ABUJA -THE National Council of State, NCS, yesterday rose from a crucial session which lasted over five hours with a resolution that troops be deployed in the streets 48 hours before the elections to forestall any form of violence during voting.
When deployed, the military, regular and mobile policemen as well as members of other security agencies are expected to arrest and halt any political, religious and ethnic driven violence during and after the polls, which begin nationwide on Saturday.
Inspector General of Police, IGP, Hafiz Ringim, who briefed State House Correspondents, after the NCS meeting, presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, however walked out on Journalists over a question which he refused to answer.
The IGP had warned those who had nothing to do with the elections to remain indoors during voting exercise. He said: “48 hours or more before the elections there would be increased deployment of mobile policemen, conventional policemen, and other law enforcement agencies as well as the military.
This is with a view to ensuring that no chances or opportunities are allowed for thugs, rogues and vagabonds to disrupt the exercise.
Security of voting materials
“Apart from this deployment, at the polling unit, there shall be police and other law enforcement agencies whose duty it is to ensure proper conduct of voters as well as security of voting materials as well as INEC officials.”
Ringim added: “There shall be patrol in and around all voting areas by armed policemen as well as armed military officers.
The fact remains that this country as well as the law enforcement agents representing this country are determined and will not allow any act of thuggery, violence and any act that would disrupt the conduct of free, fair, rancour-free, peaceful as well as acceptable general elections.
“For the avoidance of doubt, I want to make it clear that anybody within the vicinity of this election process that is found to be doing any act or conducting themselves in any manner inimical to the peaceful conduct of this election shall be arrested and prosecuted.”
On whether people would be allowed to stay at the polling stations or not, Ringim said: “They would be allowed to stay there as long as they conduct themselves peacefully and not otherwise. Anybody that is found to be in a position to threaten the conduct of the election shall be arrested and prosecuted.”
When newsmen expressed concern over the impartiality of the police during the polls, the IGP walked out of the briefing and refused to answer further questions.
INEC well positioned to conduct elections -Jega
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, said the electoral body had finalised arrangements to ensure a free, fair, credible and violent free elections.
He said: “I made a presentation on behalf of INEC to the Council on the state of preparedness and in summary, INEC is now well prepared, well positioned to conduct elections which will go a long way to satisfy the aspirations of Nigerians for free and fair elections.
We have prepared adequately in terms of logistics, in terms of the training of our staff and in term of effective liaison with security agencies in order to provide security before, during and after the elections.
“A lot has been put into this exercise and we plead for the support of all Nigerians to make the elections free and credible and to also make them non-violence. We preach peace and we want to work towards peace and to ensure there is no violence on election day.
Key issue at the Council of State
“I am very pleased that one of the key issues at the Council of State today (yesterday) was the commitment of all stake holders to promote peace, to promote non-violence and to ensure that voters are adequately educated.”
On the voting time, Jega said anybody coming after 12 noon would not be accredited, adding: “Anybody who isn’t on queue for voting after 12.30 pm won’t be allowed to vote. We are fully prepared for the election that is coming on Saturday.”
Governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Danjuma Goje, who expatiated on the issue said people who remained at the voting centres to foment trouble would be prosecuted.
While maintaining that security operatives would be on ground to handle any breach of peace during the voting time, Goje said that President Jonathan had assured the Council of his commitment towards conducting, a free, fair and credible election and called on all political actors to cooperate with election officials to ensure that the elections were violence free.
Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi, said the Council urged all stakeholders to put the nation first in whatever they did especially in their utterances during the election period.