The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu has, ahead of Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State, advised all political parties to imbibe the virtues of democracy by seeing elections as “a call to service by the people and not a do-or-die affair”. Adamu, who was addressing a stakeholders meeting on the state governorship poll held at the Oba Akenzua 11 Cultural Centre in Benin assured political parties and the electorate that the election must be free, fair, and credible and conducted in a conducive environment.
The IG however read the riot act to would-be perpetrators of violence and other criminal activities that could disrupt the election. Stating that the Force was not oblivious of pockets of violence which had characterized the campaigns in the political landscape of the state, Adamu said “we are equally not resting on our oars in ensuring security across the length and breadth of Edo State before, during, and after the gubernatorial election”. He emphasized the commitment of the Police to a free, fair, credible, successful election in the state and also gave his word that the personnel of the Nigeria Police Force as the lead security agency in the election security management “shall remain impartial, firm, and professional in the exercise of their statutory duties as provided for in the Electoral Act and other enabling laws”.
The Police Chief said “Indeed, it is in furtherance of this that for the first time in our democratic history, the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security developed a code of conduct on rules of engagement for security personnel on election duty” adding that this document clearly highlights the roles, ethics and standard of operations for all security agencies deployed on election security duties. According to him, “The personnel to be deployed had been availed copies of this document and they are fully conscious of the fact that they shall be held accountable for any professional conduct that is against the interest of the government. We have also come up with an operational framework that would engender a proper coordination between the INEC, the Nigeria Police Force, and the personnel of other security agencies towards guaranteeing a peaceful and credible electoral process”.
Adamu however posited that “In spite of these initiatives, we must acknowledge that the success of the electoral process is dependent on the extent of the national passion that all of us gathered here today can exhibit. In this regard, it is to be noted that an election security threat assessment has been undertaken and all the flashpoints and actors engaged in, or planning to threaten the electoral process have been identified and plans have been perfected to deal with the situation accordingly”.
He said 31,000 police personnel would be deployed for the purpose of protecting the personnel and officers of the INEC, the electorate, the residents of Edo State during and immediately after the elections. He explained that this massive deployment was not only to deter the political actors that may want to threaten the election through acts of thuggery or other conducts that violate the provision of the Electoral Act, “but to also serve as a strong warning that the government is determined to bring such characters to justice should they advance their unwanted undemocratic and unpatriotic intents.
“The message here is clear; to the political class and electorate that are law-abiding, they are fully assured of maximum security as they exercise their electoral right. However, for the deviants who despite all wise counsels are determined to deploy violence and other illegal means to advance their political interest, they should be prepared for the consequences of their actions as they will be decisively dealt with irrespective of their status or political affiliations”.
Reeling out the dos and don’ts for politicians and electorate on the day of the election, Adamu warned that anyone engaged in any form of criminal act before, during and after the election would be apprehended and charged under appropriate sections of the criminal law.
The Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, Major-General Shuaibu Ibrahim spoke passionately on the safety of corps members who would be deployed to participate in the election. Ibrahim emphasised the need to sensitise stakeholders on the need to protect corps members, stating that “It is always a traumatic experience to carry the dead bodies of corps members to their parents after training such children from infancy to that age. It is always something that we don’t cherish to do as NYSC officers. So, please we are appealing to our political parties and all and sundry to please assist in protecting these corps members. I want you to sensitise your followers on the need to protect our corps members from any form of violence or molestation before, during and after the election”.
The DG appreciated the government for the confidence reposed in corps members whom he noted, have over the years been engaged as INEC ad hoc personnel for the conduct of elections. He said the NYSC would continue to sensitise corps members on the need to demonstrate high sense of responsibility, adding “As we prepare for Edo governorship election, I wish to assure all stakeholders that corps members will perform their national assignment with utmost honesty of purpose and neutrality for which NYSC is reputed”.
In her remarks, May Agbamuche-Mbu, INEC national commissioner, supervising Edo, Rivers and Bayelsa States, said the INEC had achieved 85% of its election activities after the publication of notice of election June 1, 2020. She noted that indeed, only two principal activities are left and these are the last days of campaigns on the September 17, and election itself scheduled for September 19, 2020. Agbamuche-Mbu said the Commission was whole-heartedly committed to conducting a credible election.
Explaining what the Commission had done in the area of voter education, she asserted that “The issue of voter education and sensitisation is not limited to INEC but is also very much the responsibility of all stakeholders and I strongly solicit for continuous sensitisation of the electorate on the need to exercise their right to franchise and to observe the COVID-19 protocols while doing so. Wearing of face masks or covering will be enforced in this election and therefore we seek your help in the dissemination of this information to your supporters. Edo State has been known to be a peaceful state, notwithstanding the nature of campaigns we have witnessed in recent times, and such, I remain confident that the election will be free of violence as Edo people, I am told, are known not to harm themselves on election day”.
She promised that “INEC, on its part is determined to make this election a resounding success and we shall endeavour to provide a level-playing field for all candidates and conduct our processes with utmost good faith as transparently as possible. To improve the transparency and credibility of elections, INEC has decided to make available electronic copies of polling unit result sheets EC8A for the general public to view.
“We assure you that we are ready for this election and we urge all stakeholders to cooperate with INEC to ensure that the Edo State governorship election is conducted in a free, fair and credible and violence-free manner”.
In his address, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC for Edo State, Johnson Alalibo catalogued the key activities that had been successfully carried out by INEC leading to this Saturday’s election. These included the monitoring of the primaries of political parties, receipt of all sensitive materials for the election, training of various categories of staff for the election, and giving out of voter registers to the 14 political parties taking part in the election. Alalibo said INEC had also configured smart card readers, and had sent them to electoral officers, entered agreement with National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, and the National Association of Road Transport Owners, as well as received personal protective equipments for personnel and ad hoc staff for the conduct of election under the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Alalibo, “barely five days to the election, we are ready for the election. We are just waiting for the receipt of sensitive materials this week and then the election goes on as scheduled. Once again, let me assure our distinguished stakeholders that we are poised and committed to conducting free, fair and credible election come September 19, 2020 and also to ensure that we conduct safe election.”
The Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, Ogidigan, who was represented by some of his high-ranking chiefs at the stakeholders meeting, prayed that God and his ancestors would grant the INEC the enablement that would make the election free, fair and credible. Henry Osato Bazuaye, the Aiwerioghene of Benin Kingdom, who spoke at the ceremony, said “I assure you chairman, this is not like any other election you have conducted. Also the Inspector-General of Police, please let us ensure that this election is free, fair, and credible and successful. Your name shall be written in gold; the ancestors of Benin will recognize you”.
Underscoring the neutrality of the Palace in politics, Bazuaye said “The Benin throne is non-political; it is non-partisan. The Benin throne, in fact, does not participate in politics”. In a veiled reference to the different interpretations that had been given to the Oba’s recent peace meeting with the major political actors in the election, Bazuaye cautioned that “The peace accord that the Oba convened, please don’t take a part of Oba’s speech; it was an elephant address. It covered most part of the situation”.
Appealing to the political class, Bazuaye said “we want peace in Edo State. We don’t want problem in Edo State. Let us ensure this election is peaceful… This election is a test for everybody, starting from the palace; a test for the security officers; and a test for the political parties”.
When the Inspector-General of Police paid him a courtesy call in his palace, Oba Ewuare 11 expressed concern that there had never been an election in the history of Edo State that had generated tension as this Saturday’s governorship election. He therefore charged the security agencies in the state to live up to their billing.