The 2019 general elections kick off today with the Presidential and National Assembly polls in all parts of the country. Expectedly, the police would be playing a critical role in engendering a peaceful conduct of the elections. In this encounter with our correspondent, FAITH YAHAYA, the spokesperson of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), ACP Frank Mba, says arrangements have been put in place to ensure a hitch-free election, stating that officers have been admonished to be professional in the discharge of their responsibilities during and after the elections. Excerpts:
How prepared are you for these elections? We are adequately prepared for these elections. We have done everything that we ought to do. In the run off to the elections, we conducted massive training and re-training for our personnel on the best practices for managing the security of electoral processes. We conducted trainings on human rights and every other kind of training that is relevant in the conduct of elections of this magnitude. We also carried out security threat analyses across the length and breadth of this country, and on the strength of those analyses, we were able to device and fashion out deployment strategies. Our Standard Operational Procedures (SOP) also took cognizance of the result of those analyses. We have been able to identify, isolate and neutralise, significantly, a lot of the threats that were discovered in the cause of the analyses and we have also been able to create customised deployment plans for each state of the federation.
This tailored-to-suit deployment strategies are designed to take care of both general and specific threats that were identified in different parts of the country. I would say, in a nutshell, that we are good to go. We have also taken care of the welfare of our personnel and their allowances were adequately captured in the budgeting for the elections and what IGP Muhammed Adamu has directed, is that, the allowances of the men must be paid directly into their salary accounts to avoid issues or questions of them not getting their allowances or getting the allowances through the third party.
On the issue of our strength, we will not have any issue covering all the polling booths, polling points, collation centres and others, primarily because we are working with our brothers and sisters from other security agencies. We will be joined by operatives from the DSS, Customs, Immigration, Civil Defence, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Prison Services. The beauty of this joint operation is that, it will deepen a sense of inter-agency friendship and inter-agency collaboration across all borders. Another advantage that comes with it is that, it will help to fill in the deficiencies that would have been recorded in terms of shortfall in the strength and number of the NPF. Thirdly, our colleagues coming from other agencies will be coming with some sense of comparative advantage in some areas. So, all of us will be coming in with different skills, competences and it is our belief that by the time we are able to merge all these skills and competencies together, we will be able to provide Nigerians a more robust security service.
Beyond that, they will also be coming with their own logistics, which will strengthen our own logistics. So, generally, Nigerians don’t have any reason to fear as there would be enough manpower to cover the entire area. You mentioned enough manpower, how many personnel would be deployed? I have deliberately refused to give out figures because, sometimes, figures can be misleading. If I tell you for example, that, we are deploying 2,000 men in FCT, you may come around and not see 2,000 personnel because asubstantial number of those deployed will be covert deployment; and because we are deploying overtly and covertly, I will not want to give figures. But the only thing I will tell you is that, we will deploy maximally, both our human and material resources. What is your message to those who may want to foment trouble? My message to all potential troublemakers is to keep clear. The security forces are adequately prepared to deal with any person or group of persons that may try to test the collective will of Nigerians. We have had elections in this country in the past that were all successful and 2019 will not be different. We will draw on our experiences in the past elections. We will draw on our experiences in policing so many conflict and post-conflict regions of the world, where we participated in peacekeeping operations.
Nigerians must remember that we have a lot of experience policing electoral systems in conflict and post-conflict areas. We were in Namibia, Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Darfur, Ivory Coast, Bosnia Herzegovina, and in all these countries, officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force played critical roles in engendering their democracy. We will do even better in policing our own electoral system. Despite your word of assurance, some people are scared and they are of the opinion that it is better to remain in their houses to avoid violence. What is your message to them? I want to leave them with these words: ‘election is not war.’ It is an opportunity for us as a people and citizens to exercise our civic responsibility. It is a strong tool in our hands to determine our future and we must not fail to utilise the opportunity that this cycle of general election gives us to be part of the decision making process in determining our future. I want to reassure Nigerians that the Nigeria Police Force working with other security agencies are adequately prepared, adequately mobilised and adequately motivated to do the right thing. What message do you have for the policemen that would be on election duty? Go out there, be the wonderful cops that you have always been.
Respect the rights of Nigerians. Protect the fundamental rights of Nigerians to equality, freedom and liberty. Enforce the electoral laws to the letter and refuse to compromise on your oath of office. What is your message to politicians and other stakeholders in this election? Politicians, particularly; we want to see them to be more patriotic. We want to see them change their narratives and send messages of hope to Nigerians. We want to see them desist from making hate speeches and inflammatory statements. We want to see them put the collective interest of Nigeria and Nigerians above whatever is their personal interest. We want to see them rein their supporters to be law-abiding. We want to see them discourage all forms of electoral offences, vote buying, vote selling, thuggish behaviour, ballot box snatching and all forms of malfeasance capable of impacting on our electoral systems negatively.
For the ordinary people on the street, we want to reassure them that we are committed to providing them with adequate security. The good thing here is that our duties in these elections have been clearly cut out for us by law. Fundamentally, it is our responsibility to provide adequate security for INEC officials, both adhoc and their permanent staff, and in this regard, we will be paying special attention to their adhoc staff particularly the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members, who we consider very vulnerable. It is also our responsibility to provide adequate security for INEC materials, both sensitive and non-sensitive. It is our responsibility to provide adequate security for candidates standing in for this election irrespective of their political parties.
It is also our responsibility to provide security for election observers, monitors, and journalists covering this election; and it is our responsibility to provide security for the electorate, so that they will be able to leave their homes, go to thepolling centres, cast their votes and return home safely, and while doing all these, it is also our responsibility to continue to protect critical national infrastructure and provide general policing services to the people. We will not leave anywhere vacant. We will continue to police Nigeria irrespective of the fact that we are giving priority to the election processes and it is on this point that we should be judged. You said you will protect candidates vying for various offices during the election, doesn’t that contradict the order from the IGP that no VIP should be escorted to the polling units? The fact that we are safeguarding the candidates does not mean that they will go around with policemen. No way! No policeman will be allowed to escort any one to the polling station, we will enforce that, and our personnel are aware of that, and I am sure they will keep to those rules and directives.RESPONSIVE IN-ARTICLE