- Thugs already mobilised from within and outside the states to disrupt process IG Adamu pledges 64,241 policemen
Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned of impending violence ahead of the Kogi and Bayelsa states governorship elections.
INEC’s Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who gave the warning at the inter-agency security meeting between the Commission and security agencies yesterday, said there were indications that thugs had been mobilised from within and outside the states with the aim of either influencing the elections or disrupting the process on behalf of partisan sponsors.
But in a swift response, the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed gave firm assurances to the commission that the Nigeria Police Force was equal to its mandate of maintaining law and order, stating that he would deploy a combine team of 64,241 police personnel to provide security during the election.
According to the INEC chairman, “There are already warning signals in the two states. Both are politically vol+-965*66*-+69atile. Elections have been severally disrupted by violence in the past. Our own risk assessment, which will be shared with the security agencies at this meeting, has identified some flash points.
“We are also concerned that thugs have been mobilised from within and outside the states with the aim of either influencing the elections or disrupting the process on behalf of partisan sponsors. This calls for a robust response before the elections, on election day, and during the process of collation and declaration of results.
“Nigerians expect that by now, we have learnt enough lessons from previous elections to ensure a swift security response to the increasing desperation by political actors to disrupt elections and subvert the will of the electorate.
“If that happens, many Nigerians will blame the electoral umpire and the security agencies. We must continue to rise to this challenge.”
The INEC chair noted that despite the security threats, the commission was committed to the integrity of the process.
He added: “Over the last seven months, we have been working assiduously to ensure that we conduct credible elections. We cannot undermine the processes we have so laboriously established.
“We are equally confident in the assurances we have received from the security agencies of civil and professional conduct by their personnel deployed for the elections. We have been re-assured by the security agencies that election day activities at polling units and collation centres would not be disrupted by the activities of hoodlums, neither will thugs be allowed to cart away results sheets or compel our Returning Officers to make declarations under duress.
“We are equally re-assured that security personnel will adhere strictly to the standard operational guidelines and deal decisively with misconduct by their personnel on election duty. We are equally confident that with the sheer number of personnel the security agencies are deploying in the two states, there can be no excuse for the processes to be undermined by anti-democratic elements.”
Yakubu further stated that he was glad that yesterday’s meeting was attended by the Resident Electoral Commissioners for Bayelsa and Kogi States, as well as the Commissioners of Police of the two states, adding, “they will brief us on the level of electoral and security preparations in the two States.
“We will also discuss and finalise the security deployment plan for the two elections in line with provision of Section 29 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) so that the security agencies are not perceived to be running parallel arrangement with INEC. Rather, it should be INEC’s plan for the election that we should all be implementing.”
According to him, INEC would meet with stakeholders to ensure peaceful and credible polls: “On Thursday November 7, 2019, the Commission is organising another meeting with stakeholders in Bayelsa State to be followed by another meeting on Monday 11th November 2019 in Kogi State. We will be joined by the Inspector-General of Police, the Director General of NYSC and representatives of all the security agencies to listen to the concerns of stakeholders and fine-tune our plans in full consultation with the stakeholders.”
The Inspector General of Police pledged that adequate police protection would be provided during the polls, adding that the police high command would deploy 35,200 and 32,041 police rank and file to Kogi and Bayelsa states, respectively.
The IGP promised that the police would cover every nook and cranny of the two states and nobody, no matter how highly placed would be allowed to disrupt the elections.
The Police Chief vowed: “The security of the two elections is highly guaranteed and no thug would be allowed to cause any security breach. INEC officers and offices and the Central Bank of Nigeria, where the sensitive materials are kept, would be protected and the elections would be peaceful.
“Polling centres and coalition centres would equally be protected. We have taken care of the security breaches of the 2019 general elections. The police officers will have name tags and their telephone numbers displayed for ease of identification. Vote buying will not be tolerated. They would be arrested and prosecuted according to the laws of the land.
A representative of the National Security Adviser, Sanusi Galadimma also pledged adequate security, adding that they were monitoring the security challenges and assured that everything was under control.
Arms Build-Up Allegation Rocks Bayelsa Towns
Meanwhile, the volatile Brass and Nembe Local Government Councils of Bayelsa State were yesterday embroiled in allegations and counter-allegations of arms stockpile ahead of the November 16 governorship election.
Chairman of Brass, Victor Isaiah said he had information that “Otita Force”, led by the younger brother of a popular politician in Nembe, who recently defected to the APC was bringing in cult-related activities to the Island.
He added that “Otita Force” poses grave danger to the security of Brass people, especially vulnerable youths, because its operations were largely characterised by mindless thuggery, violence, cultism and extremist dispositions.
But reacting, the APC party chairman in the area, Baribote Baribote, described the allegation as ludicrous, warning the local government chief not to disrupt the relative peace of the area.
Speaking in Twon-Brass, headquarters of Brass, Isaiah alleged that the group, which he said was working for the APC, was embarking on the recruitment of youths to cause mayhem during the November 16 governorship election in the area.
He said the antecedents of the Otita Force and its members were well known as a mutation from the Isongu Furo cult group which, according to him, brought pains and sorrow to the people of Nembe.
The PDP chief, who also called for the ban of the group, noted that if their activities were not checked, Brass would be thrown into another crisis as it was witnessed some years ago, when the Isongu Furo cult allegedly held sway in Nembe and Brass.
“Brass LGA will not tolerate any form of activity from the Otita Force group or any of its proxy groups or individuals in the council Area.
“No right thinking persons or organisations with genuine intentions to attract real development to an area will name its group Otita Force,” Isaiah said.
He called on security agencies to beam their searchlight on the Otita Force and its activities in the interest of peaceful coexistence of the Brass people.
Baribote said Isaiah’s utterance on stockpiling of dangerous weapons was false. “I humbly urge the Nigerian Army, the Department of State Services (DSS), the Nigerian Police Force and other conscientious law enforcement agencies to keep a close eye on the council chairman and his aides,” the APC chief said.
APC Cannot Win in Free, Fair Poll, Dickson Insists
In a related development, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State yesterday maintained that the opposition APC could not garner substantial votes to win the November 16 governorship election, given a free and fair contest.
Dickson boasted that with the developmental strides made by the state in the last eight years, the people were now fully informed that the PDP remained the party of choice for Bayelsa State.
Speaking when he led the campaign trail of the PDP to Sagbama, Bayelsa West, the governor noted that the party was not in the area to campaign because he was convinced that the party had already won the election.
On the trail with the governor to Agbere, Ebedebiri and Sagbama towns were party chieftains, state cabinet members, as well as the standard bearer of the party, Senator Douye Diri and his running mate, Senator Lawrence Ewhrujakpor.
He said: “With all your leaders, who have spoken, all of them who are here, have we not won already? I am not here because of campaign, but here to say thank you for all the support these constituencies have been giving to me and PDP from 1999 until date.
“The candidates that you have, who are your sons are 100 times better than the candidate on the other side. What we have done in eight years, those on the other side when they had the opportunity for five years they couldn’t even do 10 per cent of what we have done.”
He urged the teeming crowd not to be frightened by rumours that the APC had concluded arrangements to deploy security forces to rig the election, noting that only votes and not guns will count on November 16.
“Don’t worry; they too know that we are not with them. They would talk about using soldiers, don’t worry yourselves, they would talk about using police to harass you, don’t worry.
“They will talk of SSS or DSS to harass you, don’t worry. Election is with PVC, those security agencies don’t have PVC to vote, you are the ones with PVC to vote in that community. So, on that day, no fight, no violence; come with your PVC and line up, refuse to be intimidated by anybody.”
Dickson stressed that all those who were “misled” to leave the party were returning and asked them to take everybody back even at the ward level.
He said that others that hadn’t returned to the party were regretting leaving the PDP because the APC has no place in the state.
“They are already crying for getting involved in a matter that is bigger than them. They are aware that they have failed already, so don’t listen to their 419 talk.
“APC is not on ground in this state, in any ward to win; in all our communities, they cannot win in a free and fair election,” he maintained.
In his comments, the PDP candidate for the election, Diri, promised to consolidate on the achievements of the PDP government in the last eight years.