• I won’t compromise my integrity for political interests, Mark declares
• Operatives brace up security ahead of APC, PDP
• NANS rescinds to disrupt APC, PDP’s primaries over ASUU strike
• Food prices, hotel soars in Abuja as primaries holds
Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FTC), is in upbeat mood, as the city prepares to host what has been termed a political festival this weekend. But that cosy scenario would hide a multitude of sins and what has been a chaotic, and at times, disastrous process of preparation for the political feast.
Delegates are expected to flood the streets of Abuja, almost simultaneously, as the All Progressives Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). Delegates will be shuttling to and from the arena from hotels that will be staffed with 24-hour security. Hopefully.
The Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, already, is wearing a new face, as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) prepares to hold its Special Convention in the facility.
The venue, currently, is a beehive of activities. In fact, the main bowl of the stadium has been adorned with different designs bearing white, red and green colours of the party.
One of the workers, who spoke with The Guardian, said preparatory activities for the convention started last week and ends before tomorrow morning.
However, the Eagle Square, venue of the All Progressive Congress (APC) convention is yet to wear that pomp and pageantry expected of a venue that is to host an activity of such magnitude.
Just a few security personnel were sighted at the Eagle Square when The Guardian visited the venue to observe preparations for the presidential primary.
A security official at the facility told The Guardian that though the venue is yet to take the look of preparation expected from such activity, he is aware that event will hold as stated.
The PDP presidential primary is scheduled for May 28, while APC holds its own primary on May 29. The NNPP convention is slated for May 30.
MEANWHILE, as the PDP intensifies preparations, chairman of the Convention Planning Committee and former Senate President, David Mark, has ruled out the possibility of compromising rules and regulations put in place to ensure credible, free and fair elections.
He also made it clear that his integrity would not be compromised for any political interest.
Mark, who spoke through his media adviser, Paul Mumeh, said: “You can quote me, Senator David Mark has a track record of excellence. In this assignment, he will be fair and firm. The result of the convention will reflect the wishes of the delegates. Nothing will be left to chance.”
It was also learnt yesterday that some stakeholders, particularly, delegates are uncomfortable with alleged plot to prevent the use of telephones or recording gadgets at the voting arena.
A member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP said: “In as much as I would not want any kind of fraud that might result in irregularities in the presidential primaries, I want to caution the committee against possible abuse of people’s rights and privileges during the convention.”
THE possibility that protests or even violence will become a focus of attention at the convention has been taken away. The Guardian gathered that the security atmosphere in the FCT has been upped.
Already, the police have deployed more of its men. The FCT Police Command has deployed hundreds of its operatives for the convention.
According to police spokesman, DSP Josephine Adeh, the conventions would be characterised by a high influx of people into the FCT.
“In a bid to ensure a hitch-free event, the FCT Police Command has designed a robust security arrangement defined by a generous deployment within and without the election ground and to every nook and cranny of the territory.
“The deployment prioritises the protection of lives and properties of all and sundry by emplacing counter-insurgency measures, maintenance of clear road access, robust stop and search at strategic points around the suburbs and city center, effective crowd control, and intelligence gathering but to mention a few.”
A tour around the convention venues revealed that state security actors had already taken position and are on red alert.
For the past few days, over three police patrol vehicles had been positioned at the City gate axis and in front of the stadium, while a couple of police vehicles were also positioned inside the Eagle square, with vigilant operatives manning them.
Sources at the police headquarters revealed that the IGP has mandated the FCT police command to ensure there are no security gaps ahead of the conventions.
The source said the police had learned their lessons from the last APC convention, where they were almost overwhelmed by crowd and weapon-wielding hoodlums.
The event was almost greeted with chaos when political thugs loyal to different politicians arrived the venue in attempt to force their way inside the convention ground. The police waded in and restored normalcy before the convention commenced.
It was gathered that the newly launched police patrol vehicles by the Ministry of Police Affairs, would be put to good use during the convention.
It was further gathered that plain-clothed operatives have spread their dragnets to ‘A’ list hotels where delegates and party faithful would be lodged.
A visit to Transcorp Hilton hotel yesterday, revealed that most delegates have arrived ahead of the event. Almost all the major hotels are presently fully booked ad security agencies have positioned their decoy operatives to ensure safety of all guests in the seat of power.
The police is not the only agency on red alert, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) has also prepared and groomed its operatives for the challenges that come with such conventions.
The Corp said it would be deploying 6,000 operatives for the primaries.
Spokesman of the NSCDC, Olusola Odumosu, made the disclosure while responding to queries on the level of preparedness of the agency to handle the crowd expected in the capital city during the period.
He said the corps is making sure that will reinforce deployment to critical national assets and infrastructure of government to check the menace of vandalism which usually happens when events of such magnitude is taking place, especially within the FCT.
Odumosu also stated that the agency’s explosive units would be working hand-in-glove with the Improvise Explosive Device, (IED) unit of the Nigerian police to ensure watertight security.
Eagle Square… Waiting for APC delegates. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA
AT the heart of these historic events are brisk businesses whose owners will smile to the bank and benefit from the exercise.
The transportation sector is another important sector of the economy that will leverage the exercise through the movement of people and products. Airlines and road transport systems will be booked to convey delegates to the FCT for the primaries.
The hospitality industry is a broad category within the service industry that includes lodging, food and drink service, event planning, theme parks, travel and tourism.
But for the purpose of the primaries, the lodging, food and drink service as well as event planning will be the big players during this process. Delegates that will travel from other states to the Federal Capital Territory will have to lodge in hotels and their welfare taken care of.
This is one of the major industries that will make a huge income from the activities of the primaries. It is busy time for some printers during this period due to the mass production of political campaign banners, souvenirs, posters, pamphlets, customized T-shirts, caps amongst other printable materials for the purpose of publicity. Each party will have its own unique printed materials serving as an identity during the election process.
Roadside traders will not be left out, as bottled water, drinks, snacks and other food items will be highly consumed. Also, local traders selling brooms and umbrellas, which are emblems of the APC and PDP respectively, will latch on the events to make additional income, as many supporters will display the items to showcase the parties’ identities.
Food prices, hotel rate soars
THE influx of political delegates, especially those of APC and PDP may be adding to cost of food items, as most hotels are already fully booked.
In most markets across the FCT, food items including tomatoes, pepper, onions, vegetables are already on the rise.
At the Garki food market, yesterday, a small ‘paint rubber’ of tomatoes, which usually sells for about N1500 was selling for almost double of the price at N2500.
Worsened by the closed Deidei Market due to recent unrest, which resulted in the death of a number of people, traders at the Dawaki Market in the FCT, yesterday, now most perishable food items 30 to 40 per cent higher than the price was, including onion.
A trader, Chinyere Amadi, explained to The Guardian, “it is difficult to get these items. This tomatoes basket is now about N25,000. Commercial motorists now charge double because Deidei Market is closed. Despite the demand, our profit margin is getting lower.”
A food venture around the eagle square, Suliat Adewole who usually makes food for civil servants at the Federal Secretariat noted that her patronage has drastically increased.
According to her, she might have to increase her capacity and stay longer to take advantage of the primary.
At the Lugbe fruit market along the airport road, five tubers of yam, which usually sell for N2500 was trading for N4500.
Most hotels also crowded yesterday, as some are fully booked due to influx of delegates into the city.
Transcorp Hilton, although usually crowded was unusual yesterday with increased vehicular movement and people.
At about 2:30pm yesterday, only about five rooms were said to be available when The Guardian asked to make reservations for 20 people.
Parties’ Primaries: Hotel scarcity hits Abuja as printers record low business
Prices of food items stable
SCARCITY of hotels especially within the Abuja metropolis is beginning to heighten as members of both Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Congress (APC) come to town for their primaries.
With statutory or popularly called ‘super’ delegates totally absent from the scene, hotel scarcity is expected to less chaotic like previous editions.
This comes as convergence of the two biggest parties’ decision to hold their delegates conventions in the nation’s capital will stretch the already inadequate infrastructure such as electricity. Indeed, coincidentally, there has been power outage in most part of Abuja in the last three days.
With the rising cost of diesel amid epileptic power supply, the hotel rates are expected to go up by 30 per cent of more depending on the area.
The choicest areas of comfort in Abuja are Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse one and two, Garki one and two, Jabi and Utako.
Closely followed by Gwarimpa one and two, Kubwa, Lugbe, Karu while Gwagwalada might be considered too far off.
Hotels in the highbrow areas of Maitama, Jabi, Utako and Asokoro are expected to witness the highest increment.
The expected influx of politicians and other stakeholders into Abuja has not affected the price of foodstuffs as such except beef and chicken.
The prices of drinks such as beer and other alcoholic drinks may witness slight upward adjustments depending on area of consumption.
A visit to Area 10 and Area One which are considered the major printing hubs in Abuja are yet to record high patronage expected to happen whenever big political events happen in Abuja.
The Managing Director of Graphic point venture, Bobby Oluwaseyi said though major stakeholders do not go into an overdrive in imposing their pictures on casual shirts and caps, major participants in the 2023 elections such as Bola Tinubu and Atiku have printed few posters as well as casual shirts.
He explained: “Though we not have many jobs during party primaries, the jobs that we Habe gotten this year is very low. I have seen printing of face caps and casual shirts for Bola Tinubu campaign and that is Atiku Abubakar. There are also print on local fabrics by a few politicians but nothing compared to the past.”
A fish seller in Dutse market, Falilat Ajayi said the price of fish and chicken has not gone up significantly in the last few days.
“Well, we are hearing about the primaries but we have not seen the effects in the market. Sales are still low and the prices are the same. Even people that run hotels and garden that are our usual big customers have not increased their orders that much,” she stated.
Most hotels within Kubwa have not been fully booked as at Thursday morning though some of the managers remained optimistic that bookings will spike as the days of the conventions draw closer.
Despite the price hike by major hotels in the Abuja metropolis all rooms are fully booked ahead of the presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
An hotelier with Rockview Hotel on Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent Wuse II, Abuja who confirmed the hike in the prices of rooms and foods in the hotel, maintained that the increase took effect since May 1, 2022.
He, however, noted that the increase was unconnected to the political party primaries.
The hotelier, who does not want his name mentioned on print, confirmed to The Guardian, that the PDP has fully booked all the rooms in the hotel, adding that the hotel will start receiving delegates from Friday 26th of may.
At Transcolp Hilton, it was learnt that the cheapest room was N243,000 per day as opposed to N107,000 on a usual day for the standard room.
At Sheraton Hotel, the price had risen from about N70,000 for the smallest room to N100,000.
The front desk officer disclosed that it was because of the forthcoming primaries.
“We have a few rooms left but the minimum rate now is N100,000. Those dates you are trying to reserve are very busy for us. I am sure you know why,” the attendant said.
At Frasier Suites located at the Central Business District, it was gathered that no rooms were available.
An unidentified attendant simply said, “We have no available rooms from May 28 to May 31. However, you can call back on Monday to see if there are any spaces left.”
The story was the same at Garki, Corinthia Villa hotel, which also said they had no rooms available for May 28, 29, 30 and June 1.
At Bon Hotel located at Maitama, the front desk officer revealed that some rooms were still available and a discount would be given if payment was made on time.
Attendant at Berbera Palace Hotel, Wuse in Abuja, said the hotel was fully booked for those dates.
NANS rescinds decision to disrupt APC, PDP’s primaries over ASUU strike
THE National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) may have rescinded its decision to disrupt primaries of major political parties in Abuja and other parts of the country over the lingering industrial dispute in the nation’s public universities.
An official of NANS, who spoke with The Guardian, under the condition of anonymity, said an intervention by the Senate and a group, Vision Africa, have convinced student body to suspend the planned shutdown of Abuja during political parties’ primaries.
The students’ body led by its president, Sunday Asefon, had accused Nigerian leaders of ignoring the plight of Nigerian students who are at the receiving end of the ongoing avoidable strike.
The NANS official, on the other hand, stated that the founder of Vision Africa and Bishop of the Methodist Diocese of Umuahia, Dr Sunday Onuoha, intervened in the situation after considering the implications of the students’ three-month-long strike.
According to him, the Bishop met with the leadership of NANS and initiated a discussion with the leadership of the national assembly, which resulted in the suspension of the planned protest.