President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a massive deployment of security agents in Anambra State to ensure peaceful conduct of the November 6 governorship election in the state.
National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, disclosed this to journalists after a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) at the State House, Abuja on Thursday.
The meeting was presided over by Mr Buhari.
There has been an upsurge of violent activities in Anambra in the past months, leading to the death of some persons and the destruction of properties.
Apart from the killings, the facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other government agencies have also been attacked, thereby threatening the peaceful conduct of the governorship poll.
The attacks have been linked to the proscribed IPOB and its militant wing, ESN.
Mr Monguno, a retired major general, said NCS observed that non-state actors had made attempts to frustrate the smooth conduct of the polls, following their violent activities in Anambra State.
“Today’s meeting of the National Security Council focused its attention on several issues, primarily the elections in Anambra State, which will be held on the 6th of November,” he said.
“Council observed recent trends in which a lot of violent activities have been taking place and Council is desirous of seeing a hitch-free election being conducted by next month.
“Now the problem here is that in as much as the government wants to conduct peaceful elections, there are non-state actors who have been heating the polity, who have made all kinds of attempts to stymie orderly elections for next month.
“The president has directed that under no circumstances will anything be allowed to stop the elections from taking place successfully. The people have a right to vote, they have a right to select their leader, and no group or individual will be allowed to stimulate anarchy and chaos leading to murderous activities.
“The president has made it very clear that the armed forces, security agencies and law enforcement agencies must make sure that the elections take place if it means overwhelming the entire environment with the presence of security agencies.”
Mr Monguno said there are implications if the governorship poll is sabotaged by the non-state actors.
According to him, if they succeed in stopping the election, other parts of the country would want to follow suit to stop future elections.
He said, “There are so many implications for elections to be sabotaged by non-state actors. In the first place, we’re in a democracy. Secondly, it is important to note that if these non-state actors should succeed in destroying the potential for orderly elections, then it is natural that other parts of the country will also want to copy this situation.
“Secondly, it’s not something that President Buhari will even contemplate in a situation in which he is boxed into a corner. The mere thought that a group of non-state actors want to portray his government as not being able to be firm is totally out of the question. The tail can’t wag the dog, it is totally unacceptable, and again, we in the security and intelligence community have been trying as much as possible to talk with the leadership in the Southeast, to make them aware of the fact that
“President Buhari is not averse to the aspirations of the people of the South-east, so long as whatever they desire to achieve, they do it through the normal prescribed manner, either legislative, legal, or whatever.
“For as long as it is within the confines of legitimacy, President Buhari does not have a problem with that. But any action that is outlandish, any action that typifies roguery, the usurpation of the authority of the state is not going to be tolerated.
“Again, we’re also mindful of the fact that Nigerians, being what they are, also need to understand that if these non-state actors should go out on a limb and extend the frontiers of violence, and begin to kill people, there is a possibility that reprisal attacks can take place in other parts of the country, which is what we do not want to happen. So, we’re working with the community leaders, with the governors and everybody to ensure that they bring their people, restrain them on the leash.”
The police on 14 October announced it would deploy 34,587 personnel to Anambra to ensure peace during the poll.
The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, said the deployment would consist of conventional police officers, Police Mobile Force, the Counter-Terrorism Unit, Special Forces, Explosive Ordnance Unit, Force Intelligence Bureau, INTERPOL, Special Protection Unit and a medical team.
He said three helicopters would be deployed for aerial surveillance while detachments of Marine Police operatives would also be deployed to ensure a safe, secure and credible electoral process.
Mr Baba had earlier deployed a new commissioner of police to Anambra State, after a spate of deadly gun attacks in the South-east state. The new commissioner is Echeng Echeng.
Also, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had hinted that the federal government was considering imposing a state of emergency in the state to ensure peaceful conduct of the poll.
“And you cannot rule out possibilities inclusive of the possibility of a declaration of a state of emergency where it is established, in essence, that there is a failure on the part of the state government to ensure the sanctity of security of lives, properties and democratic order.
“So, our position as a government is; election is going to hold, necessary security in terms of democratic order most certainly prevail for the purpose of this election,’’ the minister said.
But after a meeting with Mr Buhari at the State House, Abuja the following day, the governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, told journalists that the president was against the declaration of a state of emergency in the south-eastern state.
“I just finished meeting with the president and I mentioned it and the president didn’t suggest that. The president is firm, he wants a peaceful election in Anambra State. He wants a free and fair election in Anambra State, that’s the president for you.
“But if people in his party are going around making insinuations, using his name to do things, the president clearly told me that he does not support that, full stop,” Mr Obiano said.