By Solomon Odeniyi, Abiodun Sanusi, Gift Habib, Abiodun Nejo, Raphael Ede, Daniels Igoni, Olaide Oyelude, Chima Azubuike, Collins Sunday, Abiodun Nejo, James Abraham, Ikenna Obianeri and Godwin Isenyo
As Nigerians vote in today’s governorship and state House of Assembly elections, the police and the military have warned that they will not tolerate any act of violence or political thuggery during the exercise.
While the military assured Nigerians of safety and vowed that it would not allow any voter to be intimidated during the election, the police said they would protect the electorate and the electoral process.
The assurances from the military and the police came amid strong indications that the exercise might be marred by widespread violence.
Saturday PUNCH reports that the presidential and National Assembly elections held nationwide on February 25 were marred by pockets of violence in some areas.
This led to the loss of lives and disruption of the voting process in many areas. In some areas, the Independent National Electoral Commission shifted elections to the following day as a result of violence.
DHQ, Police, NSCDC
Speaking on the preparedness of the military for the election, the Director, Defence Information, Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, said the military would give the needed support to the police to ensure a smooth exercise.
He said, “We always give support to the police. The CDS has assured Nigerians to go out and exercise their civic responsibilities without any fear.”
Meanwhile, the 301 Artillery Regiment in Gombe State on Friday said its security measures would be stricter as residents prepared for the governorship and State House of Assembly polls.
A statement by the Public Relations Officer of the Regiment, M. Attah, indicated that voters were expected to go nearer to the locations of their polling units to avoid been stopped on election day.
Attah disclosed that the Army remained committed to the smooth conduct of the electioneering process, while promising a friendly atmosphere during the exercise.
While urging eligible voters to participate in the process, the 301 Artillery Regiment affirmed 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 conjunction with other security agencies will continue to provide security during the period of election.
“The 301 Artillery Regiment (General Support) wishes to re-emphasise 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 spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, said, “We are ready to protect the electoral process and the electorate specifically. No cause for alarm. We can only remind Nigerians to be law abiding and peaceful in their conduct during and after elections.
“We have done our deployment according to our threat analysis. So, we are very optimistic that the March 18, 2023 elections will be seamless and successful.”
Police warn politicians
In a related development, the Kogi State Police Command says on no account should any politician go about with armed security men during today’s House of Assembly elections in the state.
The Kogi State Commissioner of Police in charge of Election Security, Yekini Ayoku, gave the order in Ilorin during a stakeholders meeting on Saturday’s polls.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports in Lokoja that the directive came at the heel of complaints that some big shorts and politicians were always going about polling units with armed security men to intimidate voters.
He said, “On no account should any politician go about with armed men to polling units during Saturday’s House of Assembly elections in Kogi. Any politician who flouts this directive will be seriously dealt with in accordance with the law of the land.”
Similarly, the Police Command in Enugu State has warned that it will not tolerate any act of hooliganism, political thuggery and other contrary conducts within and outside the election centres in the state.
The State Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Ammani, who gave the warning and encouragement in statement, ordered strict enforcement of Inspector General of Police directive on restriction of movement and other election security management bans.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps has assured election officials of their safety, adding that materials and voters would also be protected during Saturday’s governorship and Houses of Assembly elections.
The assurance by the NSCDC followed the review, analysis and processing of reports and observations from the February 25 general elections.
The Commandant General of the corps, Ahmed Audi, noted that efforts to curb any disruption of the voting process necessitated the deployment of personnel to old and newly discovered flashpoints.
On the fear of violence, it was gathered that some voters had been frightened due to violence by non-state actors and threats dished out by different party supporters.
In states like Lagos, River, Oyo, Kaduna, Kano, Delta, Bauchi, and Enugu states, the tendencies of violence are high due to the apprehension 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.
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike also claimed that he had notified security agencies in the state about the plot by some elements to disrupt elections today.
In addition to this, a top source at the INEC expressed worry over the possibility of recording a high rate of election 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; hence the tendency of violence was possible.
In Ekiti State, the Commissioner of Police for Election, 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 conduct of “free, fair, credible and safe” House of Assembly election into the 26 state constituencies in 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 residents’ lives and property before, during and after the election.
Violence likely – IPAC
Meanwhile, the Inter-Party Advisory Council, Bayelsa State chapter, has raised the alarm that supporters of some political parties are allegedly planning to unleash violence in the House of Assembly election 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 that information at the council’s disposal showed that the political parties and their supporters who were bitter over the outcome of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly polls, were plotting to disrupt the balloting process on Saturday (today).
Still on the governorship and House of Assembly election, the Commissioner of Police for the 2023 elections in Katsina State,Yusuf Akeem, on Friday held a meeting with the House of Assembly contestants in today’s (Saturday) Governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state, warning them that the law would take due course on anybody 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, particularly 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 restated the ban on VIPs moving around with escorts and security aides on election day.
‘Politicians importing thugs’
In another development, the Nasarawa State Police Command has raised an alarm that some desperate politicians who intend to win the March 18, 2023 elections at all cost, have resorted to importing thugs into four local government areas of the state to eliminate the chances of their contenders 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 election 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 of all forms of vehicular movements on roads, waterways and other forms of transportation in the state between the hours of 12am on 17/03/2023 and 06pm on 18/03/2023.
Mamman said that while the military would cordon the entire state in compliance with the restriction of movement on election day, the police and other security agencies would as well be seen strategically within the towns to enhance security of lives and property.
Makinde warns troublemakers
In a related development, the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, has said anyone who foments 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 the Fresh FM, Ibadan, during one-on-one with the Oyo State governor while seeking the electorate 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.
Police receive weapons
In Anambra, the state Police Command said it had taken delivery of 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 (Election), Mr Aderemi Adeoye.
The command, therefore, warned criminal elements and political thugs to shelve plans of causing 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 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 laudable election.
The REC, who spoke during an interview with journalists in Ado Ekiti, said all was set for the election into the 26 state constituencies in Ekiti State, noting that all sensitive materials for the election had since Wednesday been distributed to the 16 local government areas of the state.
Police advise observers
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Police Command has advised election observers to avoid sensitive areas during the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections today.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of operations, Oludotun Odubona gave the security tips when the Economic Community of West African States Election Observation Mission assigned to the South-West zone paid a courtesy and working visit to the Command.
According to Odubona, the March 18 elections would be keenly contested and the security agencies are on the ground to ensure a violence-free election.
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