lot of pressure on all security agencies.
“This is because some politicians and groups may want to use the opportunity to sponsor protests or cause violence if the PEPT judgment doesn’t favor them or their chosen candidate,” a senior officer said.