Ahead of the ruling on the petitions contesting the election of President Bola Tinubu, security agencies beefed up security at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal and other sensitive areas in Abuja on Tuesday.
The verdict, which will be delivered on Wednesday (today) by the tribunal headed by Justice Haruna Tsammani, is eagerly anticipated by the supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Atiku Abubakar, Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, and President Tinubu.
The supporters of the petitioners have been engaging in heated debates online, expressing confidence that the judgment will favour their preferred candidates.
To forestall any breakdown of law and order that may result from the judgment, several armed policemen, civil defence officers, and other security operatives were deployed to strategic locations in the Federal Capital Territory.
The judgment will take place at the Court of Appeal, Three Arms zone, Abuja.
The Chief Registrar, Court of Appeal headquarters, Umar Bangari, had announced in a statement on Monday that the tribunal verdict will be broadcast live on television stations to ensure transparency and openness and to enable Nigerians to witness the proceeding.
The Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had declared Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress as the winner of the presidential election held on March 1 after he garnered 8.8 million votes to defeat the PDP candidate, Atiku, who got 6.9 million votes, the LP candidate, Obi, who secured 6.1 million votes and 15 other contestants.
However, five out of the 18 political parties that participated in the elections filed petitions challenging the outcome of the polls.
Besides the PDP and the LP, other aggrieved parties included the Action Alliance, Action People’s Party, and the Allied Peoples Movement.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja, where the tribunal is sitting, has been heavily fortified by security forces ahead of the proceedings.
According to sources, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) witnessed a massive deployment of security personnel on Monday, with several police trucks and vans stationed at strategic locations. The entrance to the Court of Appeal was blocked by police vehicles, while armed officers were seen patrolling the streets and taking orders from their superiors.
A staff member of the court hinted that a memo was circulated to all workers, instructing them not to report to work today due to the expected high security presence around the court premises. The staff member said, “The memo said that there would be tight security measures in place at the court and that only those who have official business would be allowed in.”
It was also gathered that lawyers and litigants who wish to attend the tribunal hearing may be subjected to thorough screening before gaining access to the courtroom. The security source said that the acting Inspector-General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, had directed all police commands and formations across the country to secure all potential flashpoints under their jurisdictions and prevent any breach of peace.
Eye witnesses observed that police patrol teams were also deployed along major roads in the FCT, such as the Federal Secretariat, Muhammadu Buhari Way, and Ladoke Akintola Boulevard. The source added that all roads leading to the Court of Appeal would be also cordoned off by the police before the commencement of the tribunal hearing.
It was further learnt 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 which 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 favour them or their choice candidate,” a senior officer said.
In preparation for the possible aftermath of the judgment, the police said they had put in place all necessary deployments and security measures.
The force also disclosed that its officers and men were fully prepared to maintain order and enforce the laws while respecting the rights and freedoms of all citizens.