Soldiers storm states, FCT ahead of elections
This comes as the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) decision to shift the general elections, earlier scheduled for February 14, 2015, to March 28, turned out to be a good one after all.
It specifically created opportunity for more potential voters — about 11 million of them who otherwise would have been unable to vote — to acquire the all-important Permanent Voter Cards (PVC).
Figures from the electoral umpire, indicate that, prior to February 7, 2015 postponement, the total number of collected PVCs was 45,829,808, representing 66.58 per cent of the total number of registered voters. But the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Kayode Idowu, disclosed that after the six week-postponement about 56,431,255, representing 81.98 per cent of the total number of voters have, by last Saturday, collected the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
Uneasy calm enveloped Kano yesterday, when security operatives were deployed to the metropolis. In what seems a show of strengthen, hundreds of security operatives attracted attention when they stormed the city in 30 brand-new Toyota Hilux vans, driving through major roads of the state.
In Lagos State, the soldiers were deployed at night and disbanded as early as 6 a.m., so they are not detected.
They engage in stop-and-search operations, screening motorists and content of their vehicles.
They are most visible on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway and were seen checking vehicles as at 10 p.m. Monday night.
Heavy security, also, has been mounted at the Lagos State Office of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
In Osun State, soldiers were sighted at the entrance of major roads leading to Osogbo, the state capital.
The soldiers mounted roadblocks at various locations, including Gbongan-Osogbo, Ilesa-Osogbo, Ibokun-Osogbo, Ogbomoso-Osogbo roads, and Iwo-Osogbo roads.
The Guardian, however, observed that the soldiers — said to be on special election duty — were civil in their approach to motorists, who slowed down on getting to the roadblocks.
In Ekiti, soldiers are yet to be deployed, even as security sources said they would arrive the state on Thursday, to assist the police in ensuring peace during the polls.
The state Police Command has also banned all street protests to forestall breakdown of law and order.
Reacting to the development, in a statement, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State told its members to resist illegal arrests, raising the alarm over alleged selective invitation of its leaders by the Ekiti State Police Command for “purposes that are not clear to the party.”
The party also said it had information that authorities in Abuja had sent a contingent of armed men to lock down the state and start arresting APC members from Wednesday, March 25, to unsettle the party ahead of March 28 presidential and National Assembly polls.
Also, soldiers have been deployed to major streets of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. From Mokola through to Gate, Iwo road, Yemetu Oja Oba, Molete, Challenge, Eleyele and UI- Ojoo, the soldiers were seen in large groups at various strategic points.
Residents, however, went about their duties without molestation from the soldiers, while human and vehicular activities went on as usual.
Some residents who spoke with The Guardian on the development said they had no problem with the ‘alleged deployment’ as long as the soldiers didn’t harass innocent persons.
Others, however, kicked against the development, saying it was a ploy by government to cause fear and panic among the electorate; thereby preventing them from coming out during the Saturday polls.
In Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, checks by The Guardian revealed that soldiers were last seen patrolling in armoured personnel carriers at the weekend.
Though the motive for the patrol could not be ascertained from security sources in the city, the troops drove through Aggrey Road in the Borokiri axis, Lagos Bus-stop to Isaac Boro Park and then into the densely populated Diobu area.
A member of one of the political parties said they have been reliably informed that the soldiers would be deployed during this weekend’s elections.
As at yesterday, there were no soldiers patrolling the streets of Port Harcourt. However, scores of policemen and Department of State Security personnel, in 10 Hilux patrol vans, drove through the busy Ikwerre Road into the Diobu area of Port Harcourt.
Similarly, following the directives of the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 6 Command, many anti-riot policemen have been deployed around Port Harcourt to embark on intensive stop-and-search on all vehicles, as well as to raid black spots and criminal hideouts with a view to recovering arms, explosives and other incriminating items.
The presence of armed security operatives at strategic areas in Makurdi, Benue State capital and environs has increased, as observed yesterday.
Armed soldiers and policemen were seen at the Government House Round About, High-level roundabout, the Wurukum round about, Otukpo, Gkoko and Katsina-Ala.
In Kaduna, security operatives manned key locations in the state.
In the suburb, armed soldiers were seen patrolling particularly in Malali, Ungwar Shanu, Badarawa, Barnawa, Kawo and Hanyan Banki,
Some of the armed soldiers in Malali arrested some hoodlums who were caught with cannabis and other drugs. One of the security operatives, who pleaded anonymity said: “We are going to interrogate those arrested thoroughly, and if possible keep them until after the general elections.”
The development is despite the judgment early this week by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, who declared the use of soldiers in an election is undemocratic.
The judge consequently granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Government and the service chiefs from deploying soldiers for the general elections without the approval of the National Assembly.
Delivering judgment in a suit filed by House of Representatives member, Femi Gbajabiamila, he said any election which is militarised through deployment of soldiers where there is no insurrection is “anti-democratic” and not in consonance with constitutional democracy and civil rule.
Gbajabiamila had sought a declaration that deployment of soldiers for elections is unconstitutional.
President Goodluck Jonathan, the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and the Attorney-General of the Federation are the respondents.
The plaintiff said the Federal Government deployed soldiers during the governorship elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states contrary to the Constitution.
Justice Buba upheld arguments by the plaintiff’s counsel, Mr. Seni Adio, that it is wrong to deploy soldiers arbitrarily. The judge dismissed the defendants’ objections to the court’s jurisdiction and to the plaintiff’s locus standi, saying Gbajabiamila had the legal right to demand an interpretation of the constitution by the court.
However, the authorities of the Nigeria Police force has said it has made adequate provision of its personnel for the 150,000 polling units of the country, even as it reiterated the call for Nigerians to vacate the centers after casting their votes. The new directive contradicts previous reports quoting the police as saying that voters could protect their votes.
The Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, also gave an order restricting movement on the days of election to all members of the public, except those on essential duty.
IGP Suleiman Abba, who gave the directive while addressing journalists in Abuja yesterday, said while the Police have made provision for all polling units, there are contingency plans where situations get out of control.
He said: “There are intervention teams arranged to intervene where the need arises. That is our stance and that is our arrangement, any other strategy we will keep it to ourselves,” he said.
The order restricting vehicular movements takes effect from 8.00 a.m. to 5.00pm only on Saturdays, March 28 and April 11, respectively.
The IGP said: “This total restriction of movements order applies to all, except for ambulances, fire service trucks and others on essential duties. Consequently, travellers and citizens who intend to use roads on these days and hours are advised to plan alternative times for their travelling.”