Kingsley Nwzeh and Michael Olugbode in Abuja
The military high command and its police counterpart have vowed to defend the democratic system of government in Nigeria with everything within their means. They also promised to leave no stone unturned in ensuring the smooth conduct of the general election.
The security agencies spoke yesterday in Abuja at a joint briefing with some journalists.
Director, Defence Information, Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, warned during the briefing that strong forces would be deployed to check those who might attempt to breach public peace during the elections.
Gusau said, “We are set for the conduct of hitch-free election in the country. The AFN is prepared to support the Nigeria Police and other government agencies responsible for conducting elections. The CDS has sent out strong messages that the Armed Forces of Nigeria is committed to total collaboration with other security agencies to ensure this election is successful.
“The AFN is committed to strong and viable constitutional democracy, we are very loyal to the Nigerian state and we are ready to defend democracy at all costs. During the elections, all our normal operations and duties will continue simultaneously across the country. Operation Safe Conduct has been activated to guide the AFN during the general elections.”
He disclosed that the military high command had established a monitoring team as well as operation centres across the country to facilitate its response to cases of breach.
Gusau said, “Similarly, operations centres have been established in FCT and the 36 states of the country to serve as quick response centres for all distress calls in the event of any breach of peace during the general election.
“I want to use this opportunity to re-echo the warning of the CDS to undesirable elements, that the AFN and other security agencies are ready and will subvert any threats to peace and tranquillity, and strong force will be applied to those that want to breach public peace during the general election. The AFN has adequately sensitised its personnel on their expected roles throughout the elections.”
The Force spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, said the police were ready to protect democracy, adding that the elections would be free and fair.
Adejobi said, “Like the military, we are ready to protect democracy, we are ready to give good security to our electoral process so that we can have free, fair credible, and even acceptable general elections in 2023 in the philosophy of Mr. President who said he wants free fair and credible elections, despite belonging to a political party but he wants to give every Nigerian he rights, liberty to do whatever he wants to do.”
The police spokesman added that the ban on unauthorised use of vehicles, sirens, revolving lights, covered number plates, unregistered vehicles, and tinted glasses was still in force, saying police officers on election duties have been ordered to arrest violators of this order.
Adejobi said anyone not enjoying immunity, as prescribed by the constitution, should not come to the polling units with their details. He added that governors and others covered by immunity had been advised to only show up with their ADC.
Adejobi said, “I want to say without mincing words that our officers and men, particularly those that are detailed to VIPs or politicians as escorts or aids, are not allowed to move with any one of them during the elections.
“Apart from governors that can go out with ADC, we don’t expect them (governors) to go with a large number of security operatives because on that day we all are equal before the law but we still know that they are governors and they can only go out with ADC or orderly
“But any other person who is not a governor or does not enjoy any constitutional immunity but has privileges of having security personnel as aides or escorts will not be allowed to go out to any polling unit with his security operatives and this message has been discussed at various meetings at the instance of the CDS so that all security agencies will be on the same page.”
He warned people of voting age who do not have Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to stay at home throughout the exercise.
Adejobi said, “We want to assure active electorates, that is those with PVCs, to go out and exercise their franchise but inactive electorates, those that are more than 18, but without PVCs, please, stay at home we don’t want them, they are the ones that cause problems. So, just stay glued to your TV and radio stations to monitor the elections.”
The Force spokesperson advised eligible voters whose polling units were far from where they reside to move close to their units on Friday. He said restriction of movement order would be enforced and those in that category might not be allowed to move around on election day.
Adejobi said, “Restriction order is very key for all of us to have well-organised security arrangement for the success of the electoral process. Exceptions to these restrictions include accredited members of the press and essential workers.
“For those who would want to move to a polling unit, we’ve been having problems with the relocation of PVC, if you know your distance will be long enough to use a vehicle, you are advised to move close to your polling unit on Friday before the restriction time because you may not have that free access to drive covering a large or long distance in any way.
“Men have been deployed to enforce this restrictions order and you are going to meet them at intervals so for your interest move close to your polling units.”
He said voters who intended to walk to their polling units must ensure such units were within walking distance.
Adejobi assured that security agencies were on top of the situation in states where beaches were being recorded.
He said, “Go out and vote, but those who want to foment trouble, you want it hot, we give you hot, you want it average, we give you average, you want it mild or simple, we give the way you want.”
Meanwhile, all of Nigeria’s land borders are to be closed during the elections on Saturday, Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Isah Idris, said yesterday.
In a statement, Idris said, “The federal government has directed the total closure of all land borders effective from 00.00 hours on Saturday, 25th February, 2023 to 00.00 hours Sunday, 26th February, 2023.”
He added, “Accordingly, all command comptrollers, especially those in the border states, are to ensure strict enforcement of this directive.”