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Buhari: Police Must Remain Apolitical, Ensure Peaceful 2023 Polls

He said the reforms undertaken under his watch were paying off with members of the force demonstrating high professional, ethical and operational standards.

President Muhammadu Buhari has charged officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to chart a viable operational plans that would guarantee a credible outcome of the 2023 general election in the country.

Buhari, who seized the occasion to recommit to free and fair elections next year, also emphasised the need for the rank and file of the Police Force to remain apolitical, firm, and loyal to the nation’s democratic values, because it was then that Nigerians could elect their choice leaders.

Speaking while declaring open a three-day Conference and Retreat for Senior Police Officers in Owerri, the Imo State capital, on Monday, the president directed the Police to review the current and evolving internal security threats, which might impact on peaceful and successful elections.

He said, ”As I have often observed, elections are local, and it is only when the votes truly count that the faith of the citizens in the democratic process can be demonstrated and government legitimacy assured. This can best be guaranteed through a well-policed election and security operations that are impartial, firm and professional.

”This is what, on this day and occasion, I charge the Nigeria Police Force to deliver to the nation during the 2023 general elections. I, therefore, task the Inspector General of Police to sustain his leadership standards that will guarantee a level playing field, and secure public space for the citizens to freely exercise their franchise, and for the outcome of the elections to be a true reflection of the peoples’ choices,” he said.

Assuring the police force of his administration’s total support and encouragement in the build-up to the 2023 polls, the president expressed delight that the reforms undertaken under his watch were paying off with members of the force demonstrating high professional, ethical and operational standards, reflected in performances in internal security operations.

Citing the conduct of the Police during the recent off-season electoral outings in some states, President Buhari said, ”My desire is to restore the primacy of the Police towards rebuilding public trust and professionalism.

”My vision is also to bequeath to the nation a Police Force that is not only modernised, but well-funded, suitably equipped, and appropriately re-oriented to effectively police our democracy and guarantee a stable internal security order under a citizen-led, technology-driven, rule of law guided by intelligence-based policing Models.

”I am inspired that by our reform initiatives, we have laid a solid foundation towards the restoration of the operational competence and professional efficiency of the police.

”I am also pleased to note that our Police, in conformity to my democratic visions, and in manifestation of the positive impact of these reforms, have in recent times been demonstrating high professional, ethical and operational standards as reflected in their performances in internal security operations and during the recent off-season electoral outings in Edo, Anambra, Ekiti, and Osun States.”

The president, therefore, commended the force leadership and all officers, emphasising the need to replicate the same feat in the forthcoming elections. He also noted that it was only by so doing that ”the Police can truly be defined as not just the true friends of the citizens, but as dependable and trustworthy partners in the drive to advance our democratic journey.”

President Buhari also reiterated his commitment to entrench a process of free, fair, transparent and credible elections through which Nigerians elect leaders of their choice.

He declared that his administration has prioritised critical reforms in the Nigeria Police Force in order to reposition it to effectively fulfil its internal security and democratic governance mandates in conjunction with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other strategic agencies in the electoral process.

Listing some achievements recorded towards entrenching an effective policing system and credible electoral process, the president recalled that he had assented to the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Bill to provide legal framework for an enhanced funding regime for the Force.

Similarly, he said the Nigeria Police Academy Bill, had been signed into law, granting statutory recognition to the institution and positioning it effectively to attain its young and futuristic manpower development programmes.

Buhari also listed the approval of a new and befitting salary and welfare regime that aligned the remuneration of police personnel to the dictates of their critical functions, adding that funds had been released to support the recruitment of 10,000 police constables annually, to address the wide manpower gap in the force.

According to him, “In addition, I approved the adoption of the Community Policing Model as the internal security strategy of the country with requisite funds released to implement the initiative.

”Special Intervention Funds to address critical operational and capacity development initiatives of the force were also approved. As part of the re-engineering project of the Force, the federal government is currently working with some development partners towards strengthening the police reform agenda.”

President Buhari, however, commended Governor Hope Uzodinma for the exemplary support to the federal government on security governance, further exemplified by hosting the police event themed: ”The Imperative of a Nigeria Police Strategic Plan For Peaceful Elections.”

Earlier in his speech, Uzodinma called on the Police to ensure that the strategic plan for the 2023 general elections should make it mandatory for all candidates to undertake an oath denouncing electoral violence, noting that candidates should also be made to sign an undertaking that all disputes over election results can only be challenged peacefully through the court processes ”and parties to the dispute must be bound by the outcome of that process.”

The governor, who extolled President Buhari for his commitment to peace and stability in the country as well as credible elections, noted that Imo State, has emerged as the preferred destination for high-level security events, having hosted the 2022 Nigerian Army Day Celebration and now the Senior Police Officers Summit.

”Imo State is safe again for business and tourism, all thanks to President Buhari,” he said.

Inspector-General of Police, Alkali Baba, assured the President and Nigerians that the Force would draw on the outcome of the conference to perfect its Election Security Strategy and Action Plans towards stabilising the security and political landscape in the county.

He promised that the strategy would strengthen citizens’ confidence in the electoral process and produce a credible electoral outcome in the 2023 general elections.

His words: ”In aid of this process, I can assure Your Excellency that the Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) has undertaken a comprehensive 2023 General Elections Threat Analysis, which highlights and geolocates possible threats across all 774 Local Government Areas of the Federation.

”This Report will be utilised to guide our appreciation of the security space as we finetune our Election Security Action Plan. Encouraged by Your Excellency’s motivation and support, however, I can assure that under my watch, the Nigeria Police will not disappoint Your Excellency neither will we fail the nation.

”We are fully committed to giving practical effect to the vision of Your Excellency in bequeathing to the nation a democratic legacy in which our electoral process truly reflects the wishes of the citizens.”

Lauding the president for leading the reforms in the Nigeria Police Force, the IGP said, “Indeed, history will, undoubtedly, remember Your Excellency as the President with the most impactful agenda for the reform, re-equipment, re-orientation, and modernisation of the Nigeria Police Force.”

He said the Police had taken delivery of thousands of operational assets procured with Presidential intervention.

Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos, Deji Elumoye in Abuja and Amby Uneze in Owerri

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