Nigeria’s National Security Council (NSC) rose from its maiden meeting in 2023 on Wednesday with an assurance that the Presidential and National Assembly elections billed for Saturday, February 25, 2023 will hold as scheduled.
The Council’s verdict has finally put paid to fears and insinuations in some quarters that the federal government may consider a shift in dates scheduled for the elections.
Briefing newsmen on the outcome of the meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chambers of the State House, Abuja,
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, said the NSC members expressed satisfaction with the security situation across the country and agreed that the elections are good to go.
According to Malami, 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 was 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) and the Police and security agencies to go ahead with the general elections in the country.
His words: “Now out of desire to further consolidate and appraise the comprehensive and general preparation of the system, relating to the conduct of the election, this meeting, which is third in series of appraising and reviewing the state of preparedness is called upon by the President, which is the National Security Council meeting.
“At the National Security Council meeting, briefings were made by security agencies generally and service chiefs. National Security Adviser made submission; Chief of Defense Staff made one; Chief of Army Staff made submission; Chief of Naval Staff made submission, Chief of Air Staff did; Inspector-General of Police, who incidentally is equally addressing you, made submission; Director-General, State Security Service did; and indeed DG NIA and CDI all made submissions.
“The summary and conclusion of all submissions was to the effect that the system is wholeheartedly ready for the conduct of the election and arising there from, the position of the government, the position of the President is to the effect that the election is holding of the 25th day of February, 2023 and Mr. President and the National Security Council are happy with the preparations on the ground and wholehearted arrangements are put in place in that direction.
“So we have been mandated, arising from the conclusions of the Security Council meetings to now brief you accordingly, but the summary of it, the conclusion of it, the resolution of the Council, is to the effect that the elections are holding and there is no going back about it”.
On his part, IG Usman Baba, reeled out the instructions given to security agencies to make the elections credible, peaceful and acceptable, including ensuring that Nigerians have an atmosphere where they can go out to cast their votes without intimidation, as well as provide adequate security to INEC, its staff and materials, among others.
Said he: “As for specific instructions, yes we have specific instructions. The specific instruction is that we must ensure that Nigerians are allowed to come out and exercise their franchise or vote the leaders of their choice and for that we must create a conducive environment or atmosphere for Nigerians to exercise their right.
“We must also provide protection for INEC materials and officials to do their work. We must ensure that before, during and after the election, whatever fallback it is, we do not have people who will take the laws their hands and if there is any, we should be able to check within the quickest possible means to ensure that it does not snowball into a bigger crisis”, Baba disclosed.
Responding to a question about allegation against governors inciting violence over the cash scarcity crisis, Baba said “we are investigating. Whoever does anything can be investigated, but for him to be prosecuted, there are people who have immunity, I think that is some of the reasons, but that will not stop us from cautioning them, from warning them and from advising them and we are doing so. That’s for incitement by governors”.
Commenting on the presence of military men on the streets of Lagos and Abeokuta in Ogun State, following recent unrest in both places, the IG said “these are joint operations, aimed at stabilizing the internal security order before the election, these are not operations that are targeted at the election.
“But it is targeted at stabilizing the situation, especially the one that came up as a result of the currency swap or whatever we can call it, where people go on vandalizing, destroying and even committing arson and so on and so forth”, he further stressed.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja