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As Nigerians decide, police allay fear of raid in Lagos

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The social media space, particularly Whatsapp was abuzz on Wednesday evening with a broadcast message: “They just informed us from the state command that there is going to be general raiding tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday night from 8:00p.m. throughout Lagos State. So, don’t stay late at night outside. Please tell your love ones.”This immediately set the state into panic mode of a possible security lockdown in Lagos ahead of Saturday’s first round of general elections.

Possible lockdown spots and black-spot locations, which residents were advised to avoid included viewing/gaming centre, political gathering whether in small or large groups, as campaign period was expected to end on Thursday, and isolated drinking bars or joints. Lagosians were also advised not to wear or carry any party memorabilia on them or in their vehicles.

But in a swift reaction, the Lagos State police command yesterday dispelled the viral broadcast, describing it as a rumour. Lagos State police spokesman, CSP Chike Oti, denied the news making the rounds that the police was planning a general raid.He said: “The attention of the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, CP Zubairu Muazu, has been drawn to the news making the rounds on the social media to the effect that the command will carry out a general raid, on Thursday, February 14 and Friday, February 15, 2019. The writer went further to warn people not to keep late nights on the aforementioned days due to the so-called  ‘raid’.

“In view of the development, the command wishes to unequivocally state that the information did not emanate from it and should be regarded as untrue. The CP assures Lagosians of adequate security before, during and after the elections. “He enjoins all residents to come out en masse without fear of intimidation and exercise their franchise as the command in collaboration with sister agencies has deployed 30,000 personnel for the general elections commencing on Saturday. Lagosians are therefore advised to discountenance the information and go about their lawful businesses.” 

As political parties wind down their campaigns, the fears are heightened of a possible breakdown of law and order in some parts of the state. It would be recalled that crisis erupted early in the year when the All Progressives Congress (APC) kick-started its governorship campaign in Ikeja, leading to the death of a party supporter and injuries to three journalist, including a popular National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) top official, Musiliu Akinsanya, a.k.a. MC Oluomo.

With just two days to the presidential and national assembly elections, MC Oluomo in an attempt to send shivers down the spines of members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state mocked the party by damaging a PDP-branded umbrella with a knife at an APC rally yesterday. MC Oluomo made the ridicule on stage barely two weeks after he returned from the United States of America where he went for further treatment after sustaining a stab wound inflicted on him by a member of NURTW’s rival faction at the APC rally in January.

Apart from political gatherings, another hot spot, Lagosians have been advised against is inciting political commentaries at suburbs predominantly populated by northerners. Chairman of Ifesowopo Community Development Association (CDA) in Agege, Alhaji Bashiru Ojoolape, said they have sound out a new alert after security concerns were raised about “the influx of young Hausa boys riding commercial motorcycles (okadas).

“These boys do not know jack about road rules or the routes. You will have to direct them on where you are going to and they are increasing in their numbers. We have advised our members to be cautious when dealing with them and avoid engaging them in any form of arguments,” he said.

Meanwhile the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has outlined some guidelines all electorates must abide with for a crisis-free election. On the list of what the voting public should do are: Wear comfortable clothing, you might be standing in line for a long time; Carry along some water/snacks; Bring along a hand fan; Encourage your friends and neighbours to go as a group so you have people to socialise with; Be courteous to NYSC members, INEC staff and polling unit observers.

The Don’t’s include: Campaign for votes, or persuade a voter not to vote for a candidate at the polling unit; Shout slogans concerning the election, or in support of any party; Be in possession of an offensive weapon or wear any apparel calculated to intimidate voters; Use a vehicle bearing the color or symbol of a political party or candidate; or attempt to tamper with election day material.

Other election day offenses to be aware of are: Unlawful giving of a voter’s card to some other person for use at an election other than, an officer appointed to do so; Being in possession of more than one voters cards; Announcing or publishing a false election result; Receiving any money or gift, for voting or to refrain from voting at any election; Using any vehicle bearing the colour or symbol of a political, loitering around a polling unit blaring siren.

The voting is expected to begin by 8:00a.m. with accreditation. In order to vote, the electorate has been advised to be on the queue before 1:00p.m. as a policeman has been mandated to stay behind the last voter on the queue at exactly 2:00p.m. Anyone who come in after then would not be allowed to vote.

After accreditation, INEC advises the voter to stay within the polling area to wait for voting to begin. Despite reports to the contrary, INEC has confirmed that you can use any finger to mark your ballot but the mark must not stray into another box. Muazu, the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, has said security agencies are working with the judiciary to ensure persons arrested for offences on election days are tried immediately. He disclosed this at a Stakeholders Meeting organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Lagos on Tuesday.

“We expect all the political parties to educate their supporters and agents on the dos and don’ts on election days. Any offence committed against the Electoral Act will be properly dealt with by all the security agencies. Security agencies are not going to condone any political thuggery. “Anybody found breaching any electoral law would be arrested instantly and dealt with according to the law. We are working in conjunction with the judiciary; we have magistrates assigned to us for that purpose,” he said, noting that judicial proceedings will commence immediately any arrest is made.

Corroborating Oti, the new Lagos police boss told The Guardian on Wednesday: “I just had a meeting this morning with all my men and the agenda is focused on the elections. My men are working on a very strict operation order that has been done before I arrived, which I have studied and I am fully satisfied. We are going to implement that order to the letter. Everybody is going to be involved to be sure that Lagos is safe and secure for everyone.

“My warning to hoodlums during this period is simple: It is either they become good citizens and enjoy Lagos or quit Lagos because there is no room for hooliganism in Lagos as far as I remain the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State.“My predecessor has laid a very good foundation and it is only him that is out of Lagos. All the officers that have worked with him in ensuring the fight against criminals continue are still in Lagos. So, I am only going to direct the fight of crime in Lagos. I can assure you that we are going to build on what he has done.”

Furthermore, following an official order by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Adamu Muhammed, that all police personnel attached to Very Important Personalities (VIPs) across the country be withdrawn, thousands of officers attached to Special Protection Unit (SPU) reported “back to base” on Wednesday.

SPU is the special/commercialized unit of the Nigeria Police Force responsible for deploying men to VIPs, diplomats, high profile individuals, top bank and industry executives, senators, ministers, and other top politicians amongst others. SPU personnel can be easily identified with their unique ‘blue beret’.

Thousands of them reported back to the base from where they would be further deployed for electoral duties. When The Guardian visited their Lagos base at Oduduwa Street, GRA, Ikeja on Wednesday, thousands of them were seen in groups, unlike before when the office is often deserted.
According to one of the officers who do no want his name in print, “we came to be deployed for electoral duties. Police don’t have enough manpower. That is the reason the IGP withdrew all of us. Like me, I was one of the security details attached to a Director General, but once our “headmaster” said we should come back through a signal, we don’t have any choice but to return to base.”

Also, to ensure a hitch-free exercise, the state government through the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) has trained officers of the Lagos State Neighborhood Safety Corp (LNSC), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Lagos Environmental Sanitation Corp (LAGESC), Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Enforcement Agency (Task Force) and the Nigeria Security & Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC), Lagos State command on electoral trends, vulnerabilities’ assessment, investigations, intelligence and surveillance technology. They were equipped with modern trends in robust security intelligence training, security risk analysis and new perspectives to managing contemporary security challenges.

Executive Secretary/CEO of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), Dr. Abdurrazaq Balogun, expressed happiness over the positive feedbacks received from the participants of the training, adding that, the value embedded in the training is beyond the coming election.Commenting on the importance and timeliness of the training, Director, Organization and Logistics, Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), Mr. Gbade Ademola, described the training as timely and robust.

Similarly, the Executive Secretary, Lagos Neighborhood Safety Agency, Bajulaiye Adegboyega, commended LSSTF for the proactive initiative of organizing such training ahead of the election, noting that it will be a great impetus for many of the officers working in Lagos to perform optimally.


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Chike OtiINEC
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