A Peaceful and Violence-Free General Election Summit to ensure peaceful elections in Delta State, organised by the Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD), at the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Delta State, was brought to an abrupt halt on Tuesday.

This came barely 24 hours after the venue was used for an event attended by national leaders and members of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The summit was scheduled for Tuesday with security agencies, officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Civil Society Organisations, among others, billed to attend.

According to VATLAD, the PTI management based its decision on the summit being a political gathering.

VATLAD had organised a similar summit in Abuja on February 7, 2019, which was attended by the acting Inspector General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff, among others.

Addressing journalists at the venue of the aborted summit, Odafe Emmanuel Igbini, VATLAD National President, frowned at the way and manner the PTI management abruptly stopped the proposed summit when the same premises was on Monday given to the APC to hold its political meeting.

He said: “We wish to draw the attention of the good and peaceful people of Delta State, and the general public, to the shocking decision of the management of Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Delta State, to thwart a scheduled summit focused on ensuring peaceful and violence-free general election in Delta State ahead of March 9, 2019. Just at the time respected invitees to the summit were arriving the venue and others on their way, the management of PTI decided to stop the event by refusing us one of its halls we had earlier applied to use.

“The management claimed that it could not allow us the use of 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 and names of invited guests for the event as demanded by the management.

“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 this management granted the APC permission to use its hall and facilities on Monday to host a large political meeting. Why then not extend same to our summit, which is not a political gathering but a summit of a 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. As at the time the summit was aborted by the PTI management, the Delta State Commissioner of Police represented by ACP Aiki James; Delta State INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner represented by Electoral Officer, Mr Akhigbe; former Delta State commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Victor Otomewo, journalists and many other Peace and Good Governance Advocates had already arrived the venue, while other invited guests were on their way.

“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, 2019 elections,  could encourage desperate politicians to commit evils as predicted. We will continue to appeal to Deltans to remain law-abiding and peaceful before, during and after the March 9, 2019 elections. We also appeal to the candidates and their political parties to ensure the elections are not do-or-die, and that no supporter of theirs should engage in any form of violence and electoral crime.”

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