Friday, November 15, 2013

Hundreds Of ‘Criminals’ Held Before Nigeria Poll


Nigerian amphibious army advance towards the enemy during a joint military exercise between Nigerian armed forces, United States, Britain, Netherlands and Spain in Lagos, in this Oct. 18, 2013 photo. (AFP)

LAGOS: Nigerian police on Friday said they had arrested more than 200 people suspected of “criminal motives” as they prepared to head to a state holding a crunch vote for its next governor.

“We have arrested some 181 strange-looking people loitering around in Owerri,” the capital of Imo, state police commissioner Mohammed Katsina said on local Channels television. “They are suspected of having entered the state with criminal motives.”

Imo state police spokeswoman Joy Elomokor later told AFP that the number of arrests had risen by Friday afternoon.

“We have arrested and detained a total of 203 suspects so far, most of them are from Osun state” in southwest Nigeria, she said.

“We suspect they have no genuine mission either in Imo or Anambra state. They are fierce-looking people and we are interrogating them on their true mission.”

Two rifles were recovered from the suspects, said Katsina, with television footage showing the guns and scores of accreditation cards said to have been issued by Nigeria’s election watchdog.

Saturday’s vote in Anambra state is being closely watched as a key test of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s popularity before his expected campaign for re-election in 2015.

But there have been fears of election-linked violence and vote-rigging, prompting tight security and restrictions on movement.

A spokesman for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Kayode Idowu, denied he knew of the arrest of its staff.

“I do not have such information that either our election observers or officials have been arrested or detained. I doubt it,” he said.

He was responding to a claim by Lagos-based human rights lawyer and politician Festus Keyamo, who said 120 “innocent and patriotic” INEC-accredited election observers were arrested in Owerri this week while undergoing training.
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