The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Solomon Arase, has read the riot act to would be perpetrators of violence during Saturday’s rerun elections in Rivers State. He said the police are ready for the agents of violence.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed March 19 for the conduct of rerun elections into three senatorial districts, 12 House of Representatives and 22 House of Assembly in Rivers State.
There has been heightened tension in the state in the past three weeks, leading to killings and abduction of innocent people. But at a joint press conference with the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, in Abuja yesterday, Arase said the intelligence unit of the Nigeria Police has conducted a comprehensive security threat analysis of Rivers State.
According to the IGP, “The areas likely to present major security threat, as well as individuals who are poised to make themselves available as political thugs to threaten the peaceful conduct of the electoral process, have been identified.
“I can assure you that appropriate mechanisms have been duly put in place to prevent these antidemocratic elements from manifesting their criminal intent.”
He, however, said police cannot make any arrest now since no crime has been committed, but said they were being closely watched.
Arase, who defined the role of the police during the election to include assisting INEC to enforce the electoral laws, protect lives and property, prevent crimes, enforce criminal laws and bring all criminal elements to justice in line with the police mandate as enshrined in Section 4 of Police Act and other relevant extant laws of the Federation, said police personnel to be deployed for the conduct of the rerun polls would “be potent enough to deal firmly, swiftly and professionally with any individual regardless of his or her political leaning or status.”
He disclosed that the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Department of Operations at the Force Headquarters, Abuja has been deployed to Rivers State to assess the security situation, udertake threat analysis and perfect the mobilisation and deployment of Police assets to address noticeable threats.
Apart from the DIG, Arase disclosed that the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 6, Calabar, three Commissioners of Police (one each to the three senatorial districts), three Assistant Commissioners of Police and 6,000 police personnel have been equally deployed to reinforce security in the state during the elections.
The IGP added that the 6,000 police personnel would “comprise of eight units from visiting PMF Squadrons, and 46 units from the three existing PMF Squadrons in Rivers State.
“Conventional policemen are also being drawn from 13 states of the federation to complement the manpower profile of River State Police Command.
“In addition, Special Protection Units, Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD), Federal Special Anti- Robbery Squad, operatives of the Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department, Counterterrorism Unit and Marine Section of the Force are also being deployed.
“These land and marine assets will be complemented by aerial surveillance to be undertaken by not less than three Police helicopters.
“The Nigeria Police will also be supported by other sister security agencies and the Armed Forces,” he said.
Arase reminded politicians that the nation’s democracy has evolved to a level where political gladiators and electorate should allow morality, integrity, genuine national passion, service and the dictates of the law to guide their actions.
Arase warned politicians that the days when political power is attained through the rule of violence rather than the rule of law and democratic values are fading away.
INEC Chairman, Yakubu, said the rerun elections would be conducted in 23 local government areas of the state comprising 319 wards and a total of 5,942 polling units and voting points.
His words: “INEC has engaged 24,930 ad-hoc staff drawn from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and students of federal tertiary institutions, specifically the University of Port Harcourt, the Federal College of Education (Technical) at Omoku and the Federal University in Otuoke in Bayelsa State.
The INEC chairman also disclosed that training of poll officials has since commenced and would be rounded off today, adding that Smart Card Readers would be used for the confirmation of the PVCs and authentication of voters.
According to him, all non-sensitive materials have already been deployed to each of the 23 local government areas of Rivers State while sensitive materials, expected to arrive Port Harcourt yesterday, would be shared to the LGAs and Registration Area Centres (RACs) on today.