Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, on Friday alleged that failed politicians and separatist groups like the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Yoruba Nation agitators are working to disrupt the 2023 elections.
This was contained in the IG’s presentation during the sitting of the House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee investigating attacks on the facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
At the same forum, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, declared that the commission would recover from attacks on its facilities and conduct the 2023 elections.
The IG, who was represented by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Operations, Dandaura Mustapha, said the attacks on the offices of the electoral body increased after the ban on political campaigns was lifted.
Mustapha said: “The Nigeria police, being the lead agency in internal security and elections generally, is always at the receiving end. Whatever happens, the police must protect people and property here and there.
“When INEC finally lifted the ban on campaigns, the campaigns commenced, and what we realised initially was inter and intra-party disputes.
“We realised that members of political parties were destroying billboards, posters, campaign offices in some parts of the states. We quickly alerted the commissioners of police in charge of the commands and gave them clear directives that it is the right of every political party to go to all the nooks and crannies of society and campaign.
“It is a constitutional right, so on no account should a state governor or any state actor prevent political parties from moving about to do their campaigns.
“We now come to the immediate attack on INEC facilities. Of recent are the ones that took place in Osun, Ogun, Ebonyi, Imo, and Enugu.
“It is a well-known fact that in the South-east geo-political zone, we have issues of secessionists, the IPOB and ESN. What we have discovered is that these groups are bent on stopping elections from taking place in the South-east.
“They have been attacking our personnel; they have been killing our personnel. They have been retrieving arms from members of the security agencies, not only the police — the military and other paramilitary organisations that are there.
“They have been doing it, especially now that the ban on campaigns has been lifted. The election is approaching very fast and they are putting much pressure to see that this election does not hold in the South-east political zone.
“In the South-west, we have the pro-Yoruba secessionists that are equally bent on seceding and not allowing election to take place in their areas, hence the attack on INEC in Osun and Ogun states of recent.
“There are other ones that are sponsored by politicians and other stakeholders. There is also an issue of failed and desperate politicians who are bent on stopping INEC from conducting this election.
“The failed politicians are those who could not come back (win election) through any political party, and as far as they are concerned, ‘let everything spoil; let everything scatter’.
“They are using that opportunity to sponsor illiterate followers of the party and hoodlums to make sure that this general election does not hold and should not be successful.
“On the part of the desperate politicians, they feel that since they cannot stop INEC from taking all these measures (to stop election rigging), let them sponsor hoodlums to make sure that this election should not be a successful exercise.”
Dandaura said the force had been taking measures to prevent the attacks on INEC offices.
He said the IGP met with political party leaders and INEC representatives in November, during which it was emphasised that politicians should caution their supporters to desist from the hooliganism and disrupting the campaigns of their opponents.
He explained that on Tuesday, the IGP also met with the operational officers of security agencies in Abuja and discussed measures to be taken, to safeguard the facilities of INEC.
He added that the police will double the number of officers currently protecting INEC facilities nationwide.
INEC Vows to Recover and Conduct Polls
Meanwhile, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Yakubu, has stated that the commission would recover from attacks on its facilities and conduct the 2023 elections.
Yakubu, who made the remark Saturday while making a submission before the same House Ad-hoc committee investigating the attacks on the Commission’s facilities, however cautioned that the attacks must stop.
He said the commission had witnessed 50 attacks in 15 states since 2019, with Imo State topping the list with 11 attacks followed by Osun with seven, five cases in Enugu and Akwa Ibom, while Abia and Cross Rivers also had four attacks each.
He further informed that two attacks were recorded in Anambra and Taraba states and one each in Bayelsa, Ondo, Lagos, Borno, Kaduna and Ogun states.
Yakubu told the committee that while the commission is working to replace damaged or lost items as a result of the attacks, it cannot be doing that forever.
He said while INEC is taking measures, including relocation of some of the offices from vulnerable areas, it is working on use of technology and collaborating with security agencies to do everything to stop the attacks on its facilities.
He expressed optimism that despite the seeming threat to the 2023 elections and the spate of attacks by criminals on its facilities, “such attacks will not stop the conduct of the elections.”
In his opening remark, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, represented by Leke Abejide, said the investigation was precipitated by a motion brought before the House on the need to condemn the attacks on INEC offices.
He said, “The House had noted the frequent systemic attacks on personnel, offices and facilities of INEC, which are presumably, targeted at crippling the commission and scuttling the 2023 general elections.”
In her welcome address, chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Taiwo Oluga, said: “It is on record that since 2019, over 40 INEC offices and facilities had been attacked and set ablaze. These attacks have resulted in the destruction of INEC properties, elections materials and most importantly, thousands of Permanent Voter Cards.
“These systematically orchestrated attacks have the potential to not only undermine the capacity of INEC to organise elections, but could also have a negative impact on the outcome of the 2023 elections.”
Bennett Oghifo in Lagos, Udora Orizu in Abuja