The much talked about 2019 general elections, will commence in less than 48 hours and the security of the lives of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members who have been recruited to serve as ad-hoc staff and that of the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be a top priority of the police and other security agencies.
The atmosphere is already charged and tensed with allegations and counter- allegations flying around between the two major political parties- the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), each accusing the other of trying to manipulate the electoral process to its advantage in the forthcoming elections.
The recurring fire incidents which have resulted in the destruction of sensitive materials in some parts of the country, is a wake up call to the police and other security agencies that we maybe in for a serious crisis in which the victims of circumstance will be the officials of the electoral body, if precautionary measures are not taken to forestall what may come.
On Tuesday this week, a container laden with card readers meant for February 16 presidential and National Assembly elections was consumed by fire at the office of INEC in Awka, Anambra state, and sparked confusion as the officials of the commission preparing for the elections scampered for safety.
Similar incidents also took place in Abia State and Plateau State last week. In Abia, Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) were set ablaze at the commission’s office in Isialangwa South Local Government Area of the state. On Saturday, it was the turn of Plateau as fire destroyed PVCs and other electoral materials at the commission’s office in Qua’an Pan Local Lovernment Area of the state.
As much as we commend the prompt action taken by the Acting Inspector- General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, for ordering a comprehensive, round-the-clock security in all offices and facilities of INEC nationwide and directing all commissioners of police in the 36 states and Abuja to put in place adequate, functional and purposeful security arrangements aimed at protecting all INEC offices and materials from all forms of crimes and mischief before, during and after the elections, we believe that very strong action is needed in ensuring that the country does not experience the repeat of the post-election violence that rocked some states in the northern part of the country in 2011; which led to the death of ten corps members.
The memory of the mysterious death of the INEC Resident Commissioner in Kano State, Mikaila Abudulahi, in 2015 immediately after the Presidential and National Assembly elections, is still fresh in the memory of many Nigerians, even though , the police discarded insinuation in some quarters that the incident that led to his death had political undertone. The police stated that it had nothing to do with the outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections. But, many still believe that it was not unconnected with the outcome of the elections.
Mikaila, who superintended over the March 28 Presidential and National Assembly elections in the state, died in a fire incident described as ‘strange’ by neighbours along with his wife, Zulaiha; and two daughters, Aisha and Asmau.
The spate of violence that has hit states like Kano, Kwara, Ogun, Rivers and others in the recent weeks, calls for concern and serves as a clarion call to the police and other security agencies to brace up to the challenge of ensuring that none of the corps members and INEC officials losses his/her life in the course of carrying out their responsibilities as we go to the poll.
If we must have a free, fair, credible and transparent elections on February 16 and March 2, corps members who will work as ad-hoc staff and INEC officials must be provided with adequate security.
There is no way they can do their job without putting their lives in danger if they are not given the much needed security they require to conduct free, fair, credible and transparent elections.
Not giving them security, will not only make their lives impressionable, it will also lead to the manipulation of the electoral process by political parties and their candidates through intimidation and violence.
The police must strategize with other security agencies on how they can work together in providing adequate security for INEC and its officials. This is essential as not putting up measures that will ensure the neutrality of the officials of the electoral body, may have a dire consequences on the nation.
President Muhammadu Buhari, as the father of the nation, must take responsibility as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and all the security apparatus in the country, by ensuring that adequate security is provided before, during and after the elections; because no amount of money, is worth the life of a Nigerian.
Unlike in 2011 that our country lost the lives of young promising corps members to the afterlife and later on, the Federal Government announced N5million for each slain corps member’s family, the priority this time should be about saving the lives of those young future leaders and that of INEC officials who will be on the field to serve us for the best interest of our country.