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.