Nigeria: Electoral Violence – Police Identify Rivers, Borno as Flashpoints in 2023 Polls

Ahead of the 2023 general elections, security agencies have expressed concern about likely violence in a number of states like Rivers and Borno states and other places where offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have already been attacked by hoodlums.

INEC offices in Osun, Ogun and Enugu have been attacked in recent times, forcing police and other security agencies to increase security surveillance around its offices across the states.

Political thugs have also attacked or disrupted rallies of opposing parties in states like Zamfara leading to fears that security personnel would be overstretched during the elections.

In Oyo, a violent protest erupted on Saturday, as some angry youths reportedly killed an ally of the Motor Park Management System (PMS) leader who allegedly joined their chairman, Mukaila Lamidi popularly called Auxiliary in destroying political party billboards belonging to opposition in the state.

The deceased, identified as Jamiu Sego, was alleged to have destroyed billboards in Ibarapa axis of the state on Saturday before he was killed in Igboora.

It was gathered that the body of late Jamiu who was the head of Okada riders in the area was burnt to ashes after he was killed by angry youths.

It would be recalled that Auxiliary and his boys last week led hundreds of PMS boys to destroy billboards of opposition parties, including the Presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

The hoodlums also destroyed billboards of senatorial and House of Representative candidates of APC and other political parties.

Following the destruction, the state police command arrested Auxiliary and arraigned him at the Magistrate Court sitting in Ibadan North East area of the state.

Of particular concern, however, are the political atmosphere in Rivers and Borno states where incidences of violence have been recorded among competing political parties.

This is coming after the inspector-general of police, IGP Usman Baba said police investigations had shown that some governors are sponsoring thugs to disrupt political activities and rallies of oppositions in the state.

Reacting to this statement, a senior police officer, who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday on the condition of anonymity, identified Rivers and Borno States as the hotbed for violence before, during and after the elections.

He said the recent attack on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) campaign train in Borno State is just the sign of more violence that will come as the people of the state will continue to attack any opposition party that comes to campaign in the state.

He also said Rivers State is another likely hotbed of violence in the upcoming elections because of the tension in the state.

The security agent said with the ongoing crisis between the governor and the PDP at the national level, the state is likely to witness violence during the el.ctions.

Speaking on political violence, the inspector-general of police put the blame. on some governors.

The IGP, who did not mention any governor, stated that, so far, about 52 cases of political violence had been recorded since the commencement of campaign for the 2023 elections.

While warning that the police will not hesitate to tackle the matter head on, he warned politicians to desist from this dastardly act as this is capable of derailing the upcoming elections.

According to the IGP, “This meeting became expedient following a noticeable trend within the national political space which, if not promptly addressed, could evolve into a potent threat to not just our national security but the electoral process. Drawing from the experiences of the past, electoral violence both in the process leading to an election as well as the fallout of elections, has always constituted the most dangerous threat to our democracy.

“Political violence manifest in three forms. First is violence that is targeted at the personnel and assets of INEC as recently witnessed in Ogun and Osun states.

“The second form of political violence manifests in the form of inter-party intolerance and violence which often become particularly pronounced during campaigns, elections, and post-elections phases.

“The last form of political violence relates to the conduct of some state governors who manifest traits of political intolerance which often inflame political tension.”

He said, “In this regard, we have been receiving reports of some state governors who encourage political thugs and sub-national security outfits under their control to disrupt seamless and statutorily guaranteed campaign activities of parties or candidates with whom they hold opposing political views.

“In so doing, they deploy their powers and influences to either prevent the mounting of campaign bill boards or pull them down, while also denying political opponents of spaces to undertake their campaigns or peaceful political congregations in contravention of the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 (As amended).”

According to him, most of the recorded violent incidents or threats often result from political extremism, misinformation, intolerance, wrong political orientation, hate speech, incitement and, most importantly, the desperation of strategic actors within the political field who often place their parochial political ambitions over and above national security interests and our nation’s stable democratic order.

Such actors, he said, usually give a wrong direction to their party faithful, arm them, re-orient them and encourage them to resort to the use of threat, violence, and other extra-legal means to frustrate competing political parties and impose their own faulty perception of politicking.

Meanwhile, the INEC headquarters in Enugu, which was burnt by unknown gunmen last July, has been rebuilt by the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration.

Police Beef Up Security At INEC Offices

Meanwhile, in Gombe State, some security measures have been put in place around INEC offices to prevent them from being attacked by hoodlums.

Gombe State Commissioner of Police (CP), Oqua Etim, has ordered the immediate deployment of the police operational apparatus around the critical assets and facilities of the electoral body.

He explained that in addition to the operational apparatuses to be deployed, there would be surveillance activities and intelligence gathering in the state.

According to him, the measures are in line with the directives of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Alkali Baba to ensure that enemies of the state do not destroy the ongoing peaceful political process towards the 2023 general elections in the state.

“The deployments are to deter all criminal elements from having access to INEC facilities and to prevent any attempt to undermine security around INEC facilities and to coordinate a swift response to emergency”. He said.

The CP also directed the Divisional Police Officers and their supervisory Area Commanders to ensure strategic deployment of tactical teams at INEC offices within their respective areas of responsibility in a bid to strengthen security and sustained surveillance in the state.

This is just as he warned politicians against the use of vulnerable youths for thuggery and the use of non-state actors to carry cutlasses, sticks, daggers or knives during political campaigns or rallies in public.

He warned that violators and their sponsors would be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with provisions in the Electoral Act 2022.

INEC Office Fire Incident In Osun

Part of the office of the INEC in Ede South local government area, located within the premises of the council area in Oke Iresi, Ede, was on Thursday 9th of November razed by fire.

The prompt intervention of Osun State Fire Service restricted the fire incident to only the conference room of the electoral body’s secretariat in the local government.

Hence, only furniture equipment and some other items were destroyed in the fire that INEC claimed could have extended to store where vital documents and election materials could have been destroyed.

Meanwhile, it was further learnt that items like knife, slices of bread, a keg containing petrol and a fez cap were recovered from the scene of the fire, raising suspicion of arson.

Though unlike accusations and counter accusations trailing the twilight of the ruling APC administration from the in-coming PDP, none of the parties had pointed fingers at one another over the fire Incident.

Recall that result of Ede South local government is one of the local governments APC alleged there was overvoting in the July 16 governorship election in the state. The case is ongoing at the State Election Petition Tribunal.

The resident electoral commissioner of the state, Dr Mutiu Agboke, while paying a thank-you visit to the state commissioner of police, O. Olaleye, for his command’s quick intervention during the incident, further sought collaboration on the issue of security before, during, and after the coming general elections.

2023: ICCES Deploys Security Teams To INEC Offices Nationwide

To protect INEC assets and facilities from attacks, the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) has deployed joint Security and Safety Teams to all offices nationwide.

The teams, according to the commission, will include, among others, the police, Army, DSS, Civil Defence, and Federal Fire Service.

The commission also gave assurance that security agencies will upscale intelligence gathering, sharing and utilisation of same to stem further sabotage.

This was contained in a resolution of the emergency meeting of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) signed by the national commissioner and chairman, Security Committee of INEC, Maj. Gen. Modibbo Alkali (retd).

In addition to the measures already taken for the arrest and prosecution of offenders, the statement said the Inspector General of Police, as head of the lead agency in internal security, shall convene a meeting of all political parties, candidates, and other critical stakeholders to reiterate the imperative of peaceful campaign and to convey the enforcement measures to be taken against violators.

“Decisive lawful action shall be taken against purveyors of hate speech, incitement to violence, mobilisation of thugs and other violations, including the prompt arrest, investigation, and prosecution of offenders in line with the provisions of Sections 92 and 93 of the Electoral Act 2022. Those already arrested will face prosecution immediately. The meeting appealed to Nigerians to continue to support INEC and the security agencies to ensure a peaceful and secure environment for the 2023 General Election,” the statement said.

It said the decision was taken following the simultaneous attacks on the local government offices of INEC in Abeokuta South of Ogun State and Ede South of Osun State, the commission requested an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) to consider appropriate responses to the situation.

In addition, the statement said the meeting also reviewed the increasing incidents of violence during the ongoing electioneering campaign by political parties across the country.

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