By EMMANUEL AZIKEN, Political Editor, AUSTIN OGWUDA & EVELYN USMAN
ASABA – THE Police, yesterday, rolled out what it described as “Tailor Made Plans” to guarantee security during the forthcoming polls.
The unveiling of the Police plans came as Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State expressed fears that the N15 billion election budget for the Police might be inadequate.
The Police plans were made known at the opening of a two-day National Conference on Partnering the Police for Free, Fair and Credible Elections, in Asaba, the Delta State capital.
The conference was jointly facilitated by Vanguard Media Limited and the Nigeria Police in a collaboration towards boosting confidence in the polity ahead of the elections.
Erstwhile DirectorGeneral of the State Security Service, Col. Kayode Are (rtd.) at the conference equally underlined the need for security agencies to lay the framework for a conducive environment that would positively recommend the country’s democracy to the international community.
Yesterday’s opening ceremony was attended by various stakeholders including politicians, security agents, government functionaries and representatives of the media.
Police deploying 370,000 men
The Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, represented by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG (A), Mr. Azubuko Udah, said the Police would be deploying its full 370,000-man force under its tailor- made plans for the elections. Under the proposal, he said that at least two policemen would be deployed to each of the 120,000 polling units.
Unfolding the plans yesterday, Ringim said: “It is evident by the current strength of the Nigeria Police that there will be at least two Policemen to each of the 120,000 polling units nationwide. Other paramilitary agencies are expected to play complementary roles in the provisions of adequate security during the forthcoming elections.
In line with provisions of the Electoral Act, no politician or public office holder is allowed to wail siren at any polling centre or any place at all during the elections.
“The Nigeria Police will clamp down on any perpetrator of offence that may be inimical or detrimental to the smooth conduct of the elections. The Federal Government has also approved and released funds to the Force for logistics and other manpower needs.
This has culminated in the procurement of operational and intelligence-gathering equipment ready to be deployed any moment from now for the elections. All these efforts are for the success of the forthcoming general elections.”
Uduaghan doubts adequacy of funds
Earlier, the chief host, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan had doubted the adequacy of the released funds from the Federal Government for the logistic and overall needs of the Police during the elections. He especially doubted the capacity of the Police to adequately man all the 120,000 polling booths nationwide.
The governor said: “Do we have enough Police to man all the polling units? How do we assist the Police to man all the polling units?”
Tracing violence to the greed of some in the political class, he said: “One of the reasons for the violence in elections is that in Nigeria today, government is about the only viable business. Everybody wants to be in government, as if we must be part of government before we can survive.
It is for us to evaluate every stage and see whether they (Police) can meet up with the challenges. From my experience at the January re-run election, Delta State was the only state conducting the governorship election and so it virtually had half of the police in Nigeria in Delta State.
“If the whole country is conducting election do we have the number that would be able to cover the whole country effectively on the day of election? I am not too sure we have the number. Do we have enough policemen to cover every polling booth in Nigeria?
“The second one which is a big challenge is the issue of funding. We were so concerned about the success of election that whatever INEC came out with in terms of budget, the National Assembly quickly passed. I think that was the fastest budget that has been passed by the National Assembly in the history of Nigeria.
“But what I read in the papers is that the Federal Government approved a N15 billion budget for the election.
If that is correct then it is under funding the police for this coming election. If it is only N15 billion for the police to cover the whole of Nigeria, I want to say that, that funding is not enough. It is not adequate except it will be officially permitted that states have to do something.”
Earlier in his opening remarks, Col Are had said: “The complexity of the logistics of elections is self-evident. Creating a conducive environment to empower eligible citizens to exercise voluntarily the right to choose their leaders and representatives through the ballot box free and fairly is also not easy.
“The challenges of maintaining law and order and ensuring security, are compounded during elections. But we also recognize that it is only through the effective enforcement of the law and the provision of adequate security that the conducive atmosphere which is essential to the conduct of free and fair election can be achieved.”
Publisher of the Vanguard Media Limited, Mr. Sam Amuka in his welcome address noted the increasingly strategic role of the Police in the conduct of a free and fair election. He said: “What is going to be important increasingly is the role of the Police in the forthcoming election. As it is, the Police have improved in their performance ,they have not been criticized as badly as expected since the last two elections. It is clear that there is improvement in the professionalism among the Police.”
He said the conference was organized to provide a forum for the Police to engage other stakeholders and notably politicians to ensure a successful poll.
Mr. Amuka regretted that “Nigeria has had a bad history of disputed elections. It seems to be the fashion since we started election in the country. But since 2008 its gotten worse and very many people think that every election is worse than the former.”
Noting the admission of former President Umaru Yar‘Adua that the 2007 election was full of fraud, he appreciated the determination of President Goodluck Jonathan to prevent a bloody election.
The President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, described the conference as being of strategic importance to the media as he noted that the mass media were often the first victim of a failed election.
Adefaye, also the Editor-in-Chief of Vanguard said the mass media were, therefore, desirous of a free and fair election.