Amid growing security challenges in Nigeria, the police and other security agencies are expected to protect lives and property before, during and after the 2019 elections, writes Shola Oyeyipo
Eections are not just important but critical aspect of a country’s democratic process. However, conducting violence-free elections has remained a major challenge confronting many developing countries, including Nigeria.
Thus, at every election Insecurity on the Trail of a General Election 2019 General Election and the Shadows of Insecurity
Amid growing security challenges in Nigeria, the police and other security agencies are expected to protect lives and property before, during and after the 2019 elections, writes Shola Oyeyipo cycle, attention is not just on the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), but also on the institution saddled with the responsibility of providing security, the Police.
Ordinarily, some of the reasons for the sustained culture of electoral violence are hinged on inordinate quest for political power, religious and sectional differences, political rivalry and election rigging. But the situation in Nigeria has been escalated beyond that. There is large scale insurgency in some states, herdsmen killings, banditry and all that are giving many people sleepless nights.
Whereas in climes where there is relative peace, the job of the police is well cut out. There is never the need for deployment of heavily-armed combatant officers and blockades along major highways, but as things are, the work of security operatives will even go beyond that in the forthcoming election. They must embark on violence prevention.
Though the overall agenda is for security men to provide cover for INEC officials and also to provide peaceful environment for the process from voting to collation of result and the announcement of results, but this must be done with the consciousness that the perpetrators of violence in the North-east and some other parts of the north are not just common political thugs but organised criminals, who have unleashed terror on innocent citizens over the years.
Residents in affected parts of Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Kebbi, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara, Niger and Plateau States have lived with violence that is better imagined long before now but concerns are mounting as the countdown to the election draws closer.
The existential insecurity and well-known electoral violence were made worse when the federal government recently raised the alarm that the main opposition political party was mobilising bandits and members of Boko Haram to perpetrate mayhem in Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Nasarawa, Plateau, Kaduna, and Zamfara states during the coming elections
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made the allegations, even added that there were plans to attack some state governors and that the overall agenda was to disrupt the conduct of the election.
Expectedly, the PDP vehemently denied the allegation, saying it was a ploy to clamp down on opposition figures. Be that has it may, the police authority cannot take such issues with a pinch of the salt.
This is more so when the United States of America added its voice to alert Nigerians and its citizens in Nigeria on the need to be conscious of threats by members of Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa during the period of the election.
According to a statement published on the US official website in Nigeria on Friday, January 18, 2019, it raised the alarm that the insurgents had threatened to attack public places, thereby advising the people to be careful in their movements and keep a low profile.
“There is an increase in ISIS propaganda videos, specifically directed to Nigeria and the ongoing civil unrest in Borno State and the North-east.
“ISIS West Africa and Boko Haram have both stated their plan to disrupt the upcoming 2019 presidential election by conducting attacks on Nigerian security and infrastructure, as well as places of gathering such as markets, hotels, and malls.”
The US, therefore, warned its citizens in Nigeria to always remember to follow personal security precautions on a regular basis while it expects additional police and military checkpoints and possible roadblocks throughout the country.
The principal reason why water-tight security measures must be put in place by the Nigerian security is that reliable security analysts, who have been studying terrorists’ activities in Africa, have said more attacks were expected in the run-up to February 16.
A counter-terrorism specialist with the Modern Security Consulting Group (MOSECON) in Berlin, Yan St-Pierre, recently told a Nigerian newspaper that there were implications beyond Nigeria’s borders.
According to him, the intensity and regularity of recent attacks indicated Islamic States West African Province ISWAP now has a capacity for sustained warfare and a significant number of fighters and materials at its disposal.
This is surely not the best time to envy the police and other sister agencies. They have a lot on their hands. While they must be proactive in stopping mega scale attacks, it is also their responsibilities to ensure that miscreants and political thugs do not disrupt the election process by adequately protecting INEC staff and the electorate.
One soothing thing is that the acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Abubakar Adamu is a thorough-bred and highly professional police officer, who rose through the ranks to become what some call a “super detective.”
He is equipped with requisite experience in international peacekeeping. Also, he has grown through the ranks in the INTERPOL and has experience policing diverse environments.
His professional expertise, exceptional leadership skills and rich national and international policing career must bring out the best of his ability to affirm his reputation as an officer with courage, calmness, incorruptibility, discipline, clear vision, and deep knowledge of policing dynamics.
He is expected by now, to have been abreast of the intelligence available to the US, which made it raise the alarm. Aside from that, knowing the terrain better, gathering necessary intelligence to curtail all forms of attacks against the election is very important.
Relevant agencies, especially the Department of State Security (DSS), will surely be of considerable assistance to the police in the area of intelligence gathering. And also, considering the international dimension of the threat, the military and other security setups would be expected to collaborate to give the country a hitch-free free, fair and credible election come February 16 and March 2.
It is, however, heartwarming that the police are already on the drawing board to act promptly and professionally. Sources close to the new police IGP said while he is keeping his card close to his chest, he is already drawing up charts that would accentuate the prism that there is a new sheriff in town.
Immediately he was named the acting IGP, Adamu promised that he would handle the forthcoming general election in the country in a professional manner. He equally assured the people that they would have a level playing field. He has said that repeatedly ever since.
“I have said it before and will say it again, the police are professionals and we have been given the assignment to secure the election, creating a level playing field for everybody. We will provide security before, during and after the election,” the acting IGP was recently quoted to have said.
Nigerians and the international community will hold him to these promises during and after the elections.
It was gathered that last Monday when he summoned all police commissioners to an emergency meeting in Abuja at the Force Headquarters, the main thrust was securing the nation during the election.
However Adamu plans to go about it, it must be clear to him that his litmus test is the forthcoming election. He must bring his experience on the table and justify why he was the most suitable officer for the IGP job at a time like this.