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.
“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 PUNCH reports that 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.