A total of N64bn has been approved for the Nigeria Police Force as operations fund for security management for the forthcoming general elections.
This is as the Force Headquarters has dispatched anti-riot weapons, water cannons and Armoured Personnel Carriers, among others, to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory to ensure watertight security during the elections.
Police sources confirmed to our correspondent that all the commands and formations across the country had got their share of the arms and ammunition unveiled by the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, in Abuja, last week.
The sources, however, noted that the total number received by each command and formation could not be disclosed for security reasons.
One of the sources said, “The HQ has deployed all the anti-riot weapons, water cannons, APCs, and other arms and ammunition in all the 37 commands and police formations in preparation for the elections.”
Another source said, “We have got the arms and ammunition, including water cannons, APCs and anti-riot weapons, and we’re fully prepared for the election security management. But we can’t declare the total number that we got for security reasons.”
Sunday PUNCH reports that N2.98tn was provisioned for the police, military, intelligence and paramilitary services as recurrent and capital expenditures for defence and security in the 2023 approved budget to tackle insecurity, which represents 13.4 per cent of the entire N21.83tn budget.
The N64bn police operations fund for the elections was contained in the N21.83tn budget approved by the National Assembly and signed into law by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday, January 3, 2023.
Meanwhile, the Force Headquarters has confirmed the deployment of the equipment and gave assurance of security before, during and after the elections.
It also noted that it had continued to deploy adequate personnel to ensure security during political activities, as political parties demand more police presence at campaign venues.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said, “There is no cause for alarm as we have shared a large number of equipment, most especially anti-riot equipment such as APCs, water cannons, tear-smoke, pepper sprays and some nonlethal weapons. But we won’t want to be specific about the actual number deployed because we don’t want to reveal our strength to the enemies, but every command has got its share, and we are sure that they will be of great help.
“The distribution still continues; in fact, we have just concluded the sharing of kits and accoutrements to all commands dealing with departments at the FHQ, Abuja and Lagos annex. So, our personnel are good to go, and we are still planning to share more as we expect deliveries of additional tools for the general elections.”
Security experts comment
Security experts have said the deployment of anti-riot weapons, water cannons, APCs, and other arms and ammunition to the 37 state police commands and formations in preparation for the elections was proof that the police were in charge of election security management in the country.
A security expert, Chidi Omeje said, “This is good news for Nigeria and Nigerians. Nigeria is a democracy, and constitutionally, the police are supposed to be the de facto security agency in charge of internal security and election security management.
“This recent deployment of arms and ammunition and the N64bn provided for the police in the 2023 budget for election security management is an indication that we are on the right track as a country, and if the police stay true to the course, and if the N64bn is adequate for the police, then we’ll achieve peaceful, safe, free, fair and credible elections this year.”
Another security expert, Emmanuel Ojukwu said, “The deployment and the budget is a good development and it is welcomed as it will boost the morale of officers and men of the police. This will enable the police to be the primary agency for election security, to manage election security properly and enable them to prevent crimes and apprehend troublemakers.
“This will help the police to ensure safety of lives and property, and protect the electorate and our democracy. It is a plus for the government, the police and the citizens, and it shows that the government wants peaceful elections,” he stated.
‘We’ll ensure peace’
Meanwhile, the police high command has stated that it will provide extra security cover for the political parties, which are only required to make requests.
Adejobi said, “We have been deploying personnel in various political activities so far, and we will continue to do so. Other security agencies have equally deployed adequate personnel to augment our power.
“The number of personnel that we have been deploying is enough for any normal and peaceful rally or campaign, except if the political parties claim or try to send a message that rallies won’t be peaceful, and they need to answer to that.
“We don’t require any conditions from political parties before we deploy personnel. All we want them to do is to inform the police in various places of their planned rallies or campaigns, and to make sure that they are peaceful.
“We expect them to be law-abiding and respect the peace accord already signed at all levels. Everybody in Nigeria is equal before the law and has rights as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, we preach peace, we want peace, and we will enforce the law to have peace wherever necessary.”
The Lagos State Police Command urged residents and voters to be law-abiding, adding that the police were prepared and the state was secure for the conduct of the elections.
The Public Relations Officer for the command, Benjamin Hundeyin, said, “The state is secure, and we’re prepared for the conduct of the elections. However, we urge residents and voters to remain peaceful and be law-abiding.”
Similarly, the Osun State Police Command said it had put measures in place to ensure security during elections, adding that attacks on Independent National Electoral Commission offices would not be repeated.
In an interview with our correspondent, the PPRO, Yemisi Opalola said, “We have put measures in place to ensure that attacks on INEC offices don’t repeat themselves in the state.
“As for the forthcoming elections, we are assuring the good people of Osun State that the state is safe and there are measures in place to ensure the security of lives and property.”
The Ogun State Police Command said it had yet to arrest any suspect in connection with the attacks on INEC offices in the state last year.
It also assured the residents of their safety before, during and after the general elections.
The PPRO, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said, “We’ve yet to make any arrest, but we’re still on the matter. However, we assure residents of their safety before, during and after the elections.”
The Imo State Police Command revealed that several suspects had been arrested in connection with attacks on INEC offices in the state.
The PPRO, Henry Okoye said, “Several arrests have been made in connection with the four different attacks on INEC offices in the state.”