President Muhammadu Buhari appears to be risking everything in his administration’s all-out battle to grab the big oil states in Southern Nigeria. In furtherance of their security approach, the President on Tuesday, met behind closed-doors with the service chiefs and heads of other security agencies at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, with a directive that more security agents be deployed to Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states for the Governorship and state Assembly elections,
This was happening as the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, banned unauthorised use of unmarked vehicles and vehicles with covered number plates. The ban was issued in Abuja on Tuesday in a statement Force Spokesman, Frank Mba, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP).
Adamu gave the order following alleged intelligence report that vehicles with covered number plates might be used to commit electoral-related offences before, during and after the rescheduled Governorship and House of Assembly polls this Saturday.
According to the police boss who said covering of vehicle number plates amounted to a breach of the Road Traffic Act and others laws, added that such practices could also impact negatively on national security and heighten criminal activities.
He, therefore, directed all Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIGs) and Commissioners of Police (CPs) in the zonal and state commands to strictly enforce the order, warning that any security personnel found escorting their principals with an unmarked vehicle or covered vehicle number plates, would be arrested and dealt with accordingly.
The police statement: ‘’The IGP gave this order on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, following intelligence report that the unwholesome practice may be deployed by some unscrupulous persons to aid the commission of electoral related offences before, during and after the Saturday, 9th March, 2019 Gubernatorial/House of Assembly elections. Apart from the above immediate possible threats to the polls, the IGP also noted that the covering of Vehicle Number Plate amounts to a clear breach of the Road Traffic Act and other relevant laws of the land.’’
Several citizens were killed in the oil region area during the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly polls.
Adamu, said the security agencies were ready to ensure adequate security before, during, and after the elections, pointing out that security agencies resolved to deal ‘’ruthlessly’’ with anyone that will attempt to disrupt a peaceful and credible election, adding that more security personnel had been deployed to Bayelsa State and other states in the Niger Delta.
While advising the public to go out and vote for candidates of their choice, assuring that security had been enhanced, the police chief said, ‘’we are all aware of the fact that we just concluded the presidential and National Assembly elections and we want to congratulate Nigerians for the peaceful conduct of the elections and we are prepared now for the governorship and the House of Assembly elections in the country.
‘’We will like every Nigerian to come out and cast his or her vote. The security arrangement we provided during the presidential elections is being enhanced so as to provide enabling environment for everybody to come out and cast his or her vote for their preferred candidates. We will again advise those that will want to disrupt the process to rethink because during the presidential election, we had some few challenges here and there.
‘’’We will not allow those challenges to repeat themselves. We are taking more security measures to address those pockets of challenges we noticed. So, thuggery, again, is not allowed, ballot snatching is not allowed, disruption of the election process is not allowed. We, the security personnel, have resolved to deal ruthlessly with anybody that attempts to disrupt the process of this election.
‘’For that reason, we expect that in every state, the conduct of the election should be respected. We expect that electoral materials must not be tampered with, we expect that the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) officials would do their work without fear or favour without being compromised.
‘’At the same time, the security personnel are to perform their duties without allowing themselves to be compromised. So, we have heightened the security arrangement to make sure that the election goes without any hitch.’’
He however, tactically evaded answering questions on the militarisation of the electoral process by the security agencies, saying simply, well, as I said before, the lives of Nigerians are secured in terms of provision of adequate security to come out and vote, noting that there was a good working relationship between the police and other sister security agencies, pointing out the police were saddled with the responsibility of internal security of the country.
At the meeting were Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonishakin, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Yusuf Buratai, Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok-Ete Ekwe-Ibas, and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar.
But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has decried an alleged on-going mass arrest and detention of their leaders and members in the targeted big oil states of Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa-Ibom states by the military ahead of the elections.
The party’s Spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, sad in a statement, ‘’the Buhari Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) is turning the South South zone into a war zone, out of their desperation to suppress voters, manipulate the electoral process and forcefully take over control of the states.
‘’In Rivers state, leaders of the PDP are being hounded and forcefully picked up in a well-coordinated operation by military operatives attached to the Director General of Buhari’s Campaign Organisation and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. Our party has received reports on how soldiers led by one Major Mustapha Bello from Sokoto Division, under Amaechi’s directives, manhandled, arrested and took away the Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Dr. Tam Gogo Jaja to an unknown destination.
‘’During the February 23 polls, soldiers, also under the directives of Amaechi, invaded the state and engaged in unrestrained harassment of PDP supporters, resulting in the killing of over 30 innocent citizens.’’
While inviting Nigerians and the international community to note the development in the oil region as well as how the Buhari Presidency and the APC are allegedly provoking the people of the region and pushing them to the precipice, PDP added, ‘’the tension in the Niger Delta has been dangerously stretched and there is a limit to what the people can stomach in the face of such aggressions without resort to self-help.
‘’The Niger Delta region remains a stronghold of the PDP and no amount of intimation and assault by the APC can change this reality. Our party therefore demands the immediate release of every PDP member arrested by the military as well as instant stoppage of military agression in the region ahead of the elections. Any delay in cessation of this aggression by the APC and the military will destroy the precarious peace in the region and spell doom for our nation.’’
Similarly, the Rivers State Government has accused Amaechi and the General Officer Commanding the 6 Division, Nigeria Army of allegedly masterminding the mass arrest of innocent Nigerians and prominent PDP members in the State.
The state Information and Communications Commissioner, Emma Okah, who made this known said, ‘’the essence of the arrests is to precipitate crisis and cause the INEC to postpone the elections in Rivers. Failing this, the minister will use the vacuum created by the absence of arrested leaders and rig the governorship election and force a candidate of his choice against the will of the people.’’
The state made this accusation following the arrest of the Education Commissioner, Dr Tamunosisi Gogo Jaja and his family by soldiers on Wednesday evening in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
According to Okah, ‘’we have been saying it repeatedly that the minister has been commanding the army in Port Harcourt to do unprofesional things and the crisis are spreading. He has been boasting that he has brought soldiers from Sokoto and other states to carry out his political agenda of disrupting or rigging elections on Saturday.
‘’Any arrested person would be kept behind bars till after the governorship elections in the state. A lot of prominent persons have been pencilled down for arrest. Some of them are Celestine Omehia, former Governor; Rt Hon Austin Opara, former Dep Speaker of House of Reps; State PDP Chairman Bro Felix Obuah; Elder statesman Chief Ferdinand Alabraba, former Chairman of UBA; Sen Okaka Nwogu; and Chief Sergeant Awuse.
‘’Others are Sen Lee Maeba; Dr Tammy Danagogo, former Sports Minister; Dr Abiye Sekibo, former Transport Minister; Amb Desmond Akawor, former Nig Ambassador to South Korea; Prince Emma Anyanwu; Sir Kenneth Kobani, SSG; Ejor N Ejor, Prof Blessing Didia, members of Rivers State House of Assembly; PDP candidates and National Assembly members elect; Alabo David Briggs, all commissioners and special advisers; Local Govermment Council Chairmen, Senator Thompson Sekibo, Chief Adokiye Amiesimaka, etc.’’
In the light of this development, the government is calling on all PDP members not to be cowed by the repressive development but be vigilant and resist anti-democratic tendencies in the strategic oil and gas state.