‘How we ensured peaceful polls in Abia’

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Security agencies explain why there was no violence in Abia State during the polls, reports SUNNY NWANKWO. Additional writing by OGOCHUKWU IKEJE

There were jitters in Abia State as the election drew near. The state is home to Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra or IPOB, a secessionist group which clashed with the military in late 2017 during the Operation Python Dance. That clash reportedly left several people dead with Kanu himself rumoured to be missing.

This year, as the presidential and legislative elective neared, there were fresh fears that the secessionist group may spring a few surprises. On Election Day, no surprises were sprung. Voters went to cast their ballots, and have since known the results of their efforts. There was relief in the state.

Security agencies are happy that they did not take any chances. They launched what they called a show of force during which they sent a message that they would contain any situation that threatened peace in the state during the polls.

A military source said, “The security situation was okay. It wasn’t as critical as we thought it would be. Everybody was [thinking] that Biafra will come out. They are [thinking] that there will be a clash between military and the hoodlums where people will be caught in the web. The military and police were patrolling to ensure that there was peace in the state.

“When reports came about some of the malpractices going on, we directed them to the appropriate authorities. What the military did was to ensure that there was peace, law and order in the state, prevent snatching of ballot boxes and other issues that truncate the process and attack on any INEC [Independent National Electoral Commission] official and offices.

“The peace recorded in Aba and the state is as a result of the things that we had done before the election. It sent a message that the security agencies are prepared to deal with any form of insecurity in the state.

“Two police officers were disarmed and handed over to the police. A Hilux vehicle belonging to a known politician in Aba was equally confiscated and handed over to the police for proper action to be taken. The Hilux is having the election duty sticker on it and upon inquiry, we discovered that it belongs to a politician and the car doesn’t have any reason for being on the road at that material time.

The Abia commissioner of police, Ene Okon in a telephone interview said, “We had a near perfect security situation in Abia during the election process in the state.

“We have some security challenges, but they were too isolated. We have shortage of manpower in not up to ten polling booths, but that didn’t lead to any problem as the elections went on peacefully because of the security architecture put in place by the security agencies.

“There was nothing like ballot box snatching, killing of anybody, or injuring of anybody throughout the election. That was why I said that it was a near perfect security situation.”

CP Okon said, “You know that Abia was a flashpoint before the election because of IPOB threat and you should know that this is the headquarters of IPOB.

“The show of force did a lot of wonders. It sends signals that the police and other security agencies were ready to deal with any security challenges and because of that they retraced their steps to allow people to go and vote.

“We have even restrategised ahead of the governorship and State House of Assembly elections. I met with my management team. As I speak to you, we are working on a new deployment design that will take care of all the polling units and collation centres. We have discovered that politicians normally start their malpractices at collation centres. We have designed a way of putting mobile policemen right from the ward level to the local government levels.”

Confirming the arrest of some electoral offenders by its men, the Abia police boss disclosed that about four persons including one Dr. Ibe who was arrested in Arochukwu LGA were nabbed for tearing ballot papers, adding that they would soon be handed over to the police for further investigation and possible prosecution as the command had finished preparing their case files.

The peace in the state was a fall-out of a comprehensive security strategy involving virtually all agencies of the security community.

The show took place in Aba, the state’s commercial nerve, and Umuahia, its capital.

The exercise in Aba which started at the Abia Area Command of the Nigeria Police Force had the presence of personnel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Army, personnel of Counterterrorism Unit (CTU), Mobile Police Force (MPF), among others.

Sources within the security circles who spoke to our reporter anonymously said that the essence of the security patrol was to send warning signals to people or group of persons that might want to foment trouble in the election and to also assure Abians and Nigerians who were ready to exercise their franchise of the readiness of the military and other security agencies to protect lives and properties of citizens of the state.

Addressing the personnel at the end of the patrol, an Assistant Commissioner of Police in-charge of Aba Area Command, Peter Okpara who represented the State Commissioner of Police, Etim Ene Okon, thanked the personnel for comporting themselves while the operation lasted.

Okpara charged them to be professional in the discharge of their duties at their various places of primary assignments, reminding them of the need to protect the INEC staff, voters, and themselves.

“Saturday is the D-Day. The security agencies are on ground to discharge their duties according to the constitution. You must protect INEC officials, election materials, voters, foreign observers and also protect yourselves.

“You shouldn’t be biased; there’s no friendship in election. Do your work the way it should be done. No brother, no party affiliation, no religion, no tribe.

“Comport yourselves tomorrow. From 12 midnight, all of us must be on duty till the election materials leave for Umuahia.

“You must be careful because the world is watching us. If this election goes well, others will take the glory. But when it goes bad, they will blame us and that is why we must be professionals. We will not fail. Be in your duty post as early as possible for without your presence, no INEC staff will work until you come.”

The leadership of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has organised a two-day seminar for its personnel in Abia State.

The seminar which was held in Umuahia, the state capital was attended by both junior and senior officers of the agency under Abia State Command.

According to the organisers of the event which attracted the presence of Police, DSS and INEC in the state, it is a capacity building programme on election duties for FRSC staff.

Speaking at the event, the Corps Marshal of the FRSC, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi represented by Kenneth Nwaegbe, an Assistant Corps Marshal and Commandant in-charge of FRSC Academy Udi, Enugu State while reminding the personnel of the agency that FRSC isn’t a partisan organisation and has no allegiance to any political party, warned the personnel of identifying with any political party, but to perform their duties as given to them by INEC in conjunction with other sister agencies.

According to Oyeyemi, “FRSC’s participation in the 2019 General Election will involve certifying all the vehicles to be used for conveying all the election materials and personnel. Therefore, we must apply due diligence and integrity we are known for.” This is even as he warned the personnel against getting involved in any act that would truncate the electoral process and called for all hands to be on deck to ensure that the agency didn’t disappoint the trust Nigerians reposed on it.

The Abia State Sector Commander, Mr. Meshach Jatau in his speech said the command would mop up all abandoned vehicles on major roads in the state to ease vehicular movement during the election.

Jatau said the exercise was necessary to checkmate unscrupulous elements that might use such vehicles to block roads against vehicles convening electoral materials and personnel during the election.

He said the training was on the instance of the FRSC Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi to sensitise corps official on their duties particularly as it concerns the conduct of the 2019 general election.

He said, “As a member of the Inter Agency Committee on security working with the Independent National Electoral Commission the FRSC is fully involved in maintaining law and order to ensure the successful conduct of the election”.

“We are going to support the police, the main security agency in-charge of the conduct of the election in inspecting vehicles that would be used for distribution of election materials.

“Our officials would also be deployed to Support the speedy movement of election materials to remote areas in the state to ensure that the election starts on time across the state”.

He pointed out that FRSC officials would also liaise with the police and other security agencies to ensure orderly and secured movement of vehicles convening Sensitive materials during the election.

Other speakers at the event were personnel of the DSS, Police and INEC who in their speeches expressed willingness to partner with FRSC to make their work easier and to ensure that the 2019 general elections was free and fair.

They stated that their agencies and organisations have put adequate measures on ground to ensure a hitch-free exercise in the state.

 

Culled from here

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