BARELY 24-hours after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said he had given orders for the security forces to be ruthless on ballot box snatchers, the army said on Tuesday that it had uncovered a plot to disrupt the process.
‘Credible intelligence available to HQ 6 Div NA has uncovered an unholy plan by some political actors within its AOR to arm and sponsor miscreants in addition to using military-like fatigue dress for deception to cause pandemonium at polling stations for their political gain,’ the military said on social media.
The statement noted that the said incident was in the Niger Delta region. It said there were efforts to track the source of weapons being used in the said operation. Officials were also cautioned against active politicking which was against service rules.
‘To this end, the GOC 6 Division and Land Component Commander (LCC) OPDS Maj Gen Jamil Sarham wish to reassure the good people of Niger Delta of providing adequate security in conjunction with other security agencies before, during and after the 2019 General Elections,’ the statement added.
The army plays a crucial role in Nigeria’s complex security setup – soldiers are largely in charge in zones affected by terrorism – in major parts of the northeast. They are also involved in anti-kidnapping, banditry operations in north central and northwest.
Buhari’s caution was issued at a meeting of the national caucus of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the capital, Abuja.
“I do not expect anybody to make any disturbance. I have briefed the law enforcement agencies and the military, they have identified hot spots, flash points, they should be prepared to move.
‘I really gave the military and police order to be ruthless… Anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch ballot boxes or disturbs the voting system, will do so at the expense of his own life.
‘We are not going to be blamed that we want to rig elections. I want Nigerians to be respected, let them vote whoever they want across the parties.’
Buhari’s comments were met with a swift riposte from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Whilst they accused Buhari of giving shoot to kill orders, pro-government activists insist that he was only speaking in the language that ballot snatchers understand.
Nigeria would have by now known the results of the February 16 poll that was postponed by the elections body, INEC. The action was taken about six-hours to the opening of polls, something Buhari gravely deplored and called for a probe into.
The new date for the vote is Saturday, February 23. Buhari has tasked voters not to lose steam but to turn out and vote in large numbers for all candidates across the parties.