By Nathaniel Gana
It will not be business as usual for any group of individuals that might be nursing the idea of either disrupting the electoral process or engaging in vote trading during the 16th November governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States.
With a calm but stern voice, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu gave the warning at the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee of Election Security meeting, held at the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) headquarters on 1st November. According to the Adamu, anybody who contravenes the law during the governorship elections will face the consequences.
The IGP’s warning came on heels of the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu’s tip-off that signals that trouble was in the offing were already manifesting.
Yakubu said: “There are already warning signals in the two States. Both are politically volatile. 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 would 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.”
Prof Yakubu assured the voters in both states of the Commission’s commitment to the integrity of the process. “Over the last seven months,” he stated, “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.”
He said the security agencies have re-assured the Commission that Election Day activities at polling units and collation centres will 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.”
Prof. Yakubu continued: “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 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.”
Responding, the IGP assured Nigerians that the Police was fully prepared for the elections. He averred that based on the experiences of the 2019 general elections, some of the challenges encountered have been addressed ahead of the two governorship elections. He said: “We are aware of the security challenges in the two states and we have made adequate provision in terms of personnel and logistics to overcome any security challenge that will manifest”.
According to him, the Police already carried out Threat Analysis in the two states, while some personnel have been deployed in advance to deal with the identified threats.
Giving the breakdown, Mr. Adamu revealed that 31,041 security personnel would be deployed in Bayelsa State while 35, 200 will be deployed in Kogi State. They are to cover every terrain in both states.
He warned: “Nobody will be allowed to disrupt the election. INEC’s facilities will be protected. The collation centres and the polling units will be adequately manned, especially at the collation centres where the results are tallied and where we usually receive complaints of disruption. I have doubled the number of personnel that will be there to make sure that the right thing is done. The State INEC Headquarters will be protected and even the Local Government Area offices, the ward collation centres will be adequately protected. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), where the materials will be, will also be taken care of in terms of security.”
The Co-Chairman of ICCES and National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd), also pledged support towards a secured electoral space for both elections.
Represented at the meeting by Mr. Sanusi Galadima, the NSA said his office was not unaware of the recent developments that may pose security risks to the elections in the two states. He however assured that his office would deploy personnel to monitor INEC officials and security personnel, to ensure the highest level of professionalism from election duty officials.