By Daniel Dafe
Members of Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD) have described the decision of the management of Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Delta State, to thwart their scheduled summit focused on ensuring peaceful and violence-free elections in Delta State, ahead of the March 9, 2019 election as shocking.
Briefing journalists yesterday, the National President of the group, Comrade (Engr.) Igbini Odafe Emmanuel, wondered why the management denied them access to the hall after they wrote officially to notify the authority about the programme scheduled to hold on the 5th of March, 2019.
He said: “VATLAD organised a similar summit at Abuja on the 7th of February, 2019, which was attended by the Ag Inspector General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff, other respected Nigerians and the media. Why then should a similar summit be prevented in Delta State that is now sadly tagged a flash point in the ongoing general elections?
“Just at a the time that respected invitees to the summit were arriving the venue and others on their way, the management of PTI decided to refuse granting us permission to use one of their halls we had applied to use today.
“The management claimed that it could not grant us permission to use the hall because it believes that the summit is a political gathering and that it is the policy of the management to prohibit the use of their halls and other facilities for political meetings or events. This is despite the fact that our organisation made several efforts to convince the management that the summit is not a political gathering.
“In addition, about a week before today, precisely on February 28, 2019, we submitted a formal application for use of the hall as demanded by the management. In the said application, it was clearly indicated that the special invitees to the summit are: Chief of Army Staff, Ag Inspector General of Police, Delta State Commissioner of Police, Delta State INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Commanders, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Airforce, Warri, Commanding Officers of 3 and 222 Battalions of Nigerian Army, Civil Society Organisations and the media.
“It is also important to inform the general public that our organisation has since year 2001 been consistently using these PTI halls to organise our peace, good governance and media summits. The last was held on 9th August 2018. In all, we have never organised a political gathering or meeting there.
“What is even surprising is the fact that the management granted the All Progressives Congress (APC) permission to use its hall and facilities yesterday to host a large political meeting. Why then not extend same approval to our summit which is not a political gathering but a summit of few carefully selected respected people.
“This summit was solely aimed at bringing together, respected National Security Chiefs, INEC Officials, legal luminaries from Delta State, CSOs and the media.”
He continued: “At the PTI venue this morning when the summit was thwarted were Delta State Commissioner of Police represented by ACP Aiki James; Delta State Resident Electoral Commissioner represented by Electoral Officer, Mr. Akhigbe; Chief Barr. Victor Otomewo, journalists and many other peace and good governance advocates.
“We are now very worried that preventing this critical summit at a time it is predicted that Delta State will witness massive electoral violence in the forthcoming March 9 polls could encourage desperate politicians to commit evils as predicted.”
Comr. Emmanuel commended the Delta State Commissioner of Police, the Delta State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) and Chief (Barr.) Victor Otomewo, among others, who sacrificed to honour the invitation to the summit, adding that it was a clear indication of their commitment to a peaceful and violence-free election in the state.
Furthermore, the National President said: “We will continue to appeal to Deltans to remain law-abiding and peaceful before, during and after the March 9, 2019 elections in Delta State. We also appeal to the candidates and their political parties to ensure the elections are not a “do and die” affair and that no supporter of theirs should engage in any form of violence and electoral crimes.”