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Polls: FG shuts borders 12.00 noon today

•Police deploy all its 350,000 officers, men, assets
•Army to deploy GOCs, Brigade Commanders, Special Task Forces
•Immigration waives visas for accredited election observers, monitors
•We won’t interfere in Nigeria’s internal affairs – Chinese Govt

By Kingsley Omonobi, Godfrey Bivbere, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Victoria Ojeme

ABUJA—Ahead of tomorrow’s rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly elections, the Federal Government has ordered the closure of all borders by noon today, as the Nigerian Police will deploy all its 350,000 personnel and assets.

HOT SEAT: Mr. President’s seat at the Council Chambers, Presidential Villa, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adesida.

The Army on its part, it was gathered, will also deploy all the General Officers Commanding, GOCs, Brigade Commanders and special task forces across the country for patrol.

For the Police, all Special Forces including the Police Mobile Force, the Counter Terrorism Unit, the Police Air Wing, the Bomb Disposal Unit, the Police K9 Dog Unit, Marine Police, Police Intelligence Department and detectives of the Force Criminal Investigation Department have been mobilized and dispatched to the 36 states of the federation and FCT for the polls.

Closure of borders

A statement by the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, Muhammad Babandede entitled ‘Federal Government of Nigeria Closes Border,’ said: “Further to the Presidential election taking place on February 23, 2019 (tomorrow), the  Minister of Interior has directed the closure of all Nigeria land borders with effect from 12 noon on Friday,  February 22, 2019 (today). This is to restrict movements across the borders during the election days.”

He also disclosed that the Federal Government has approved free visa waivers for accredited election observers and monitors, many of whose entry visas expired as a result of last weekend’s postponement of the earlier scheduled election.

NIS said: “Sequel to the rescheduling of the 2019 general elections to February 23 and March 9, 2019 and considering the plight of accredited election observers and monitors who were caught up by the rescheduled elections, the Minister of Interior, Lt. General Abdulraman Dambazau (retd) has approved a visa waiver.

“All affected individuals and organisations wishing to extend their stay or travel back to their countries and return for the next election are advised to visit Nigeria Immigration visa desk at the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, headquarters. The desk officers will attend to those requiring extension of their visa issued gratis (No fee charge).”

IGP on  polls

Acting Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Mr Mohammad Adamu, in a statement by Force Public Relations Officer, Mr Frank Mba, called on citizens to come out en-masse on the day of the elections to cast their votes without any fear or apprehension.

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“The IGP further reassures the citizens that security personnel deployed for the elections have been adequately trained and are under strict instruction to abide by the Standard Operational Procedures of the Force and international best practices in the conduct of an election.

“They will remain patriotic, steadfast, professional, neutral and civil, but firm, in their conducts and actions throughout the period and beyond.  The general public is therefore, implored not to feel intimidated, but rather should be emboldened, by the presence of security personnel deployed to their areas, to go out and exercise their franchise.

“While calling on the public to cooperate with the security operatives, the IGP however, warns those who may want to undermine the electoral process by engaging in snatching of ballot boxes, hate speech and vote trading to desist from such acts or face the full consequences of the law.”

Meanwhile, Vanguard gathered that the 55 Police Commissioners, complemented by over 50 Deputy Commissioners of Police who were earlier deployed to the 109 Senatorial zones to take charge of security arrangements for the Senatorial zones, have been reshuffled.

A senior Police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed that the action of the Police High Command was necessitated by fears of compromise following allegations and counter-allegations by leaders of political parties over plots to compromise both INEC and security officials.

Consequently, many of the Commissioners of Police and Deputy Commissioners assigned certain senatorial zones, have been swapped while others were moved to entirely new operational areas.

A team has also been put in place to monitor the activities of the Police Commissioners to ensure they conduct their duties in accordance with the rules as spelt out by the IGP.

Vanguard gathered from a credible military source that the Army was deploying all the GOCs, Brigade Commanders and Special Task Forces across the country and officers and men for patrol, but the source did not disclose the total number of officers and men to be deployed, which the source said was for security reasons.

 

We lost N5m each day to border closure — Operator

General Manager of a beer distribution outfit at Seme border area, Omogbeye Folagbase, has disclosed that his outfit lost about N5 million to the postponement of elections last week and expects to lose similar amount to the closure of the border from today.

However, Customs Area Controller, CAC, of the Command, Garba Mohammed, told Vanguard that whatever amount of revenue lost to the closure of the border is known to government and had adequate contingents plans for that.

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A visit to Seme border post, Lagos by Vanguard showed that business owners were making last minute arrangements to shut down their businesses ahead of the elections.

The Seme border Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, said the command had put contingencies in place to ensure that trading activities were halted until the elections were over and the border opened.

Speaking to Vanguard on the development, Customs Area Controller, CAC, of the Command, Garba Mohammed, said whatever revenue lost to the closure of the border is known to government, which had made adequate contingents plans for it.

Meanwhile, Assistant General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communication Department of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Mallam Isa Suwaid said port operations will continue during the elections, adding that administrative aspect of such operations will be shut down.

We won’t interfere in Nigeria’s internal affairs —Chinese Govt

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has said that it believes in the principle of non-interference in other country’s internal affairs.

The Chinese government also expressed its readiness to continue to support Nigeria to manage its own internal affairs without any interference.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Geng Shuang, made the disclosure while fielding questions during a press conference on Nigeria’s coming general election, which is starting with the Presidential and National Assembly elections.

On the Chinese government’s position on the elections in Nigeria against the backdrop of the postponement and the reactions it generated from the international community, Shuang said: “We have noted the relevant situation.

“The Chinese side hopes and believes that Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary elections will be held successfully and smoothly. I will like to point out that Nigeria is an important country in Africa. Peace, stability and development of Nigeria serves the interests of the Nigerian people, the region and Africa at large.

“China always stands for the principle of non-interference in other country’s internal affairs. We believe the Nigerian government and people are capable of managing the relevant election affairs.”

US shuts embassy, consulate in Lagos

In a statement in Abuja, yesterday, the US said the U.S. Embassy in Abuja and the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos will be closed. No consular services will be available.

According to the statement, “If you already have a regular visa or ACS appointment for that date, you will be contacted for rescheduling.”

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