Ogun workers suspend strike after four days
INEC Chairman, Yakubu and burnt INEC building
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THE failure of the security agencies to curb violence in several parts of the country less than three months to the general elections raises grave concern. Apart from the troubled northern states, attacks in the South-East, including the destruction of election-related facilities, are deeply troubling. This vicious state of insecurity should be addressed and neutralised to guarantee hitch-free polling and peace nationwide thereafter.
While attacks on security and civilian targets as well as kidnapping continue in the North and elsewhere, criminals have resumed targeting Independent National Electoral Commission offices in the South-East. Such attacks have occurred recently in Ebonyi and Imo states where, worryingly, the security forces have struggled to apprehend the perpetrators and their sponsors.
The South-East has since 2020 become a killing field. Data from the Council on Foreign Relations and media reports show that killings in the region rose by 555.7 per cent between 2020 and 2021. No fewer than 636 deaths were recorded in reported violent attacks between December 13, 2020 and December 12, 2021. Several INEC offices have also been targeted in different states in the zone, the latest being the arson in the commission’s offices in Ebonyi and Imo states. These attacks not only signify grave danger to the electoral process, but also indicate the failure of the existing security architecture to interdict and neutralise the terrorists.
Despite assurances by the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, that security around the commission’s facilities had been strengthened after arsonists torched INEC offices in Ogun and Osun states in the South-West and several others in the South-East, the attacks have continued. Unlike the security agencies, the terrorists appear more committed to their nefarious enterprise.
INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, warned last year that the attacks “are no longer freak events but appear to be quite orchestrated and targeted at INEC.” He added that the violence on the commission’s property was “targeted at demobilising and dismantling critical electoral infrastructure in the country” and to undermine INEC’s capacity to organise elections.
Serial violence against INEC personnel and facilities in the South-East and South-South had resulted in the destruction of buildings and vital election equipment as well as loss of lives. The attacks in Osun and Ogun states indicate that the violence might be spreading to the South-West. The sponsors should be fished out without delay and brought to justice.
With the number of security agencies in the country and the militarisation of the region, it is disappointing that the perpetrators have not been apprehended. The attacks on the INEC facilities and destruction of thousands of PVCs and other equipment lend credence to Yakubu’s allegation of a conspiracy to intimidate and undermine strategic national institutions and truncate democracy. It should be stopped.
The police should deploy their professional skills and resources and go after the hoodlums and their paymasters. Security agents recently tracked down and arrested a critic of the First Lady within a short time; the IG and the head of the Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi, should be more efficient against dangerous subversives. The state commissioners of police and the DSS field directors have no excuse; they should stop the South-East from descending into total anarchy.
Nigeria is very fragile, and every effort should be made to thwart incidents that could push it over the edge. The confluence of malevolent forces at work against the forthcoming polls requires utmost alertness by security agencies to dismantle every plot before it spirals out of control. The United Kingdom and the United States have expressed concern over the attacks and destruction of INEC facilities across the country, warning that they portend grave danger to the 2023 elections.
The authorities must also change their attitude. The IG said recently that the police had been receiving reports of some state governors encouraging political thugs and sub-national security outfits under their control to disrupt the campaign activities of opposition parties and candidates. But he failed to take strong action thereafter. The governors enjoy immunity while in office, but the violent party functionaries and hoodlums do not. Nigerians therefore expect arrests, prosecutions, and disruption of criminal networks to follow. These have not been forthcoming.
Law enforcement is taken more seriously elsewhere. Last week, German police and intelligence agents arrested 25 suspects in a nationwide operation there for plotting subversion. The raids followed previous alerts by the head of the country’s domestic intelligence agency that extremist groups increasingly constituted a threat to national security. Action followed the alerts; in Nigeria, security chiefs issue alerts and warnings and do nothing concrete thereafter.
Allowing thugs and their sponsors to escape consequences over the years has entrenched a culture of criminal impunity in the country. The government should bring perpetrators of violence to justice irrespective of their political affiliation.
The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, a non-profit, in a recent report warned that the 2023 elections could be threatened by a combination of factors, including the actions of non-state actors like Boko Haram/ISWAP, IPOB, bandits and political thugs who have been disrupting campaigns.
It said, “A successful election could send a strong message to other African states where democracy has been backsliding,”noting that since 2010, more than 40 coups and attempted coups had been documented on the continent, half of them in West Africa. The report added, “Alongside the socioeconomic implications, an aborted election, or one fraught with violence and malpractice, would weaken Nigeria’s political and moral authority to take a stance against unconstitutional takeovers of power elsewhere on the continent.”
Alarmingly, the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor, hinted recently that the military was under pressure to compromise the 2023 polls. This further confirms the desperation of the enemies of democracy.
Regardless of current challenges, Nigerians prefer democratic rule. A recent survey by Afrobarometer, a pan-African research network, said seven in 10 Nigerians or 70 per cent of respondents insisted that democracy was preferable to any other kind of government. Electoral management bodies are the guarantors of electoral integrity, which is the foundation of democracy, but they cannot succeed alone. Therefore, the federal and state governments and the security agencies must make the country safe for democracy to thrive.
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