Published 18th Sept 2020
As Edo people prepare to go to the polls, the police have deployed anti-bomb experts to sweep voting and collation centres for possible explosive devices that could mar the exercise.
The experts, according to the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) in charge of security for the election, Adeleye Oyebade, were all over the state working to prevent anything untoward from happening.
The DIG gave this assurance during an interview with The Nation at the Command Headquarters in Benin City where he reiterated their readiness to protect lives and properties of all election stakeholders.
According to Oyebade, the police started preparing for the election some months ago and were able to identify black spots based on risk assessment conducted.
He said there would be simultaneous ground, water and air operations in order to share active intelligence in real time for suspicious elements to be apprehended.
Asked how the police intend to secure the waterways from thugs and militants who might be smuggled in by politicians, Oyebade said the Marine Police and Nigerian Navy (NN) personnel were already collaborating on that.
He said: “The possibility of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) or other explosives were part of our risk assessment and we have taken steps to ensure no such thing happens. We have technical platforms that we do not discuss how they operate.
“Our bomb disposal experts are all over the state. They have done and are doing what is required of them to ensure we have one of the best outings.
“For an election like this, we know that people might want to come in from neighbouring states to forment trouble or do things that might mar the exercise. So, we have our different levels of condoning to address that.
“All adjoining states will be properly policed both exit and entry points. We are also looking at our security on the waterway. The marine police and naval personnel are collaborating in that direction. We will also from the air space do a lot of surveillance to identify possible clandestine gatherings that might be inimical to the success of the election.
“We have been going round telling the people the importance of their coming out and the fact that police will always protect lives and properties before, during and after the elections.”
Asked the number of arrests made and small arms mopped up, Oyebade said the police do not want to make news of such issues but would rather prosecute apprehended persons diligently in court.
“On those that have been arrested even before now, we wouldn’t want to start making news about it. But the arrests have doused the tension some more. Some arrests were made two weeks ago and we are using the legal instrument, evidential requirements to ensure proper prosecution.
“We have strategies in place to prevent vote buying. We are trying to be proactive by telling them that whosoever is caught engaging in vote buying or selling will face the law. The law is explicit and unambiguous about this and we will make sure to use it to address those caught.
“We are collaborating with relevant sister agencies in the area of vote buying and they will be planted covertly at polling units. So, if you are soliciting for votes, you might not know the next person standing by you is a plain clothed agent and you will be arrested,” said Oyebade.
Warning actors to play by the rules, the DIG said the police would not shy away from their responsibility of diligently prosecuting anyone found to have breached any provision of the Electoral Act.
“We are stressing all the guidelines given out because we are going to enforce them. The basic thing is that people are getting to know that our coming is not to intimidate but to dominate and change the psyche of the electorates to the fact that with police presence, they can come out and cast their votes.
“Also, the COVID-19 guidelines will be respected in this election. By and large, the tension has calmed down with the intervention of the Oba of Benin.
“The peace accord that was signed emphasised accountability and responsibility. If the gladiators at that level have signed and they know the implication of signing, they have to abide by the letters and spirit of that document.
“The content speaks about them being mature, respecting the rule of law and ensuring their supporters do not take the law into their hands. So, if at that level we have been able to tell them they will be held accountable and they endorsed their signature; there is a lot of responsibility on their soldiers and that will cascade down to the least person.
“We expect that all of these will bring out decency and discipline into the whole exercise,” he said.
On the welfare of the over 30,000 policemen deployed for the election, Oyebade said the IG, Mohammed Adamu provided all necessary welfare arrangements for them, adding that they were expected to give their best and be professional.
“The morale is high. The IGP made available all necessary welfare benefits and so, we expect that officers and men deployed for this assignment will be professional.
“We will be humane, courteous, respect the rule of law and human rights of electorates. We will protect electoral materials, INEC officials, observers and the press. In doing all of these, we are going to be firm.
“So, when decisions are going to be taken, we will fall back to the provisions of the Electoral Act. We will use the Act against anyone who breaches any provision. What we expect is for everyone to come and do the right thing.
“The message is clear: electorates should come out and cast their votes. If there are any challenges, they should reach us on 08154352118 on calls and if they see and record certain things, they should use their WhatsApp facility to forward to us on 08154350436. They can still use this number for SMS.
“We want them to see this as a partnership and understand that the community policing we have been talking about is already in practice. We should take this election as part of opportunity to contribute.
“There ought to be sacrifice and that is why we are appealing to people to respect the restriction between 11:59pm tonight and 6pm on Saturday. Collectively, we can have a credible, free, fair, inclusive election and acceptable result at the end of the day,” said Oyebade.