Fed Govt dismisses security threats to polls
THERE is no plan to postpone or cancel the elections billed to open on February 25 with the presidential poll, the Federal Government said yesterday.
The Federal Government’s position contrasted with a claim by a senior Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) official that elections may be shifted in volatile areas because of insecurity.
It was learnt that INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu did not give a mandate to anyone to raise a red flag on the forthcoming elections.
The Chairman, Board of Electoral Institute, Abdullahi Zuru, who represented the INEC chair at the validation of election security training resources in Abuja, said the general election faced serious threat of cancellation if the security situation across the land fails to improve.
Zuru said: “If the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder declaration of elections results and precipitate constitutional crisis.”
The government, which was jolted by the report on the likely poll shift, reached out to the commission for clarification on its claim.
Based on the ripples created by the pronouncement attributed to the electoral umpire, Prof Yakubu may make further clarification at a today’s meeting with parties over voter registration.
But the government, through the Information, Culture and Tourism Minister, Lai Mohammed, moved yesterday to douse whatever tension the INEC could have triggered.
He said the elections will hold as scheduled, adding that nothing has happened to alter the timetable.
Mohammed said security agencies have assured the nation of a peaceful atmosphere for the poll.
On December 2, last year, the National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, read a riot act to political actors on the election.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari had given a clear directive that “the will of the people must prevail in the general election and that’s exactly what the government would ensure happens during the elections”.
According to him, the Federal Government would not tolerate any political crisis in the states.
He warned governors using thugs to prevent opposition from mounting campaign materials in their domains to desist forthwith from such acts as security agencies would soon go after them.
Inspector-General of Police Usman Baba Alkali, at a dinner for President Buhari in Damaturu, Yobe State, assured Nigerians that the police were fully prepared for the general election.
‘‘We have exposed our personnel to specialised election security management training, developed a code of conduct handbook to guide the Police and other national security agencies that will be involved in the elections),’’ he said.
Yesterday, Mohammed, who made clarifications in his preliminary remarks at the 17th Edition of the Buhari administration scorecard in Abuja, faulted a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for raising a red flag on the poll.
He said there is no cause for alarm on whether the poll will hold or not.
The minister said: “Let me use this opportunity to respond to inquiries from the media over a widely-circulated report, credited to an INEC official that the 2023 general elections face a serious threat of cancellation due to insecurity.
“The position of the Federal Government remains that the 2023 elections will be held as planned. Nothing has happened to change that position.
“We are aware that INEC is working with the security agencies to ensure that the elections are successfully held across the country.
“The security agencies have also continued to assure Nigerians that they are working tirelessly to ensure that the elections are held in a peaceful atmosphere. Therefore, there is no cause for alarm.”
It was however, learnt that the government reached out to INEC on what a source described as a “weighty pronouncement.”
A top source said: “The government has actually reached out to INEC on the real status of the situation on the forthcoming elections. INEC was able to explain that no one gave Zuru such a mandate. Our chairman read the report like every Nigerian.
“Since there will be a meeting with political parties on voters’ registers today in Abuja, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu will use the opportunity to clarify the position of things. His declaration will douse the tension.”