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National Security Council: Elections Will Hold as Scheduled

National Security Council: Elections Will Hold as Scheduled

•Police probing some governors for allegedly inciting violence 

•US harps on peaceful, free, fair voting process in Nigeria  

•PDP PCC condemns attack on TV, radio station in Rivers

Deji Elumoye in Abuja, Sunday Ehigiator in Lagos, Gbenga Sodeinde in Ado Ekiti and Laleye Dipo in Minna

Contrary to fears that were being expressed in some quarters that the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections might be postponed, the National Security Council (NSC) rose from its maiden meeting in 2023, yesterday, with an assurance that the presidential and National Assembly elections billed for this Saturday would hold as scheduled. Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, gave the assurance when he briefed newsmen on the outcome of the meeting presided by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chambers of State House, Abuja.

Malami said the meeting was briefed by Chief of Defence Staff, the three service chiefs, Inspector-General of Police, and heads of other security agencies, who spoke on their readiness to provide security for Saturday’s poll.

The United States of America (USA) also said yesterday it was committed to peaceful, free and fair elections in Nigeria. The US stressed that the process of voting Nigeria’s leaders mattered to the world.

In a similar vein, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, warned the electorate and politicians against vote- selling and vote-buying in the Saturday polls.

Malami told journalists after the NSC meeting that the council resolved that the February 25 election should hold as planned. He disclosed that the meeting was a follow up to earlier meetings of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the Council of State held last week, to affirm the readiness of the electoral body, the police, and other security agencies for the general election.

Malami explained, “Now, out of desire to further consolidate and appraise the comprehensive and general preparation of the system, relating to the conduct of the election, this meeting, which is third in series of appraising and reviewing the state of preparedness, is called by the president.

“At the National Security Council meeting, briefings were made by security agencies, generally, and service chiefs. National Security Adviser made submission, Chief of Defense Staff made one, Chief of Army Staff made submission, Chief of Naval Staff made submission, Chief of Air Staff did, Inspector-General of Police, who incidentally is equally addressing you, made submission, Director-General, State Security Service did, and, indeed, DG NIA, and CDI all made submissions.

“The summary and conclusion of all submissions was to the effect that the system is wholeheartedly ready for the conduct of the election and arising there from, the position of the government, the position of the president is to the effect that the election is holding on the 25th day of February, 2023 and Mr. President and the National Security Council are happy with the preparations on the ground and wholehearted arrangements are put in place in that direction.

“So we have been mandated, arising from the conclusions of the security council meeting, to now brief you accordingly, but the summary of it, the conclusion of it, the resolution of the council is to the effect that the elections are holding and there is no going back about it.”

On his part, the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba Usman, reeled out the instructions given to security agencies to make the elections credible, peaceful and acceptable. This included ensuring that Nigerians had the right atmosphere, where they could go out to cast their votes without intimidation, as well as providing adequate security to INEC, its staff and materials, among others.

Usman said, “As for specific instructions, yes, we have specific instructions. The specific instruction is that we must ensure that Nigerians are allowed to come out and exercise their franchise or vote the leaders of their choice and for that we must create a conducive environment or atmosphere for Nigerians to exercise their right.

“We must also provide protection for INEC materials and officials to do their work. We must ensure that before, during and after the election, whatever fall-back it is, we do not have people who will take the law into their own hands and if there is any, we should be able to check within the quickest possible means to ensure that it does not snowball into a bigger crisis.”

Responding to a question on allegation against governors, allegedly, inciting violence over the cash scarcity crisis, Usman said, “We are investigating. Whoever does anything can be investigated, but for him to be prosecuted, there are people who have immunity, I think that is some of the reasons, but that will not stop us from cautioning them, from warning them and from advising them and we are doing so. That’s for incitement by governors.”

Commenting on the presence of military men on the streets of Lagos and Abeokuta, following recent unrest in both places, the IGP said, “These are joint operations, aimed at stabilising the internal security order before the election, these are not operations that are targeted at the election.

“But it is targeted at stabilising the situation, especially the one that came up as a result of the currency swap or whatever we can call it, where people go on vandalising, destroying and even committing arson and so on and so forth.”

Earlier yesterday morning, Buhari discussed with the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu. The discussion was, according to Buhari, at the instance of the INEC chairman, and it was part of efforts to ensure that the elections held successfully.

The president hinted on the telephone conversation while explaining his few minutes of lateness to the inauguration and handover of security equipment valued at over N12 billion to the military and Nigeria Police.

Buhari said, “I’m being grounded by INEC. You know, next Saturday is a great day for us and I take instructions from INEC so that I make sure there’ll be no excuses for the successful election.”

US Harps on Peaceful, Free, Fair Elections in Nigeria

The US expressed its commitment to peaceful, free and fair elections in Nigeria, saying the country’s elections matter to the whole world. It said this in a 58-second video featuring the country’s Secretary of State, Antony Blinken; United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, Samantha Power; and US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Linda Thomas-Greenfield, which was shared on the U.S. Mission Nigeria social media platforms.

In the video, they said, “Nigeria’s constitution, like America’s, begins with a simple and profound idea: ‘We the People.’ And during this election, you the people of Nigeria have a chance to make your voices heard, to choose your future. 

“The United States does not support any individual candidate for office, but we strongly support a peaceful election that reflects the will of the people of Nigeria, because free and fair elections in Nigeria help create a freer and fairer world for everyone.

“Your vote matters. This election matters, not only to Nigerians but to the rest of the world. We are interested in your success. Our shared democratic futures depend on it. Go to to prepare to vote because your voice matters. The Nigerian people have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

In a follow-up text on the Facebook post, Blinken added, “The United States stands with the Nigerian people as they prepare to make their voices heard by voting in general elections on February 25.

“We do not support any individual candidate for office, but we strongly support free, fair, and peaceful elections.”

INEC Warns Ekiti Residents against Vote-buying, Other Infractions

INEC warned the electorate and politicians in Ekiti State against vote-selling and vote-buying in Saturday’s elections.

The electoral agency warned that anybody arrested for vote- selling or vote-buying would be prosecuted and liable to imprisonment and N1 million fine on conviction by the court.

INEC Public Affairs Officer in the state, Mrs. Rolake Odebunmi, who disclosed this on a radio programme monitored by THISDAY, explained that the electoral agency was well-prepared to ensure the success of Saturday’s poll.

The State Police Command Public Relations Officer, DSP Sunday Abutu, who also appeared on the programme, declared its readiness for election duty on Saturday. Abutu called on the people of the state to be law-abiding and not be involved in any illegal activities or violence.

The INEC spokesperson revealed that the electoral body had entered into a partnership with both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to combat vote-buying and selling during the elections.

Odebunmi noted that the Electoral Act had now empowered INEC to prosecute anybody caught in the act of buying and selling votes on election day, saying those arrested would be transferred to Abuja for further investigation and prosecution.

To further curb electoral malpractices at polling stations, Odebunmi explained that the structure and layout at polling units would change at the coming election. She said the voting cubicle would be arranged in such a way to prevent party agents from moving near voters to see how they voted on the ballot papers.

The INEC official counselled voters not to be lured with N5,000 or N10,000 into committing an offence whose penalty would be jail or N1 million fine. She urged all stakeholders in the electoral process to combat “the pandemic of vote buying.”

Odebunmi said, “The structure and layout at polling units will be different this time around just to curb vote buying, even though politicians will try to find their way to carry out the act. Vote buying and selling is a criminal offence and we are going to be more decisive henceforth.

“We will have ICPC and EFCC operatives on ground and they have arranged for each polling unit. I believe our arrangements will curb vote buying, which is very common to women and our people at the grassroots.

“The Electoral Act has empowered us to deal with anybody caught; the Electoral Act has empowered us to prosecute them. It is N1 million fine or imprisonment or both on conviction and those arrested will not be kept at Okesa (Ado Ekiti), they will be taken out of the state to Abuja.”

The state police spokesperson, Abutu, disclosed that adequate deployment would be made to ensure security for electoral officials, equipment, observers and voters on election day in order to facilitate a hitch-free exercise.

Abutu revealed that the Force Headquarters in Abuja and the Zonal Command in Akure would assist the state command with deployment while the boundaries with neighbouring states would be monitored and policed to prevent any incidence of breakdown of law and order.

He also explained that the state command would be collaborating with sister security agencies, and urged the electorate to come out massively and vote on election day without any fear or apprehension.

Abutu also hinted on the readiness of the police to enforce the Electoral Act to check vote buying and selling, warning party officials and members, and the voting public against involvement in the act

The police spokesman stated, “We are going out in full force to enforce the Electoral Act to tackle vote buying and selling. Our people have been enlightened that vote buying is a criminal offence and I don’t know why any voter will collect N5, 000 or N10, 000 as a reward for four years. Anybody arrested that day will face the full wrath of the law.”

The police image maker called on the people of Ekiti State to cooperate with security agencies on election duty, revealing that some dedicated phone numbers that would serve as election situation hotlines on security issues would be unveiled today.

Similarly, the Ekiti State office of INEC, yesterday, commenced the distribution of sensitive election materials to all the 16 local government areas of the state.

The electoral body also assured the people of the state that the general election would hold as scheduled, urging the people to conduct themselves peacefully, before during and after the polls. INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Professor Ayobami Salami, stated this during the distribution of materials to all the local councils of the state.

The distribution of the sensitive election materials carried out at the Ado Ekiti branch office of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was witnessed by the REC, security agents, party agents, and other election stakeholders in the state.

Salami said, “The INEC Ekiti State is here with all the members of the inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security and all the representatives of all the political parties and other stakeholders to witness distribution of the election sensitive materials to all the 16 local government areas of Ekiti State.

“We have received all the sensitive and non-sensitive materials for the conduct of the election in the state. Before now, we have distributed the non-sensitive materials and today, we are distributing the sensitive materials also to all the local government areas in the state.

“Electoral officers in all local government areas are here with the vehicles to convey the materials to all the local governments of the state, which will receive their election materials today. The security agencies are also here to accompany the materials to the councils and will keep watch over these materials until the day of election.”

Allaying fears that the elections might not hold, he said, “I want to assure you by the grace of God, come Saturday, the presidential election and National Assembly election will hold and by this time next week, the new president of Nigeria and the elected members of the National Assembly would have been declared.

“The cash and fuel scarcity will not affect the mobilisation and all the activities of INEC, because as of now, we have received the necessary cash that we need to conduct this election and in terms of the logistics in respect of fuel, we also have adequate fuel for all our activities. So in respect of either fuel or cash, we are good to go.”

Advising politicians and citizens to be peaceful during the election, Salami said, “I want to advice the political parties to be law abiding and to charge their followers and supporters to embrace peace.”

In a related development, INEC began the distribution of sensitive election materials to the 25 local government areas in Niger State. The sensitive materials, apart from the BVAS machines, had been in the custody of the Minna branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The distribution of the materials was carried out under the watchful eyes of representatives of some of the registered political parties.

Niger State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Alhaji Yushau Ahmed Garki, who supervised the distribution of the materials, was optimistic that the exercise would be done successfully, since the sharing of the non-sensitive materials was done without any hitch.

Garki assured the public that the elections would be conducted peacefully.

A member of the Peoples Democratic Party campaign council, Alhaji Sani Kutigi, applauded the preparation, saying, “So far so good.”

Kutigi expressed optimism that the presidential candidate of the party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, would win the presidential election.

PDP PCC condemns attack on TV, radio station in Rivers

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Council, has condemned the bombing of Wish FM 99.5 and Atlantic Television in Port-Harcourt by unknown gunmen.

Spokesman of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Mr Charles Aniagwu condemned the incident in a statement on Wednesday in Lagos.

Aniagwu while thanking God that no life was lost during the attack said that the attack is injurious to the growth of democracy and amounts to intimidation of free press.

He said the attack raises tension ahead of the election and had become a growing trend in Rivers with the attendant uncomplimentary remarks by Governor Nyesom Wike.

Governor Wike’s continuing language and diatribe is what has created the environment for these attacks. Thus making him an accesary after the fact.

“Also worrisom is the  promulgation of pletora of obnoxious executive orders targeted at strangulating the political space and haunding those with opposing views”.

Aniagwu said that the people of Rivers deserved better than the current insecurity pervading the state orchestrated by state actors and called on the security agencies to investigate the attacks with a view to bringing the perpetrators to book.

“We are calling on the international observers, the international community and the international criminal court to please pay attention to what is happening in Rivers with a view to bringing the pepertrators of violence to justice.

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