The Police have read the riot act to trouble-makers in Anambra State, vowing to deal decisively with anyone who attempts to disrupt today’s election.
For several months, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had been issuing threats that there would no election in Anambra.
A video also circulated online warning voters to “vote and die”.
But the Police have reassured voters that there is no cause for alarm.
Along with other security agencies, they embarked on a show of force around the state, telling residents there was nothing to fear.
The police have deployed 21,084 men from various states for the exercise, to join those already in the state.
Members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), including the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, among others, have also deployed their men.
This is as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) gave assurances that the election would be hitch-free, free and fair.
At the state police and INEC headquarters, armored personnel careers were stationed. Sniffer dogs were seen patrolling the commission’s premises. Adjourning roads were restricted to only those on official duties.
Sensitive materials were collected from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and distributed on Thursday.
The Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG), Joshak Habila, in charge of the election, said adequate security arrangements have been made.
On possible threats, he said: “We did a threat analysis a long time ago. We did physical threat analysis. Some possible security challenges and threats were analysed. We came to the conclusion that we need to watch the 4,680 polling units closely.
“We’ll also pay close attention to the 326 wards and local government collation centres, the INEC headquarters and other places. We’ve already deployed security to those places. We have a standby unit.”
Habila said all the officers have been deployed, with allowances paid upfront to keep the men motivated.
“Even those who are to security the Awka polling units have all gone. The sensitive materials have been successfully distributed.
“I assure voters that the directive given to me by the Inspector-General of Police is that we should be transparent and create a level playing ground in terms of security.
“He also directed us to deal with any situation that tends to dent the image or compromise the process of this election, that we should address that squarely. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
The police chief said all black spots have been identified and would be well policed.
He urged voters to ignore IPOB’s threats, saying they were empty bullying.
“We have held a meeting with the ICCES. We’re working with some of the templates that they have developed. We’ve gone on a show of force. The military came out in large numbers. We asked them to lead. We all followed..
“We dominated Onitsha and we assured the public that it is very, very safe, and they should come out and exercise their franchise. We went to Nnewi and other places.
“They will vote and live. You will vote and live to reap the dividends of democracy. We’ve changed the ‘vote and die’ threat to ‘vote and live’. And I see no threats at all,” he said.
According to him, the police was determined to get it right.
“This election is standing alone. It will be used to assess the performance of the police in terms of security provision across board. We’ll not compromise. We’ll follow the rules of the game.
“We’ll provide a conducive atmosphere for people to cast their votes. We’ll ensure security of materials and of the officials, observers, and the electorate. We’ll demonstrate that responsibility on Saturday (today),” he said.
On the welfare of his men, Habila said the officers deployed for election duties had been paid up front.
Addressing a reserve team of hundreds of officers at the State Police Command Headquarters in Awka on Thursday night, Habila had asked those yet to receive alerts to raise their hands. Only a few did.
“Among the reserve at the headquarters, only about three or four raised their hands to say they had not received an alert. It’s possible they supplied a wrong number or there are issues with their alert system.
“Everyone else confirmed that allowances have been paid and that their money has dropped,” he said.
He urged the officers to be responsible and not harass innocent voters.
Addressing them, he said: “We don’t want you to go and take Igbo (Marijuana) or Burukutu (a local liquor). Don’t harass any voter. If you see innocent persons and you fire them, you will also be dealt with.
“But if you see anybody armed and going around to cause trouble, demobilise the person,” he told the officers.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, said efforts would were to ensure that voting materials got to the units on time.
“We have 23,000 ad-hoc staff recruited,” he said, adding that they comprised National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members, tertiary school students and some government workers.
On logistics, he said: “A lot of planning has gone into the election. We have adequate arrangement for transportation. The Electoral Officers will be in charge of moving the materials from the Local Government to Registration Area Centres and to the polling units.
“In the past we had situations where we were ready to move, but the Police was not ready to accompany us. This time, they have given us assurance that they would work in line with our time-line.”
Orji said the card readers have been tested, adding there was enough reserve to replace malfunctioning ones.
“We have tested them in terms of battery efficiency. We’ve made provisions to deploy a reserve to all the Local Governments. We have reserve at the state office. Any malfunctioning card reader will be quickly replaced,” he said.
He gave assurances that the election would be credible, urging voters to exercise their franchise.
“The ballot papers are customised on local government basis. So you cannot use the ballot for one in another. There’s going to be a long ballot paper because of the many candidates.
“We expect they will be handled with care. We invited all the party agents to our state office, observers and the media to monitor the distribution of the sensitive materials,” he said.
On security arrangements, Orji said: “We have been working closely with security agencies. We collaborate with all agencies. They have provided us with security to escort the materials to the polling units.
“We made arrangement for effective security at all the collation centres, both at the ward level and the local government level.
“The Presiding Officer is in charge of the poling unit. It is their duty to hand over to the police anyone in contravention of polling unit operations. We expect the police will discharge their duties effectively.”
Meanwhile, the Civil Society Situation Room on the Anambra State Governorship Election, a coalition of civil society groups, in its preliminary statement, praised the Police for deploying its personnel.
It, however, expressed concern about the massive redeployment of Police personnel from the state.
“These redeployments ostensibly brings in new Police personnel who are put out as non-partisan, but raises questions about whether they have new loyalties that could undermine the impartiality of the Police,” it said.
The group said it would observe INEC’s administration of the electoral process with regards to distribution of materials, deployment of personnel, timeliness, compliance with election procedures, the voting process, collation and results tabulation process, among others.
Situation Room urged all eligible voters to come out and freely exercise their franchise.
It called on INEC to deliver on its promise of conducting credible elections in line with its Constitutional responsibility.
It urged the Police to demonstrate a high level of professionalism and non-partisanship.
“While Situation Room recognises the threat posed by calls for election boycott by some groups, we believe that this should not necessarily provide the excuse for over-policing aimed at discouraging unhindered and free exercise of votes by citizens.
“Situation Room also calls on the Nigeria Police to exercise restraint in dealing with voters and avoid acts of intimidation, inappropriate use of force and other acts capable of undermining the electoral process,” the group said.
It further urged political parties to conduct themselves in a manner that does not encourage violence by their supporters, as they will be held liable.