February 23, 2023

Naira protests: Govs under probe over ‘inciting utterances’

Usman Alkali Baba

By Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Olayinka Ajayi & Shina Abubakar, AKURE

Ahead of Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections, President Muhammadu Buhari convened the National Security Council, NSC, meeting yesterday, with the Inspector General of Police IGP, Usman Alkali Baba, revealing that the force is investigating individuals, including state governors, whose utterances were considered to have incited citizens to riot over the naira redesign policy of the Federal Government.

The 2023 maiden meeting of the council also had in attendance the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, service chiefs, and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.

Briefing correspondents, in the company of the Attorney-General of Federation, Abubakar Malami, after the meeting presided over by President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the IGP, however, said that despite the investigation, the police couldn’t prosecute the state chief executives because they enjoy immunity.

Recall that some governors, led by the Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, had openly denigrated the naira swap policy, asking their citizens not to comply with the deadline expiration of the legality of the old N500 and N1,000 notes.

Asked why the governors had not been cautioned, the Police boss stated: “We all know why.   Unless you want to hear from the mouth of the Attorney-General. We are investigating. Whoever does anything can be investigated.

“There are some people, who have immunity. I think that is one of the reasons they can’t be prosecuted now, but that will not stop us from warning them, from advising them and we are doing so. That’s for the incitement by governors.”

On his part, the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the meeting was fully briefed by the Chief of Defence Staff, the three service chiefs, the IGP and heads of other security agencies, about their readiness to provide the necessary security back-up for Saturday’s poll.

He said flowing from this, the Council gave a marching order that the February 25 election should hold as planned.

According to him, the Council’s meeting is a follow-up to earlier meetings of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, and the Council of States held last week to affirm the readiness of the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Police and other security agencies to go ahead with the general elections in the country.

INEC chair briefs Buhari

Earlier in the day, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, had briefed the President on preparations for the elections.

On this, President Buhari said the briefing was at the instance of the INEC chairman, adding that it is all part of the efforts to ensure the elections hold successfully.

The President explained that his inauguration and handover of security equipment valued at over N12 billion to the military and Nigeria Police Force was to ensure a hitch-free election.

Buhari said he had been grounded by the electoral body for the five minutes he kept the CACOVID group waiting, reminding all that everything needed to be done for a successful election to be achieved.

His words: “I’m being grounded by INEC. You know next Saturday is a great day for us and I take instructions from INEC so that I make sure there’ll be no excuses for a successful election.”

The CACOVID team was on a courtesy visit to the President.

As part of preparations for the elections on Saturday, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Lagos, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states, yesterday, distributed sensitive materials directly from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to the local government areas of the states.

In Lagos State, the distribution was monitored by the Commissioner of Police, Idowu Owohunwa; party officials, foreign observers and newsmen.

Fielding questions from newsmen, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Mr Olusegun Agbaje said: “We have commenced movement of the sensitive materials to all the various local government areas in the state directly from the CBN under heavy security presence.”

Asked if there won’t be voter apathy due to the lingering cash scarcity, he said: “I do not see the possibilities of scarcity of cash affecting elections. It is not really the problem of INEC. Voters should be able to make a sacrifice by coming out to vote.”

Also in Ondo State, amid tight security, INEC said it has commenced distribution of sensitive materials.

In a chat with newsmen, the acting REC in Ondo State, Oyekola Oyelami, said: “So far, the process has been smooth. We have enough fuel, and we have enough vehicles to take the materials to all the local governments.

“Our electoral officers are on the ground to take delivery of the sensitive materials.”

Similarly, the REC in Osun State, Dr Mutiu Agboke led other INEC staff to conduct an inspection of the exercise before distribution.

Agboke said: “Our sensitive materials, particularly, ballot papers, and result sheets are usually in the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria. We are ready for the election.”

In Ekiti State, the REC, Professor Ayobami Salami, said the naira crunch and petrol scarcity will not affect the activities of the commission.

He said: “I want to assure you that the cash crunch will not affect the mobilization and all the activities of INEC because as of now we have received the necessary cash that we need to conduct this election and in terms of logistics for fuel, we also have adequate fuel for all our activities. We are good to go.”

Osun declares Friday a public holiday

Meanwhile, the Osun State Government, yesterday, declared Friday, February 24 as a public holiday ahead of the Saturday poll.

In a statement, the Secretary to the State Government, Teslim Igbalaye disclosed that the holiday will afford indigenes and residents travel to their various localities to participate in the polls.

The statement reads: “This is time for all citizens to exercise their voting rights. His Excellency again appeals to all residents to be law-abiding as they peacefully exercise their voting rights on Saturday and subsequent elections.”