2011 April Polls Update

April 3, 2011

Shifted polls: The security implications


When the Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, shocked Nigerian politicians by re-deploying commissioners of police in all the states of the federation at the eve of National Assembly elections, many applauded his deft move and commended his foresight in nipping in the bud perceived unholy alliance between his helmsmen in the states, and politicians desperate to use them for their selfish purposes. 

 In fact, the announcement of new names came like a thunderbolt and there were alleged discreet moves by corrupt politicians to get at the new police commissioners after the announcement.  Unfortunately, the IGP beat them to the game as the new commissioners of police swiftly assumed responsibilities in their new postings and were poised to carry out their assignment without fear or favor from any quarters, high or low. 

 The police boss, in order to ensure effective control and performance of his men, also despatched all the Deputy Inspectors-General of Police to all the zones in the country to guarantee that his directives were carried out to the letter. 

Aside the police clever re-deployment, other security agencies took similar steps aimed at ensuring that their men lived up to their responsibilities.  The State Security Service, the Civil Defense Corps, Immigration Services, Prisons, etc. toed similar lines by not only making discreet changes, but also setting up machineries that will ensure strict compliance and adherence. 

The military, on their part, took up strategic locations on our highways and embarked on thorough searches with a view to ensuring that no illegal material or dangerous weapons were carried from one location to the other. 

Security in Lagos.

Alas, while these patriotic Nigerians were busy at work, the bubble burst. The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Atahiru Jega, announced the postponement of the National Assembly elections, scheduled for yesterday, to tomorrow. 

Before the far reaching implications of the cancellation dawned on these security men who were already carrying out their assigned duties, our deserted streets and highways were filled with Nigerians who were obviously shocked by the rude display of the crass incompetence by INEC.

 The resultant effect is that all the plans that were put in place by our security agencies towards forestalling attempts by some criminally-minded politicians to have their way were nakedly thwarted and blown open by this postponement thereby forcing them to go back to the drawing board.

 The toll on their meager resources is definitely unquantifiable.  These security men who the authorities managed to impress by paying their allowances before the commencement of the elections must certainly look forward to more remuneration for the tomorrow’s assignment.  

Going by antecedents, who knows whether this will be feasible and, of course, we all know the far-reaching implications of not taking care of them..  They would be thrown into the market for the highest bidder as it was in the past.  Whatever security  strategy the Inspector-General of Police tried to perfect by making last-minute changes at the state level must have been thwarted by this postponement. 

Even at that, reports from some states showed that desperate politicians still went ahead to perfect their inglorious acts by moving electoral materials to places they were not supposed to be, including a government house in the South-East where they ended up perfecting their criminal acts. 

It was also gathered that soldiers at a check point in the same area succeeded in interrupting the illegal movement of such materials, midnight, along a popular route in the zone.  Perhaps, this may account for the hasty cancellation by INEC but the big questions remains, what were they doing with the time and huge resources allocated to them before the elections proper?.

Why were the problems associated with the postponement not identified before now? Better still, has the INEC boss been overwhelmed by the enormous responsibilities associated with the job or should we say detractors are at work? Whatever may the answers, the point is that the postponement will be at a huge cost materially and economically.

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