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Inauguration: Agencies beef up security, warn against planned disruption

By Odita Sunday and Sodiq Omolaoye (Abuja)
26 May 2023   |   4:00 am
As Nigerians go into the transition weekend and following intelligence received, security operatives have upped their ante ahead of Monday’s presidential inauguration ceremony.

Security beefed up at Eagles Square, Abuja ahead of May 29th inauguration. PIX: Gazette

• Udenta: Military, police can’t ban protest on May 29
• IGP declares police readiness, cautions against fake news
• Issues nationwide red alert on security, fortifies Presidential Villa, Eagle Square
• All land borders, seaports, airports manned

As Nigerians go into the transition weekend and following intelligence received, security operatives have upped their ante ahead of Monday’s presidential inauguration ceremony.

Security agencies, especially the military high command, have put security measures in place in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with troops of the Guards Brigade and Army Headquarters Garrison deployed to all exit and entry points into Abuja.

The deployments, which are supported by gun trucks, armored personnel carriers and other equipment were seen at various points, including the Giri-Gwagwalada-Kwali-Abaji axis, Zuba-Suleja-Madalla axis, Kubwa-Bwari axis, as well as Nyanya-Mararaba-Keffi axis.    Also, joint military, police and other security agencies patrol teams have been patrolling in the inner city, raiding black spots, suspected drug joints and apprehending suspected hoodlums, touts and miscreants, while scores of motorcycles, which remained banned in the city centre were seized.

In the city centre and outskirts of the Abuja metropolis, police deployments could be seen stationed at strategic positions with patrol vehicles while the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) personnel were also visible supporting the police formations.

It was gathered that police authorities have also deployed scores of plain-clothed personnel in and around the FCT border communities with a view to gather intelligence on any planned infiltration or plot to cause violence during the inauguration ceremonies.

The security beef up is against the backdrop of several disclosures by the Federal Government and security agencies that the May 29 inauguration is sacrosanct while those planning to scuttle the ceremony should stay away from FCT.

Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS), yesterday, warned against unruly behaviours and non-adherence to protocols during the presidential inauguration activities.

According to the DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, “the Service is aware of plans by subversive elements to disrupt the transition programmes in parts of the country. The aim is to undermine security agencies’ efforts at ensuring peaceful ceremonies as well as creating panic among members of the public.

“Based on these, citizens, the media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are advised to adhere strictly to security and civil protocols during the events. They are also urged to shun fake news, false alarms, skewed reportage/narratives and sensationalism that may likely inflame division, tension and violence prior to and after the exercises.”

The Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, on Thursday, said that as part of security arrangements for a seamless inauguration of the incoming administration on Monday, adequate personnel have been detailed to protect the Presidential Villa and provide security at and around the Eagle Square.

Also, adequate personnel have been detailed “to man all the Nigerian borders, seaports, and airports, while others will equally be deployed to man the entry and exit points of the capital city, Abuja, and other critical government installations.”

Furthermore, the IGP said: “The NPF has also deployed all its serviceable helicopters and highly efficient drones for aerial surveillance in Abuja and its environs.

“All NPF serviceable water canons and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) will as well be deployed to man strategic places around the capital city.”

This disclosure was made just as the IGP warned “Nigerians who do not have any business around the Eagle Square vicinity during the ceremony to steer clear as security measures are emplaced to ensure serenity and orderliness.

He said: “Today, we are here to provide an update on the security plan developed by the Nigeria Police Force for the 2023 Presidential Inauguration. Since the conclusion of the 2023 general elections and the announcement of the President-elect, security has been beefed up throughout the country.”

Meanwhile, founding National Secretary of Alliance for Democracy (AD), and Fellow, Abuja School of Social and Political Thought, Prof Udenta Udenta, has warned security agencies against stopping any form of protest during the presidential inauguration ceremony.

The scholar, who condemned certain comments made by heads of the security outfits, noted that preventing aggrieved Nigerians from protesting on May 29 is against the spirit of the Constitution and an infringement on the fundamental human rights of citizens.

He stated this in an interview with journalists at the public presentation of a book titled ‘Media and Nigeria’s Constitutional Democracy: Threats, Constraints and Resilience,’ organised by the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought on Thursday in Abuja.

The book, co-authored by Paul Obi, Taye Obateru and Sami Amadi, was reviewed by a communication consultant and Deputy Dean of the School of Postgraduate Studies, Baze University, Abuja, Prof. Abiodun Adeniyi, and launched by Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed.

Udenta lamented that remarks being made by security chiefs over the inauguration ceremony were attempts to shut down democratic conversation.

He said: “In two or three days, there will be an inauguration. The Inspector General of Police is already speaking, the Director General of DSS is speaking, the military are also speaking. However, my sense of it is that they are shutting down democratic conversation and we should not allow that. While you’re going to swear people in, you should equally allow those that want to protest do that peacefully, legitimately and constitutionally.

“If you have your security perimeter, within which you don’t expect anybody except invited guests and those with clearance, outside the perimeter, thousands, if possible millions of Nigerians are permitted to gather with their placards and protest. That is part of democracy. The media is a fundamental cadre for protecting democratic infrastructure and governance. The moment you tear it down, democracy vanishes, and authoritarianism becomes the order of the day.

“The behaviour of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), and even behaviour of the President-elect’s media team is abhorrent at this stage, that’s why I want to repeat, as people will be sworn in on May 29, millions of Nigerians have the right to protests wherever they are as long as they don’t have arms and are doing it peacefully, as the law provides.”

The don, therefore, suggested “the media should cover any protest robustly with intensity, like the way they will cover the swearing-in. So, whoever wants to protest or have a counter-protest can do that within their rights.”

Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Speaking, IGP Usman Baba Alkali, who cautioned journalists against circulating fake news and hate speeches, declared police’s readiness for the inauguration ceremony.

The IGP, represented by the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, also emphasised the need for journalists to fact-check their stories before publishing, while adhering to journalism ethics in their reportage.

“We should be mindful of the excessiveness of our reportage and engage in constructive criticism”, he stated.

On his part, Bauchi State governor commended the role played by the Nigerian Media in building democratic culture, institutions and practices in the discharge of its constitutional responsibility.