AFTER the brief burst of optimism for the future of Nigeria’s democracy which trailed the 2015 general elections the sense of gloom seems to have returned.
The extremely high visibility of active enemies of our democracy – gunmen, hoodlums and thugs – and the apparent lukewarm attitude towards curtailing them by our law-enforcement agencies during the general elections and the November 16, 2019 off-cycle Bayelsa and Kogi Governorship elections cannot be explained.
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As with all our elections, the law enforcement agencies appeared fully prepared for the governorship polls. They are mandated to provide security for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, electoral materials and electoral officials. Above all, they are responsible for protecting the citizenry, especially the electorate, and ensure that their votes count.
The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, announced the deployment of 66,241 police personnel for the two states, comprising Kogi – 35,200 and Bayelsa – 31,041. They are perennially marked as flashpoint states for violence during elections.
In addition, a Deputy Inspector General of Police, Abdulmajid Ali, had said the deployment would be complemented by the Police Mobile Force, Special Protection Unit, Counter-Terrorism Unit, Special Tactical Squad, Mounted Troops, the K9 Section, Air Wing and the Marine detachment. All these were also backed up by the Army’s Operation Ayem Akpatuma and deployments from other security agencies.
In spite of these, the level of violence in the elections painted the picture of all-out wars. Armed hoodlums operated as though the country had no security agencies. Among the people who lost their lives was the Woman Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Kogi State, Mrs. Achejuh Abu, who was burnt alive in her home by rampaging hoodlums.
Sadly, the IGP, Adamu later claimed that his men were overpowered by those he called “fake policemen”, but many media reports and election observer groups alleged that bad eggs in the security agencies colluded with politicians to meddle with the conduct of the elections.
We find it highly unacceptable that it took the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari eight days after the brutal killing of Mrs. Abu and some of her family members for the police to swing into action to arrest and parade some individuals as the murder suspects. There is no doubt that the INEC and the security agencies, once again, failed in ensuring free, fair, credible and hitch-free elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
We call on the Federal Government to ensure that the Police authorities account for every kobo of the funds spent in mobilising over 60,000 policemen in this failed electoral mission. Unless the INEC and security agencies are made to account for their incompetent handling of their duties then the future of our elections is in great jeopardy.