• CSOs: Democracy under threat
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), (Federal Operations), Alkali Baba Usman, has apologised to Nigerians for the way and manner the security agencies prevailed on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to shift the governorship election in Edo State from September 10 to September 28.
The recompense by the police came on the heels of scathing criticisms made by from a coalition of Nigerian civil society organisations under the auspices of the ‘Situation Room’ chaired by Mr. Clement Nwankwo.
At a strategy meeting convened by the group in Abuja yesterday, many speakers lampooned the security agencies for playing on the intelligence of Nigerians through the unwarranted call for the postponement of the September 10 governorship election in the state.
Nwankwo had said there was an urgent need to call the security agencies to order as their actions are becoming a big threat to the survival of democracy in the country.
However, Usman who stood in for the IG at the meeting, said the police believed that the approach adopted by the security agencies by publicly calling on INEC to shift the governorship poll was wrong,
He however, absolved the security agencies of any outward motive, adding that the move to postpone the election was an honest and sincere one.
The AIG said the police believed that postponing the election was the best option under the circumstances, adding that there was no way it could have guaranteed proper policing of the election if INEC had gone ahead with it.
“Accepting the fact that the police was in the forefront in requesting the INEC to postpone the election, that would not have been the best way as has been observed.
Ours was an honest and sincere advice which we believe was the best thing to do at that time but the approach and the way that we came out to do it left much to be desired. We do apologise for that but the fact remains that as at that time, it was not feasible for us to police the election effectively,” he said.
Usman said the police expect to deploy all their personnel meant for the election before Tuesday next week.
While providing details of security deployment for the election now scheduled to hold onSeptember 28, the Commissioner of Police in-charge of Federal Operations, Olayiwola Yusuf, said the police have perfected a strategy to make policing of the election very effective.
He explained that part of the strategies is to have a very senior officer in-charge of supervising security operations at the senatorial district level.
According to Yusuf, the police have used the period of the postponement to further perfect it’s security plans, adding that the force has now acquired more gun boats to help it police the riverine areas of the state.
He also said the police would deploy three area surveillance aircraft to monitor activities from the air on the election day.
While speaking at the forum, Nwankwo said that from all indications the postponement was forced on INEC, adding that the commission appeared well-prepared and determined to conduct the governorship election as scheduled.
He said the CSOs were jolted by the sudden demand for a shift in the Edo election even when all security analysis pointed to the fact that the state had little of no security threat.
In his presentation, a lawyer and a prominent member of the CSO, Election Monitoring Group, Mr. Festus Okoye, condemned the growing over-bearing influence of the security agencies in the conduct of election in the country.
With particular reference to what happened before the postponement of the governorship election in Edo State, Okoye said that the police and the DSS literally held INEC to ransom by refusing to guarantee security cover for the September 10 botched poll.
He described the excuse given by the security agencies as very bogus and untenable, warning that if the situation is not checked, the conduct of the general election in 2019 might be threatened leading to an unprecedented national crisis.
“This is a major threat to the survival of democracy in the country. What happens if some one wakes up in 2019 and plays the security card because he is afraid of loosing the election, the country will be thrown into avoidable constitutional crisis, “ he said.
Okoye accused the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) committing the offense it blamed the Peoples Democractic Party (PDP) by trying to arm-twist INEC using the security agencies.
Another speaker, Prof. Kunia, expressed fears that the authorities of the police may order a last minute redeployment of the Police Commissioner in Edo State and other top officers, an action that will further cause disruptions in the preparations already made by INEC.