Election: Military, police vow tough actions for ballot box snatchers, others

The military and the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, have declared a battle against hoodlums who may be planning to snatch ballot boxes during Saturday’s governorship elections in Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo states.

The security chiefs threatened to deal with troublemakers just as the police authorities said they had deployed 67,000 personnel in Kogi and Bayelsa states ahead of the polls.

Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State and his counterpart in Bayelsa State, Douye Diri, are seeking re-election, while Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is rounding off his second term and is supporting the All Progressives Congress candidate, Usman Ododo, whom he anointed among the aspirants to win the party’s ticket.

Speaking on the security operations for the election, the General Officer Commanding, 6 Division, Nigerian Army/Land Component Commander, Joint Task Force, South-South, Operation Delta Safe, Maj Gen Jamal Abdussalam, warned anyone planning to snatch ballot boxes or cause trouble in the governorship poll to steer clear of the coastal state or face the consequences.

Abdussalam gave the directive while addressing troops and members of other security agencies during ‘Exercise Safe Conduct 2023’ in Bayelsa State on Monday.

This was contained in a statement by the acting Deputy Director, 6 Division Army Public Relations, Major Jonah Danjuma.

The GOC charged the troops to ensure the people of Bayelsa State came out in their numbers to vote for candidates of their choice without any fear of intimidation.

He stated, “We must ensure that everywhere is safe and people are able to see sufficiently that we are fully on the ground to boost public confidence in the electoral process.”

The GOC disclosed that troops had been adequately briefed on the code of conduct and rules of engagement for the elections, adding that they must conduct themselves in the most professional manner before, during, and after the poll.

He warned that no form of complacency would be tolerated at all levels, while calling on all the participating troops ‘’to close up on troublemakers during the election.’’

The army chief warned, “No stone would be left unturned to deal decisively with any individual or group, whose stock in trade is to cause mayhem or snatch ballot boxes during the elections.

“If the troublemakers feel they have two heads, they must be ready with the second head because the first head would surely be taken off.

“The era of snatching ballot boxes, stuffing them, and indeed any form of electoral violence are gone. “

Also speaking on the police preparation for the poll, the IG said the force would not tolerate electoral violence during the governorship election.

The IG handed down the warning during a courtesy visit to Governor Diri on Monday.

Disclosing the security plan for the elections during a Channels Television town hall programme held in Abuja on Sunday night, Egbetokun said, “We’re deploying boats for election security in riverine areas in Bayelsa and Kogi states. We have adequate personnel, and we have gunboats, we’ll be deploying them in riverine areas.

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“Concerning security at the collation centres, if collation centres have been porous in the past, I’ve said it before now, collation centres in this election will be heavily secured.”

The Nigeria Police Force had in December 2022 announced its acquisition of five operational gunboats for patrols and response to emergencies on the nation’s waterways.

The police high command had noted that the increase in human activities along the waterways could also bring about an increase in criminality.

Soldiers patrol Kogi

On Monday, our correspondent sighted about 30 trucks loaded with military personnel accompanied by 10 Armoured Personnel Carriers entering Lokoja, the state capital en route to the eastern flank of the state.

This was in addition to the over 10 security teams operating along Ejule, Ofu and Dekina axis, identified as flash points in the Eastern Senatorial district by the Kogi State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Gabriel Longpet.

The Kogi State Commissioner of Police, Bernard Onuoha, had told our correspondent that no fewer than 40,000 officers and men would be deployed in the state before the election.

Speaking in Yenagoa on Monday, Egbetokun assured that the police and other security agencies were fully prepared and duty-bound to ensure free and fair polls, stressing that troublemakers would have the law to contend with.

The IG assured that the police and other security agencies would be neutral before, during, and after the exercise and enjoined Bayelsa people to have confidence in them.

He explained that the increased deployment of police personnel in the state was to forestall any form of violence during the polls.

He thanked Diri for his support for the police in the state and assured him of adequate security before, during, and after the election.

“You are aware that the election is just four days away. I assure you that the police, with the assistance of other security agencies, will provide adequate security on November 11.

“In Bayelsa and in Kogi and Imo elections will take place, I want to say with confidence that the police and other security agencies have taken a position to be neutral.

“However, those with criminal intention to disrupt the election in Bayelsa will meet our men on the ground. They will have the whole of us to contend with,’’ Egbetokun told the governor.

The spokesman for the state police command, told reporters that 27,000 police personnel would be deployed in the poll.

Speaking with reporters in Abuja on Monday, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Muhammed Idris, assured that the election would be violence-free and asked the electorates to exercise their civic responsibility on Saturday.

Idris affirmed that the security agencies had countered all threats to the poll.

“What I would say is that the government has taken adequate measures to counter all forms of threats in those areas. We know that when it comes to elections, miscreants and people would want to take advantage of the situation for their benefit and some of their actions may be political but the government and security agencies have been working,’’ he stated.

The government assured that the necessary measures had been taken to ensure a free and fair election in the three states, noting that the electoral commission had been meeting with the security chiefs to ensure a hitch-free exercise.

A former president of Nigeria’s Senate and two-term governor of Kwara State, Dr Bukola Saraki, on his part, appealed to INEC to ensure that this Saturday’s Bayelsa State governorship election is free and credible.

He implored the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the election was peaceful and that the people’s will prevailed.

Saraki demands fairness

Saraki made the appeal when he joined Governor Duoye Diri’s campaign trail to some communities in the Yenagoa Local Government Area of the state at the weekend.

He spoke to journalists shortly after he inaugurated the newly-built Government Science and Technical College, Swali, Yenagoa.

He said, “When you are in Abuja, you hear all kinds of things. But coming here, l can see that the PDP is fully on the ground.’’

In a related development, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. George Akume, has expressed the commitment of the Federal Government to a fair, transparent, and accountable electoral system, which he said was the foundation of democracy in the country.

Akume stated this while inaugurating the stakeholders’ Roundtable on Policy Oversight for Electoral Integrity in Nigeria, in collaboration with the African Electoral Integrity Initiative on Monday in Abuja.

The body comprises the representatives of INEC and other election management bodies such as political parties, CSOs, law enforcement agencies, media, and international development partners.

According to the SGF, the gathering elucidated the convergence of the nation’s collective interest with a shared vision to uphold the sanctity of its electoral processes.

The SGF noted further that the primary objective of the forum was to scrutinise the country’s existing electoral legislation and identify best practices that would serve as guidelines for free, fair and transparent elections.

He assured that more efforts would be put in place to make Nigeria elections more effective and efficient by adopting technological tools in the electoral processes.

Akume added, “I want to emphasise that the responsibility for safeguarding the integrity of our electoral processes rests not only with the government but on all of us.

“Let us work together to uphold the principles of a free, fair and transparent electoral system, for the benefit of all Nigerians and the sustainability of our democracy.”

The SGF, however, expressed the gratitude of the Federal Government to the Director of the African Electoral Integrity Initiative, Dr Daniel Omofoman, for his unwavering dedication to the cause of political integrity in Nigeria.

To ensure a credible governorship election on Saturday, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, will on Tuesday (today) meet with political parties, candidates and other stakeholders in Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo States.

The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Sam Olumekun, confirmed to one of our correspondents on Monday that the INEC chairman would hold the crucial meeting with political parties’ leadership and other participants in the election to secure their buy-in.

Yakubu will be represented by the supervisory National Commissioners in the states.

Olumekun stated, “There are three states involved in the November 11 governorship polls. Usually, the commission does stakeholder meetings a few days before the election.’’

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