•INEC expresses concern about violent attacks on supporters of political parties
•Says elections won’t hold in 240 polling units, INEC declares
•Commission finalising issuance of 1,642,386 identification tags for agents
•Under no circumstances should elections be postponed, IPAC advises
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, appraised the security arrangements for this year’s general election and reminded the leadership of the Nigeria Police of the high expectations of them in relation to the provision of requisite security during and after the polls.
Buhari also reassured the country that the general election would be peaceful and reflect the free will of the citizens.
However, following the redistribution of voters to new polling units nationwide, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, revealed that there were 240 polling units without registered voters across 28 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). INEC said elections will not hold in those units.
Buhari gave the assurance of peaceful and credible polls during the inauguration of critical operational assets of the Nigeria Police ahead of the elections.
The assets included Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), 88 Pick Up Patrol vans, 10 Water Canon Trucks, 3,000 hand grenades, 1,502 AK47 rifles and stun guns, 9, 607 bullet proof vests and helmets, and 30 General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG).
Buhari pledged to “bequeath to the nation a democratic culture in which the police will not only be apolitical and impartial during the 2023 general election,” but the election process would also be “peaceful and secure, and the outcome truly reflective of the free will of the citizens.”
The president inaugurated the newly acquired operational vehicles, crowd control and anti-riot gadgets, and high-capacity desktop and laptop computers to ensure proper enforcement of electoral laws, seamless electioneering process and stabilisation of the public space before, during, and after the elections.
He said during the event held at Force Headquarters, Abuja, “This vision can best be achieved through an efficient police force and I am delighted that the force leadership is advancing my vision in this regard.
“Looking back at what I inherited as a police force and where we are almost eight years into this administration, I can proudly say that I have significantly attained my re-positioning plan for the Nigeria Police Force and it is my expectation that subsequent national leadership in the country will sustain this initiative.”
Buhari commended the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, and the entire Nigeria Police establishment for the achievement, saying, “I encourage you to sustain your zeal for service to the nation. You should, however, be reminded of my high expectations of your leadership, particularly, in relation to the provision of requisite police security that will engender not just a stable security space ahead of the general election but guarantee the credibility of the exercise.”
He reminded the security agencies that the country had great expectations with regard to the conduct of a secure election.
The president stated, “In this task, I call on the Inspector General of Police and, indeed, all law enforcement agencies that will be complementing the police in the election security process to note that the eyes of the nation and the global community will be on you all.
“Having been fully briefed by the Inspector General of Police of his detailed Operation Order and Action Plan for the 2023 general elections during the Council of State meeting that was held on Friday, 10th February 2023, I have no doubt of the high level of preparedness of the Nigeria Police for the exercise.
“I trust also that in line with your service oaths and statutory obligation to our beloved country, you will not disappoint us all as you put to effects your election security governance operational plans.”
Buhari added, “On my part, I renew the assurances of my firm trust in your leadership and unwavering support for the police. It is, indeed, in demonstration of this that I recently approved the release of requisite funds to the Nigeria Police Force towards the continuation of the next phase in the annual recruitment exercise of 10,000 constables in line with extant presidential approval.
“It is in cognisance of this that I have remained firmly committed to the reform agenda of our police all through. The overriding goal is to modernise, reform and restore the dwindling primacy of our police within the internal security architecture of the country, our nation’s criminal justice delivery system, and the democratic process.
“To this end, I now move to commission the critical operational assets for effective use by the Nigeria Police Force.”
The IGP, in his address, said the assets assembled were procured as part of the broad strategic plan of the force towards stabilising the security space before, during and after the 2023 general election and for the purpose of enhancing the capacity of the Nigeria Police to manage civil disorder in line with acceptable national legal framework and global law enforcement protocols.
Baba stated, “Assembled here for Mr. President’s commissioning are critical operational assets comprising 88 Pick-Up Patrol Vans; 21 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs); nine Prado Jeeps; one Coaster bus; 10 Water Cannon Trucks.
“Others are two Rapid Razor Security Wires Dispensing Trucks; 9,607 Bullet Proof Vests and Plates; 2,055 Ballistic Helmets; 140,571 Long and Short Range Tear Gas Cell; 1,248 Antiriot Helmets; 3,000 hand grenades; 30 General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs); 1,502 Stun Guns and AK47 Rifles with assorted calibres of live ammunition; 300 HP Desktop Computers; 250 HP Laptop Computers; 150Gubabi Fire Proof Safe; 100 Dragon Fire Proof Safe; and 150 Individual Filling Cabinets.”
The IGP said the acquisition of the security equipment was to “demonstrate the determination of the force leadership to advance Mr. President’s commitment to a reformed, modernised, fully equipped, highly-motivated and citizens focused police force that is re-oriented to the virtues of professionalism, respect for rule of law, due process, operational efficiency and best international practices in our internal security mandates.”
In a related development, the IGP met with Commissioners of Police from the 36 states and FCT, where he charged them to create enabling space for peaceful elections. The meeting, held at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, was also attended by Deputy Inspectors-General of Police and members of the Force Management Team, and Assistant Inspectors-General of Police from across the country.
The conference, which was the first this year, was targeted at reviewing the internal security of the country and reassessing the police strategies towards the 2023 general election.
The IGP also charged the police chiefs to safeguard the public space for the elections in synergy with other security agencies.
While charging them to ensure that quasi-security outfits created and owned by state governments were precluded from the election duty, Baba stressed that national security interest overrode personal interest and as such, in line with the directives of Mr President, the election shall be policed in a civil manner with full compliance with the rule of law.
He warned all officers to remain apolitical and ensure free, fair and credible elections.
Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi, informed Buhari that the Ministry of Police Affairs had in recent years rolled out robust logistic support and effective policy environment to complement the efforts of the Nigeria Police.
Elections Won’t Hold in 240 Polling Units, INEC Declares
INEC said there were 240 polling units without registered voters spread across 28 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). As such, the electoral body declared that elections would not be held in the 240 polling units. INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, made this known yesterday in Abuja at a meeting with political parties held at the commission’s headquarters.
Yakubu recalled that in 2021, with the support of political parties and other critical stakeholders, the commission successfully expanded voter access to polling units 25 years after the last delimitation exercise in 1996. He said, consequently, the number of polling units increased from 119,973 to the current figure of 176,846.
He noted that at previous meetings, the commission had briefed political parties on efforts to redistribute voters to the polling units in order to avoid the congestion that made voting cumbersome in many of them nationwide.
Yakubu stated, “This requires the redistribution of voters to new polling units in proximate locations. Where they are separated by distance, this must be done after consultation with the voters. This has been done by our state offices nationwide.
“However, there are 240 polling units without registered voters spread across 28 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). They range from one polling unit to 12 polling units in each state and the FCT, except Taraba and Imo States with 34 and 38 polling units, respectively.
“No new registrants chose the polling units and no voters indicated interest to transfer to them during the last Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), mainly for security reasons. This means that no elections will hold in these polling units.”
The INEC chairman stressed that in line with its commitment to transparency, the commission was making available to Nigerians a comprehensive list of these polling units by name, code number, and their locations by state, local government and Registration Area.
He said with this development, “The number of polling units where elections will hold nationwide on 25th February 2023 and 11th March 2023 is now 176,606.”
Yakubu stressed that Nigerians deserved the right to know the locations of these polling units, adding that the soft copy of the list has been uploaded to INEC website and social media platforms for public information and guidance.
He added, “Closely related to the distribution of voters is the identification of polling units. From the feedback we received from our officials and accredited observers following the recent nationwide mock accreditation using the BVAS, it is clear that some voters could not easily identify their polling units.
“This should not happen on election day. Consequently, the commission is advising voters to confirm the locations of their polling units through a dedicated portal on our website.”
In addition, Yakubu noted that all voters who had been assigned to new polling units would receive text messages from the commission indicating their polling units. He said the commission had also compiled the register of such voters, stressing that INEC state offices would give it wide publicity, especially for those who may not have provided their telephone numbers during voter registration or those whose numbers may have changed.
He urged voters to locate and confirm their polling units before election day by sending a regular text or WhatsApp message to a dedicated telephone number, saying details of the simple procedure would be uploaded to the commission’s social media platforms shortly.
Yakubu revealed, “As you are already aware, we have less than two weeks to the 2023 general election. The commission is finalising the issuance of 1,642,386 identification tags for the Polling and Collation Agents nominated by the 18 political parties made up of 1,574,301 Polling Agents and 68,085 Collation Agents.”
He urged the chairmen and leaders of political parties to ensure that only agents accredited by the commission and wearing the correct identification tags appeared at polling units and collation centres during elections.
Yakubu said a situation where two or more agents would claim to represent a political party, resulting in commotion at polling units or collation centres, will not be tolerated. He maintained that only Identification tags issued by the commission would be recognised on election day and violators were liable to arrest and prosecution for impersonation.
The INEC chairman noted, “Turning to the ongoing electioneering campaigns, the commission is concerned about violent attacks on supporters of political parties across the board, resulting in the loss of life in some cases.
“Let me once again appeal to chairmen and leaders of political parties to continue to call your candidates and supporters to order.”
The commission called on the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to arrest, investigate and prosecute anyone involved in violent conduct, including incendiary statements capable of inciting a breach of the peace.
Speaking at the occasion also, the chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Yabagi Yusuf, reaffirmed the confidence of IPAC in the leadership of INEC for its consistent demonstration of diligence, uncommon zeal and patriotism in the pursuit of the agency’s statutory mandate. Yusuf said the 2023 general election would be a watershed in the history of elections in Nigeria, stressing that the tide has changed, because an unknown party could pull a surprise.
He stated that it was necessary to advise INEC to keep its date with history, which must not be wasted.
The IPAC chairman stated that under no circumstances should the general election be postponed.
According to him, “INEC should create a golden niche for herself, especially the chairman, who has become the child of history. Nigerians are watching, the international community is watching and the parties are palpitating. I, therefore, call on all Nigerians of good conscience to take credible results of the election the way it is.
“At worst, parties should resort to the law court for adjudication. Today, it is an abhorrence and crudity, if not savagery, to see states governors denying campaign venues to political parties other than their own. This is crude, primitive and uncivilised.”
Politicians Frustrating Nigerians, Another Protest Worse Than Endsars Looms — Aisha Yesufu
Popular socio-political activist, Aisha Yesufu, has said corrupt politicians in Nigeria are frustrating the masses, which can lead to another nationwide protest.
Yesufu said the anger burning in the hearts of Nigerians may sponsor another protest hotter than the one experienced in 2020 tagged ‘EndSARS’.
In 2020, Nigerians staged demonstrations across the nation to call for the end of the police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, notorious for brutalising youths.
The protest, which started on Twitter (now X), resulted in mass demonstrations occurring in all major cities of the country and accompanied by violence.
It led to the death of many young Nigerians, especially after military personnel shot at peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos.
Yesufu, the co-convener of the BringBackOur Girls, who was one of the activists at the centre of the protest, said Nigerians might just be caught unaware in another demonstration.
She made this known via X account, writing: “Nobody saw the #EndSARS protest coming. Nobody will see the next uprising coming.
“Sadly, it might end up being violent. There is simmering anger fuelled by the impunity and brazenness of the corrupt politicians and rulers, who have rigged their way into power. Nobody will be spared.”
Decision Day In Imo, Bayelsa, Kogi: INEC Affirms Readiness, DHQ Uncovers Plot To Cause Mayhem
• There will be injurious consequences, DHQ warns unknown gunmen
• ICPC deploys operatives to prevent vote-buying
• Police read riot act, warn perpetrators of violence, sponsors
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has said there are intelligence reports of plans by desperate politicians to cause violence with hoodlums wearing military uniform.
Responding to questions from newsmen at the bi-weekly briefing in Abuja yesterday, Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General Edward Buba, issued a stern warning to gunmen planning to disguise in military wears to cause violence during Saturday’s off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa states.
He warned that there would be injurious consequences for their actions, adding that the Nigerian military will not fold its arms and watch its image dragged into the mud during Saturday’s election.
He issued the warning while briefing journalists on military operations to counter threats of terrorists, bandits/kidnappers, oil theft perpetrators and other forms of insecurity across the country.
“For the off-season elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states this weekend, here is a message for you. The military is deployed in strength for the election to create a safe environment for voters to peacefully come out and cast their votes.
“However, we are aware of plans of some people to disguise themselves in military gear to orchestrate havoc and disrupt elections in some areas. Our message to such a group is that there will be injurious consequences for such an action,” he said.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday, distributed electoral materials to all 27 Local Council Areas of Imo State ahead of tomorrow’s governorship election. The distribution took place at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) branch in Owerri. The electoral materials distributed were Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines, ballot papers and result sheets for the polls.
Speaking to newsmen on the movement of the electoral materials, the Southeast National Commissioner, Kenneth Ukeagu, said INEC was ready for the election, adding that the election would go freely as INEC officials have been trained properly to do the needful. He also urged the electorate to come out en masse and participate in the election.
According to him, “we are ready for the election. We are distributing sensitive materials to all the LGAs in the state because elections will take place in all the LGAs in the states. We have received assurance from the security agents for providing adequate security during and after the election. On our part, we are ready and on top of our plans. The people of the state have to come out on Saturday and elect a governor of their choice.”
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), yesterday announced that it had deployed its operatives to monitor Saturday’s election in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi.
Spokesperson of the commission, Mrs Azuka Ogugua, stated that ICPC operatives had been deployed in the 56 local government areas and 649 wards in the three states to monitor and prevent vote-buying and other electoral malpractices at the various polling units during the electoral exercise.
The monitoring exercise, according to her, was a response to the invitation by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, for ICPC to participate in ensuring that the electoral processes in these states are free and fair.
Ogugua charged operatives to strictly adhere to the ICPC guidelines for monitoring elections, adding that they should always act with discipline and imbibe the spirit of integrity while on the field, while adding that the operatives stay close to each other and work as a team to achieve the desired goal.
There are fears that distribution of materials by INEC, threats and counter threats by Biafra agitators may challenge tomorrow’s governorship election in Imo. Aside from fears of availability of commercial drivers to convey sensitive and non-sensitive materials to the flash spots, factions of the Biafra agitators are speaking differently about the exercise.
Already certain spots, including Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta, Orsu, Ihitte Uboma, Isiala Mbano, Okigwe local councils of the state have been identified as dark spots.
A faction of the agitators, led by Simeon Ekpa, asked residents to stay away from the election, while the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) urged residents to go and vote, threatening to deal with any INEC official caught conniving with politicians to rig the election.
“All those employed and drafted to various polling units to help rig this election will be doing so to their own and family risks; their families must call them to order or they all will sorely regret having participated in this election. Anyone that enthroned evil on the people deserves no mercy. IPOB eyes are at every corner in the state monitoring the activities of political jobbers and criminals”, IPOB said in a statement by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, has deployed the Deputy Inspector General (DIG), in charge of Training and Development, Frank Mba, to oversee the election with assurance of protection of lives and property.
Mba has arrived in the state. No fewer than 2,300 soldiers and other security personnel, and other para-military officials are to guard the exercise at various parts of the state.
On Thursday, the Commissioner of Police in Enugu State, Kanayo Uzoegbu said the command was moving 1,500 men to Imo state. He stated that the idea was to boost security and ensure free and fair exercise at the end of the day.
INEC has assured of enough ad-hoc staff to carry out election duties in the prone dark spots. The Commission has deployed nine Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), to assist the Imo REC, Prof. Sylvia Agu, in ensuring transparent elections.
Meanwhile, Head of Mission, International Organisation for Sustainable Development (IOSD), Dr. Timothy Ihemadu, told The Guardian, on Thursday, that they were concerned about heightened tension in six local government areas of the state, which are volatile.
“If citizens are not confident of their right to vote, the right to be voted for and free and fair atmosphere, in terms of security, it limits their confidence and fundamental right to vote.
“We want security deployed to protect the people and not to intimidate them. The security personnel should be professional and must understand the importance of human rights policing that seeks to protect the people first to avoid voter apathy.
“The NLC order as it concerns Imo and the blackout and air travel is anticipated to affect smooth conduct of the election as the importance of electricity to power election gadgets cannot be over emphasized, as well as arrival of critical personnel who may be challenged to arrive at their duty post”, he stated.
Amid the heightened tension created by alleged stockpiling of arms in Bayelsa and invasion of thugs from neighbouring states, the police, yesterday vowed to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of violence and their sponsors in Bayelsa.
The palpable tension, which is already causing apprehension in the state, was further heightened by the two major contenders and political stakeholders who continue to trade accusations over alleged plans to perpetrate violence.
Addressing a stakeholders’ meeting yesterday at the Police Officers Mess, Yenagoa, the DIG in charge of Saturday’s election, Sokari-Pedro, while assuring that the IGP, Egbetokun, is totally committed to the free, fair, safe and unhindered democratic atmosphere during the election, warned that no electoral offender will be spare.
He stated that though Bayelsa is a peaceful state, the three Senatorial zones are all volatile when it comes to election, while some local governments have already been identified as flashpoints.
“Officers have been directed to carry out a show of force, all the perpetrators of violence be put out of circulation and their sponsors, any civilian that is armed at any polling centre shall be arrested and failure to do that by the police, the police themselves or the sister agent who is responsible for such a lapse will be arrested.
“Any orderly or guard that escorts his principal to the polling centre shall be arrested and thereafter tried in the orderly room, in this case, if care is not taken, may lead to his dismissal.”
In Kogi, INEC reiterated that it is fully ready for the election. Speaking during a critical stakeholders’ meeting preparatory to the election, the INEC chairman, Yakubu said the commission is fully ready for the election. National Commissioner in charge Kogi, Kwara and Niger states, Prof. Sani Mohammed Adam, who spoke on behalf of the chairman, noted that sensitive and non-sensitive materials are on ground.
Given the volatile nature of election conduct in the state, the IGP, Egbetokun warned trouble makers to relocate from Kogi before Saturday. He also warned politicians and the electorate to allow security agents deployed to the state to do their jobs without being subjected to blackmail.
Already, 40,000 policemen and 3,000 men of the civil defence corps have been deployed to the state for the election, in addition to the heavy deployment of military that will complement the efforts of other security agencies.
Meanwhile, the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello has urged the operatives of the Nigerian Police and other sister agencies to ensure adherence to professional conduct during the Saturday polls. He noted that his party, APC in Kogi State, holds a track record of peaceful electioneering. The governor was speaking when he received the Inspector General of Police, on Wednesday.
The Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) on Thursday, called on INEC to work diligently to reaffirm citizens’ confidence. IPAC also called on citizens in the three states to come out en-masse to exercise their rights to vote.
National Chairman of IPAC, Yabagi Sani, said IPAC has introduced an innovative intervention through Election Results Management System (ERMS), which was recently brought to the attention of INEC Chairman, all 19 National Chairmen and political party candidates.
Sani said: “Choosing leaders based on merit, vision, and their potential impact on the community is vital. Citizens should prioritize candidates who genuinely represent their interests and are committed to the welfare and development of their respective States. By doing so, they can ensure that their votes lead to the election of leaders, who will work towards the betterment of their lives and communities
“Citizens should be proactive in shaping the future of the nation. Grassroots involvement is fundamental to the success of any democracy. By disregarding the negative tactics of political actors and focusing on making informed choices, citizens can contribute to the establishment of a robust and accountable democratic system in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi by their conduct in the forthcoming election.
“The involvement of security agencies in the electoral process must be based on professionalism, neutrality, and a commitment to the defense of our democracy, rather than partisan interests. The citizens must feel secure in their participation in the electoral process, knowing that their safety and security are assured.”
113 Terrorists Eliminated, 300 Others Arrested In One Week – DHQ
The Defence Headquarters says the troops of the armed forces have eliminated 113 terrorists and apprehended 300 others in different operations in various theatres across the country in the last one week.
The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Edward Buba, said this while briefing journalists on the operations of the armed forces on Thursday in Abuja.
Mr Buba said the troops also apprehended 25 perpetrators of oil theft, rescued 91 kidnapped hostages and recovered 129 assorted weapons and 717 assorted ammunition within the period.
In the North East, he said the troops of Operation Hadin Kai, while conducting fighting patrols, arrested BH/ISWAP logistics suppliers in Kukawa, Damboa, Monguno and Konduga Local Government Areas of Borno.
The defence spokesman said the troops eliminated 17 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists, arrested 16 and rescued six kidnapped hostages, as well as recovered different calibres of arms and ammunition during the period.
He added that the air component of Operation Hadin Kai had, on Nov. 2, engaged terrorists hibernating in the Degbewa area, where several of them were neutralised and had their logistics destroyed.
In the North Central, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation Safe Haven conducted cordon and search operations in parts of Kaduna and Plateau States, killing five terrorists, arresting 14 and rescuing 15 kidnapped hostages.
He added that troops of Operation Operation Whirl Stroke conducted a raid operation at suspected criminal hideouts in parts of Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau States, neutralising two terrorists, arresting 10 and rescuing three kidnapped hostages.
In the North-West, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation Hadarin Daji neutralised 30 terrorists, arrested seven others and rescued 31 kidnapped hostages in Katsina, Kebbi and Zamfara States during the period.
He said the troops also recovered 15 AK47 rifles, one RPG Tube, five RPG bombs, six hand grenades, five pairs of desert camouflages, 10 pairs of magazine purges, IED-making material, unconfirmed no of ammo and the sum of $16,200.
He added that the air component had, on Nov. 2, acquired and conducted an interdiction at a terrorist leader’s residence in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State.
According to him, the terrorist leader known as Badaru had several terrorists hibernating at the residence who were neutralised in the air strikes.
“Troops of Operation Whirl Punch conducted an offensive operation against terrorists in Birnin Gwari and Chikun Local Government Areas of Kaduna State, neutralising 23 terrorists, arresting 83 suspects and rescuing four kidnapped hostages.
“Troops recovered 12 AK47 rifles, two pistols, one unserviceable AK47 rifle, 141 rounds of 7.62mm special ammo, one magazine, one motorcycle and three mobile phones,” he said.
In the Niger Delta region, Buba said the troops of Operation Delta Safe denied oil thieves an estimated sum of N571.7 million during the week.
He said the troops discovered and destroyed 76 dugout pits, 35 boats, 95 storage tanks, 10 vehicles, 129 cooking ovens, five pumping machines, 13 speedboats, six outboard engines, one vessel, three motorcycles and 49 illegal refining sites.
“Troops recovered 514,640 litres of stolen crude oil, 339,315 litres of illegally refined AGO and 775 litres of DPK,” he said.
In the South-East, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation UDO KA apprehended 10 suspected IPOB/ESN criminals and recovered one GT3 rifle, one locally fabricated pistol, two pump action guns, two dane guns, 30 live cartridges, two motorcycles and one cutlass amongst other items.
“All recovered items, arrested suspects, and rescued hostages were handed over to the relevant authorities for further action,” he added.