In an apparent show of force, security agencies on Thursday patrolled the nooks and crannies of Edo State displaying the array of weapons and personnel deployed for the exercise.
A security convoy led by the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) in charge of security for the polls combed various parts of Edo South, stopping at intervals to assure the people of their safety
Our reporters observed several Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) carrying armed military and police operatives, armoured tanks, hilux vehicles and buses filled with security agents touring different parts of the metropolis, while road blocks are mounted in strategic areas with the police searching vehicles for possible exhibits.
Already, some of the 31,000 cops deployed for the election by the Inspector General of Police (IG) Mohammed Adamu have been deployed to the hinterland and riverine communities to prevent thugs from wreaking havoc.
It was gathered that a Commissioner of Police (CP) was deployed to each of the identified strongholds to coordinate security activities and report to the DIG while bulk of the security forces would man Oredo, Egor and Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Areas (LGAs), which are considered to have the highest number of voters.
Addressing the joint security patrols, DIG Oyebade said he was happy they received timely information and acted on same to prevent unpleasant situations.
Although he did not give further details about it, the DIG warned politicians having clandestine meetings to disrupt the electoral processes to desist or face the wrath of the law.
He said: “We have some information and were able to get it early. So, we will continue the show of force across all the senatorial districts.
“I am using this opportunity to sound note of warning to those of them holding clandestine meetings; all those that think they can do and undo to make this election a fallacy will not be allow.
“The reason behind this operation is that we must work together as a team because we are members of the same family. When you see yourself in the NSCDC, the navy, army, Airforce or police; we have a common goal.
“That common goal is to ensure a free, fair and credible election and to protect lives and properties of the electorates.
“The second reason is to send signal to the bad boys. That wherever they are, we will fish them out and we are ready.
“Also, we are telling the electorates they are safe. That they should feel free and come out on the day of the election.
“Most people sometimes do not read our intention clearly. Showing of force is not to intimidate members of the public, rather it is to reassure them we are ready to protect them and to respect the fundamental rights of the citizens before, during and after the election.”
Continuing, Oyebade urged the security agents to remain professional. He said they must be fair but tough, adding that they must ensure no loss of lives.
“We know that we must be professional. When you are doing your job, do it with all fairness. We do not want to lose anybody.
“We will be fair and at the same time tough. That is the message and I can assure you that the Inspector General of Police (IG) sent you to protect lives and properties.
“It is when you are alive that you can be responsible to protect lives and property. So, you go back and continue to do your work. We appreciate you and the synergy must continue. The Nigeria Police as the lead agency in election duties will always work in collaboration and with corporation of other security agencies so that together we can achieve the target,” he said.
Aside the show of force and road blocks, there were also heavy police presence at the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) temporary office along Sapele Road as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) office in Benin where accreditation and distribution of electoral materials were going on respectively.
At the INEC office, observers who spoke to our reporters said they were satisfied with the processes thus far, adding that the INEC officials have been approachable and accessible.
An observer with CLEEN Foundation, Mrs. Blessing Emoron said they were hopeful the election would be peaceful.
She said the security agents have been trained to avoid indiscriminate use of firearms, adding that they have so far conducted themselves creditably.
“I have not really seen anything that I can term to be out of place. I think everything that they are doing is just to be prepared. As an observer, I have been well equipped to know what to do, when to do it and how to do it.
“My advice to every observer, when you are there observing, let’s know our roles, we are not security agents, let us not try to mediate in fight. We are not police. Let’s know our place and stay in our place.
“We are to observe the conduct of security personnel, observe the conduct of INEC personnel and even the voters. That’s what we are really to do. We are not supposed to be a judge, to stick your legs out, to do what is not your business to avoid being attacked.”