• Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

2023 GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION: How The NPF Confounded Expectation Of Bloodshed, Casualties In Imo


Nov 16, 2023

When the Inspector General of Police, IGP Kayode Egbetokun deployed Deputy Inspectors General of Police, Frank Mba, Habu Sani and Daniel Sokari-Pedro to Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa States, respectively, to oversee the just concluded off cycle-elections, the overarching objective was to reinforce the commitment of the force to ensure neutrality and enhance effective supervision of personnel, deployed for the election.

In Imo, the coordinating Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), representing the South-East geo-political Zone, DIG Frank Mba, mni, was on ground to coordinate and supervise the security architecture while implementing the formidable security arrangement for a peaceful and secured elections in the state.

Confounding Expectations
Given the security situation in Imo, there were expectations that electoral violence would prevent elections from holding. In fact, non-state actors that have been running riot were expected to fan the embers of violence.

THISDAY gathered that even private mortuaries in the state had anticipated large scale body bags after the election, thus they made room to accommodate the new corpses.

However, after the elections, such expectations were null and confounded. Not only did Imo not record any electoral killings, the much anticipated violence by non-state actors never happened.

Although the opposition had flayed the outcome of the election, stakeholders on ground while commending the police, said it was impressive that no police personnel, soldier, or civilian were killed, neither was there any arson or attack on INEC facilities or kidnap of their staff.

In the isolated case where the off duty policeman breached rules of engagement, THISDAY checks revealed that he has since been recalled and is going through appropriate punishment.

Threat by IPOB, ESN
In the build-up to the elections, the activities of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network (ESN) in the South-East region, amongst other forms of peculiar crimes and criminality therein, raised concerns on the possibility of the election holding in Imo State.

These groups, amongst other criminal elements bedeviling the region, embarked on deliberate escalation of violence targeted at security personnel and other innocent individuals as well as attacks on critical facilities including INEC offices. The IPOB/ESN issued threats thereby instilling fear and apprehension in the land.

Police Action-Plan Prior Election

Prior to the election, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) promptly mobilised the security community under the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).

Under this, the police harped on inter-agency collaboration. Under this, the police and other members of the ICCES, including the Nigerian Army, NDLEA, NSCDC, Immigration and Customs Services, FRSC resolved to working closely than ever before to mitigate threats to the peaceful conduct of the elections and beyond. The positive and superb inter-agency collaboration helped in securing the electoral process.

Also, the NPF carried out an election security threat analysis in Imo State to enable it drive a deliberate front at deescalating and reordering the negative trends. By this, the NPF identified black spots, potential trouble makers, possible mercenaries and the likelihood of proliferation of illegal firearms and weapons, and illicit drugs, all targeted at disrupting the electoral process.

Essentially, there was deliberate rejigging of public safety strategies to adequately contain prevailing and emerging crime trends in Imo State, other South-East states and the country at large.

To achieve this, the improved security arrangement was to protect the sanctity of the electoral process, safeguard both sensitive and non-sensitive materials of INEC, protect INEC staff and ad-hoc staff including corps members, international and local observers, secure critical infrastructure and generally secure the public space.

Also, a massive pre-election deployment and dry-run of the implementation process of the security arrangement was carried out and the approaches were customized-to-suit to mitigate the peculiarities of challenges arising from the security threat analysis conducted ahead of the elections in the state.

More importantly, mop-up of illicit firearms/small arms and light weapons in the region and IMO state was directed.

Non-Kinetic Approaches Adopted
But beyond this, the police deployed both kinetic and non-kinetic security approaches to ensure a hitch-free and successful conduct of the elections in Imo State.

The non-kinetic approaches adopted included mapping out and expanding the stakeholders reach, conducting consultative meetings with traditional leaders, political party leaders and aspirants, meeting with road transport unions, student leaders, media bodies, amongst others, clearly establishing the mutual responsibilities towards the success of the elections, and reiterated commitment to be driven by it, and improving our public relations and efforts at regaining the trust of the citizens through improved community engagements, enhancement of ethical policies and fight against corruption.

Others include recognising of CSOs, NGOs, Human Right Groups and other critical stakeholders as key actors for improved policing system, dedicating phone lines opened to the members of the public to reach the police directly on matters that require prompt intervention, as well as assuring commitment to providing a level playing ground, and to be apolitical.

Deliberate Supervision, Monitoring

For the coordinating DIG Frank Mba, there was no half measures. Knowing what was at stake, he mustered to Imo even before the election to survey and take stock. Armed with the critical information, he effectively deployed intelligence and operational assets with a deliberate manpower distribution action plan for the success of the elections.

Not only was he on ground in Imo State to coordinate and supervise the security architecture while implementing the formidable security arrangement for a peaceful and secured elections in the state, DIG Mba also personally conducted both land and aerial patrols across the state.

Understanding the power of division of labour, senior police officers were strategically assigned to supervise and coordinate human and other operational assets deployed for the elections in the senatorial districts, local governments, other specific jurisdictions, identified hot spots, etc.

Over 25,000 police personnel were deployed across the nooks and crannies of Imo State. This is in addition to personnel of the military and other security agencies deployed. This was because the deployment strategy was intelligence-driven. Thus, there was deployment of adequate security for escort and protection of electoral materials, INEC officials, corps members and ad-hoc staff involved in the elections.

There was also adequate security arrangement for the protection of both local and international observers, CSOs, and the media team covering the elections. This is just as additional operational assets comprising modern anti-riot equipment, Armoured Personnel Carrier, water canon truck, pick-up vehicles, amongst others, deployed by the Inspector General of Police to Imo State to boost operational capability in the elections were effectively utilised to mitigate any untoward situation.

The NPF equally deepened community engagement to weaken recruitment drive by terrorists and other criminal groups in the region, just as it also deployed technological innovations – the new Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre – to combat criminal activities including cyber-terrorism.

Other Measures
Meanwhile, there was effective border security management to prevent influx of criminal elements from states contiguous to Imo State, just as they also carried out intelligence-driven raids of criminal hideouts across the state.

The police carried out robust confidence building patrols across the state, thus there was improved intelligence management, utilisation and sharing which assist to arrest and suppress the activities of criminal elements before, during and after the elections.

There were pre-election training and human capacity development programs for our personnel including the tactical teams, just as they equally harnessed the INTERPOL NCB and other global policing network to monitor activities of organised criminal elements capable of terrorising the state.

One other factor that helped out was the restriction of vehicular movement from 12pm, Friday September 10, 2023 till the end of the elections on Saturday, thus rendering would be perpetrators immobile.

Except in the aforementioned case where the culprit is being disciplined, stakeholders had commended the professional conduct of police personnel as under the IGP instruction and DIG Mba’s execution, they provided a level playing field for all political actors in the elections by being civil yet firm.

Going beyond policing, the team also engaged in robust citizens’ enlightenment campaign on election security and responsibility, just as they paid close attention to public complaints and observations about police activities in the state.

Summarily, there was sustained vigilance by security agencies while the electoral process lasted, leading to early conclusion of result collation and even declaration of same by INEC. Although the opposition have flayed the result of the election, many are of the opinion that the biggest win in Imo State was the bloodshed that was hitherto anticipated but never happened. Even the opposition would agree to this.
Source: Chiemelie Ezeobi

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