As Nigerians vote in today’s governorship and state assembly elections, the police and military have warned that they will not tolerate any act of violence or political thuggery during the exercise.
While the military assured Nigerians of security and vowed that it would not allow any voters to be intimidated during the election, the police said they would protect the voters and the electoral process.
The assurances from the military and the police came against the backdrop of strong indications that the exercise could be characterized by widespread violence.
Saturday PUNCH reports that the presidential and national assembly elections held nationwide on February 25 were marked by pockets of violence in some areas.
This led to loss of life and disruption of the voting process in many areas. In some areas, the Independent National Electoral Commission moved the election to the following day due to violence.
DHQ, Police, NSCDC
Speaking on the military’s preparedness for the elections, the Director of Defense Information, Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, said the military would provide the necessary support to the police to ensure a smooth exercise.
He said: “We always support the police. CDS has assured Nigerians to go out and exercise their civic responsibilities without fear.”
Meanwhile, the 301 Artillery Regiment in Gombe State on Friday said its security measures would be tighter as residents prepared for the governorship and State House of Assembly polls.
A statement by the Regimental Public Relations Officer, M. Attah, indicated that voters were expected to walk closer to the locations of their polling units to avoid being stopped on election day.
Attah disclosed that the army remained committed to the smooth conduct of the election process while promising a friendly atmosphere during the exercise.
While urging eligible voters to participate in the process, the 301 Artillery Regiment reaffirmed its neutrality, adding that troublemakers would be dealt with.
“All eligible citizens are advised to come out and exercise their franchise and vote at the designated INEC polling units in the state as the Nigerian Army in collaboration with other security agencies will continue to provide security during the election period.
“The 301 Artillery Regiment (General Support) wishes to reiterate that the Nigerian Army remains apolitical and neutral as it will continue to discharge its responsibilities in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Attah added.
On his part, the Force spokesman, Muyiwa Adejobi, said, “We are ready to protect the electoral process and the voters specifically. No need for alarm. We can only remind Nigerians to be law abiding and peaceful in their conduct during and after the elections.
“We have carried out our deployment as per our threat analysis. So we are very optimistic that the March 18, 2023 elections will be smooth and successful.”
The police warn the politicians
In a related development, the Kogi State Police Command says under no circumstances should any politicians walk around with armed security men during today’s House of Assembly elections in the state.
Kogi State Commissioner of Police in charge of Electoral Security, Yekini Ayoku, gave the order in Ilorin during a stakeholders meeting on Saturday’s polls.
That News Agency of Nigeria reports in Lokoja that the directive came after complaints that some big shorts and politicians were always running voting units with armed security men to intimidate voters.
He said, “Under no circumstances should any politicians go around with armed men to polling units during Saturday’s Kogi House of Assembly elections. Any politician who disregards this directive will be dealt with seriously in accordance with the law of the land.”
Similarly, the Enugu State Police Command has warned that it will not tolerate any act of hooliganism, political thuggery and other adverse behavior in and outside the polling centers in the state.
The State Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Ammani, who gave the warning and encouragement in the statement, ordered strict enforcement of the directive of the Inspector General of Police on restriction of movement and other prohibitions on election security management.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps has assured election officials of their security, adding that materials and voters would also be protected during Saturday’s governorship and assembly hall elections.
The NSCDC’s assurance followed the review, analysis and processing of reports and observations from the February 25 general election.
The Corps Commander General, Ahmed Audi, noted that efforts to curb any disruption of the voting process necessitated the deployment of personnel to old and newly discovered flashpoints.
Regarding the fear of violence, it was found that some voters had been intimidated by violence from non-state actors and threats from various party supporters.
In states like Lagos, River, Oyo, Kaduna, Kano, Delta, Bauchi and Enugu states, violence tendencies are high due to the fear caused by pre-election activities of some supporters in the states.
In Oyo, there was a clash between supporters of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress on Thursday in Ibadan which reportedly left three people dead.
Also, the Department of State Services on Thursday arrested Sharu Tabula and Isma’il Mangu for deliberately inciting violence in parts of Kano State.
Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike also claimed that he had informed security agencies in the state of the plan by some elements to disrupt the election today.
In addition to this, a top source at INEC expressed concern over the possibility of recording a high level of electoral violence in some states during today’s election.
The official, who spoke to our correspondent on Friday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, explained that the governorship election would be very competitive; therefore the tendency to violence was possible.
In Ekiti State, the Commissioner of Electoral Police, Ayoola Ajala, said the state police command had deployed necessary and adequate human and material resources to all nooks and crannies of the state.
The deployment, Ajala said, was to ensure the conduct of “free, fair, credible and secure” House of Assembly elections in the 26 constituencies of the state on Saturday.
The CP, in a statement by the State Police Public Relations Officer, Ekiti State Command, Sunday Abutu, expressed the readiness of the security agents to ensure the protection of lives and property of the residents before, during and after the election.
Likely Violence – IPAC
Meanwhile, the Inter-Party Advisory Council, Bayelsa State chapter, has raised the alarm that supporters of some political parties are allegedly plotting to unleash violence at the House of Assembly elections in some parts of the state on Saturday.
The state chairman of IPAC, Brisbe Kpodoh, stated this during a press briefing at the NUJ secretariat in Yenagoa, the state capital.
He said the information available to the council showed that the political parties and their supporters, bitter over the outcome of the February 25 presidential and national assembly polls, were planning to disrupt the voting process on Saturday (today).
Still in the gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections, the Commissioner of Police for the 2023 Katsina election, Yusuf Akeem, on Friday held a meeting with the House of Assembly participants in today’s (Saturday) governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state, warning them that the law would take timely on anyone who violated the law during the election.
The state police command said it had deployed the entire officers and men of the Bayelsa State Command for the House of Assembly election in the state.
The Commissioner of Police in charge of election security in Bayelsa, Mohammed Dankwara, said this while addressing journalists during the deployment of officers and men at the state headquarters in Yenagoa on Friday.
He assured the people of the state, especially the voters, of adequate security before, during and after the assembly polls.
Dankwara disclosed that over 5,000 personnel had been deployed to provide security during the election.
The command also reiterated the ban on VIPs moving around with attendants and security aides on election day.
‘Politicians import thugs’
In another development, the Nasarawa State Police Command has raised the alarm that some desperate politicians intent on winning the March 18, 2023 election at any cost have resorted to importing thugs into four local government areas of the state to eliminate the chances for their candidates in the areas.
The police command identified the LGs as Nasarawa Eggon, Akwanga, Toto and Kokona.
This was contained in a statement made available to journalists in Lafia on Friday by the command’s Public Relations Officer, DSP Ramhan Nansel.
Plateau’s 10,500 personnel
Meanwhile, over 10,500 security operatives drawn from the Nigerian military and the Nigeria Police, among others, have been deployed to provide security in Plateau State during today’s governorship and state assembly elections in the state.
The Commissioner of Police in charge of Electoral Security in the state, Mamman Daura, disclosed this on Friday while briefing journalists at the command headquarters in Jos.
He announced that there would be total restriction on all types of vehicular movement on roads, waterways and other modes of transport in the state between 12:00 PM on 17/03/2023 and 6:00 PM on 18/03/2023.
Mamman said while the military would cordon off the entire state in line with the movement restriction on election day, the police and other security agencies would also be seen strategically in the cities to enhance security of life and property.
Makinde warns troublemakers
In a related development, the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, has said that anyone creating trouble during the governorship and state assembly elections holding today across the 33 local government areas of the state will be treated as an enemy of the state.
Makinde spoke at Fresh FM, Ibadan, during a one-on-one with the Oyo State governor while seeking voters’ votes for his re-election.
The governor disclosed that he had held a meeting with heads of security agencies in the state and that they were well prepared for the election.
The police receive weapons
In Anambra, the state police command said it had received arms and ammunition from the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Alkali Baba Usman, for the prosecution of today’s House of Assembly election in the state.
The State Police Spokesman, Tochukwu Ikenga, disclosed this in a statement on Friday on behalf of the State Commissioner of Police (Elections), Mr. Aderemi Adeoye.
The command therefore warned criminal elements and political thugs to shelve plans to cause any breakdown of law and order before, during and after the elections in the state.
In Ekiti State, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Ayobami Salami, has assured Ekiti residents and political parties of a free, fair, transparent and acceptable House of Assembly election.
Salami said: “INEC is prepared, we are more prepared than we were during the presidential election and everything is in place to ensure a free, fair, credible and commendable election.
The REC, who spoke during an interview with journalists in Ado Ekiti, said everything was ready for the election in the 26 state constituencies of Ekiti State, noting that all sensitive materials for the election had since Wednesday been distributed to the 16 local government areas of the state.
The police are advising observers
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Police Command has advised election observers to avoid sensitive areas during the governorship and state house elections today.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Oludotun Odubona, gave the security tip when the Election Observation Mission of the Economic Community of West African States attached to the South West Zone paid a courtesy and working visit to the command.
According to Odubona, the March 18 election would be hotly contested and security agencies are on the ground to ensure a violence-free election.