By Idowu Isamotu (Abuja) & Abubakar Akote (Minna)
Ahead of the kick-off of the 2023 electioneering campaign, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, has put top police commanders on the alert.
The IGP, in Abuja yesterday, held a strategic meeting with Deputy Inspectors-General of Police (DIGs) and Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIGs) as well as Commissioners of Police from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
He said the meeting was to review the evolving political programmes as laid out by the Independent National Electoral Commission and chart clear pathways to ensure a smooth electoral process in the countdown to the 2023 general elections.
According to him, the national political space will soon become active and the possibility of increase in politically related offences may become heightened across the country.
He also urged the media to place national security interests above other sentiments and avoid projecting news items that could engender tension and violence within the political space as the political campaigns commences.
Baba said the 2023 general election and the processes leading to it would certainly put the police to test.
He charged the DIGs, AIGs and the CPs to upscale their deployments to dominate the public space to ensure that criminal elements do not take advantage of the active political space to manifest their criminal intents.”
“Drawing on our widely commended performances in recent elections, however, I am very confident, and I trust that you shall not fail both the Police institution and the country in the upcoming electoral engagements,” he said.
He asked the commanders to maintain an oath of neutrality in accordance with the Electoral Act, be always at alert during electoral security deployments and exhibit a high degree of professionalism and fairness in their dealings with all parties.
“As you are aware, in compliance with Sec. 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, INEC has confirmed that electioneering campaigns by all political parties would officially commence on 28th September, 2022.
“As the lead security agency in the election security process, the political campaigns security governance is, primarily, the statutory obligation of the Nigeria Police Force.
“In this regard, I must remind you that the provision of the requisite professional leadership to achieve our election security mandate rests squarely on the shoulders of all of you that are here seated.
“In the performance of this strategic responsibility, the Electoral Act 2022 and the Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Personnel on Electoral Duty which was issued in 2020 by the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) must remain our guide.”
He added: “These two election security instruments grouped the mandate of the Police into four key fields as follows: ensuring the safety and security of all persons and properties that will be involved in the entire electoral process without bias; strict enforcement of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Criminal/Penal Code as well as the Electoral Laws without fear or favour; security, traffic and crowd management at venues of political parties’ campaigns, rallies and other activities relating to the elections.
“The security of the public space towards guaranteeing a crime-free and enabling environment for the political campaigns and other components of the electoral process to thrive.”
“We are also expected to adopt a professional orientation that emphasises democratic values, and respect for human rights and dignity, while being mindful of the duty imposed on us by the law to protect all electorates against illegal acts and dispense our duties without discrimination.
“As critical actors in the electoral process, the outcome of the credibility of the 2023 general election will be measured by the extent to which we abide by these professional and legal standards as well as the nature of our decisions and actions as we interface with political parties in emplacing appropriate machineries to guarantee a peaceful electioneering campaign process.
“We must leave no citizen in doubt of our commitment to national peace and security, as well as our unwavering determination to advance the democratic and national security interests of our beloved nation.
“In aid of this process and as the ban on public campaigns by political parties is lifted by INEC, you must note the following: Familiarize yourself fully with the Electoral Act and the Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Personnel on Electoral Duty and situate all your decisions and actions within them as well as your legal obligations under the Constitution, Nigeria Police Act, and other extant laws. Note and be strictly guided by the fact that all quasi-security outfits that were established by the various State governments and local communities and which are operating under different nomenclatures, structures, and orientations have no legal roles under the Electoral Act 2020 and within the electoral process.
“Hence, you are charged to ensure that they are not in any way or manner utilised by any political or community actor for any role during the electioneering campaign and other electoral processes in the countdown to the 2023 general elections. Such will amount to acts in illegality, and a potent threat to national security which could be inimical to our nation’s democratic interest.”
The IGP also asked the top cops to liaise with the Resident Electoral Commissioners and the leaderships of all the political parties in their commands towards mutually coming up with a campaign timetable that would address possible conflicts both in date, time, and venues.
He added, “The political campaign timetable for each dtate should be forwarded to the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Department of Operations, who will collate and forward the comprehensive layout to my office not later than 27th September 2022, submit an Election Security Action Plan that will detail your deployment plans for the security of all the venues of the political campaigns as they affect your commands.
“This should also be submitted to my office through the DIG (Operations) not later than 27th September, 2022.”
The IGP also asked the commanders to convey the decision banning all quasi-security outfits in the various states and local communities from electioneering campaigns and other politically related activities to state governors, local government chairmen, community leaders, and leaderships of all political parties in their commands for their guidance.
He said it should be clearly emphasised to them that any unauthorised quasi-security agent found to be engaging in any election or political activities stands the risk of being arrested and prosecuted along with their collaborators.
Baba also asked the commanders to redirect their intelligence activities to monitor possible elements that might be attempting to threaten the electioneering campaign process, promptly isolate them and frustrate their illegal and undemocratic intentions.
Avoid hate speeches, parties warned
The IGP warned political parties to avoid actions or speeches that could inflame the political order, saying they should also cooperate with the police to guarantee a peaceful electioneering process.
I advised all political actors to subsume their campaigns within extant legal frameworks, avoid actions or speeches that could inflame the political order and above all, cooperate with the police in our drive to guarantee a peaceful electioneering process.
“I also wish to sternly warn elements whose perception of democracy is the application of violence to have a rethink as the Nigeria Police under my watch is committed to dealing firmly with such characters within the dictates of the law and in furtherance to Mr. President’s desire to bequeath a legacy of entrenched democratic values to our beloved nation.”
He assured all citizens and the international community of the optimal preparedness of the Nigeria Police Force to support the INEC in ensuring a peaceful electoral process that would manifest “in a credible outcome of the 2023 general elections.”
He noted that the police cannot achieve this all alone, saying the understanding and support of all citizens, strategic political actors and the international community remain vital.
National Peace Committee fixes Sept 29 for signing of peace accord
The National Peace Committee, chaired by for former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar, has fixed September 29 for the signing of the peace accord at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
Abdulsalami yesterday addressed reporters at his residence in Minna, Niger State, after a meeting attended by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar; Reverend Father Hassan Mathew Kukah; INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu; Alhaji Aliko Dangote; INEC National Commissioner, Mohammed Haruna; the Etsu Nupe; among other members of the committee.
The committee, in a communique issued at the end of the meeting, jointly signed by Abdulsalami, Reverend Mathew Hassan Kukah and the Head of Secretariat, Atta Barkindo, said the pattern of public communication among political actors, their publicity agents, spokespersons and media consultants had amplified the potential for personal attacks, insults and incitement, relegating to the background, the civility and decency in public discourse and debate.
The committee also decried that the focus had been shifted from issue-based campaigns to consolidating identity politics and the politics of thuggery.
Abdulsalami said the first peace accord scheduled for September 29 was to commit all political parties, presidential candidates and their spokespersons to peaceful political campaigns and rallies.
He said the second peace accord, which would come up shortly before the elections, was intended to commit candidates to accepting the outcome of the polls as long as it is adjudged to be free, fair and credible.
He asked the electorate to come out to participate in the electoral processes and desist from vote-selling during elections.
The committee said sone of the major challenges facing Nigeria’s Democracy since 1999 was the inability of politicians and political parties to manage diversity and ensure equal distribution of country’s resources, which it said has been responsible for various conflicts and political violence the Country was witnessing.
It said the Boko Haram insurgency that defined the 2015 election was yet to be quelled and bandits is now operating across regions, secessionist agitation spiralling in the South -East and farmers-herder clashes ongoing across the country, while raising concern that the 2023 elections would take place amidst nationwide insecurity.
It, therefore, emphasized on the need to promote a culture of healthy issue based campaigns and political communication, expressing worry over the precarious economic situation that has made vote selling and buying easy.
The INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu called for support of the media towards achieving peaceful conduct of elections in 2023.
He said the commission would continue to work with the National Peace Committee and other relevant organisations to ensure that electorates exercise their franchise while political parties and candidates conduct themselves in a manner that would bring about peaceful elections.