THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is asking for security beef-up in over 6,000 locations during the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State.
Security has degenerated in the South-East region in recent days, with gunmen, believed to be separatist agitators, embarking on a killing spree in a bid to stop the election, which they insist must not hold.
Days to the poll, there is minimal campaign activities among the political parties, and there are fears that voters, observers and electoral officials would come under attack on the election day.
A crucial meeting was held between INEC and heads of security agencies in Abuja on October 5 to review preparations for the election.
At the meeting INEC, Chairman Mahmood Yakubu disclosed that to ensure a successful election, the commission required protection for electoral personnel and staff in over 6,000 locations in Anambra on the election day.
Securing the election would be a huge challenge, the INEC chairman observed.
“Deployment for the election will involve the movement of huge consignments of sensitive and non-sensitive materials to the 21 local government areas of the state, 326 wards or registration areas, and 5,720 polling units.
“That means over 6,000 locations to be protected. If we add that to about 26,000 officials that will be deployed for the election, we begin to appreciate the magnitude of the challenge of securing the Anambra governorship election, which is only thirty-two (32) days from today.”
On September 28, Chike Akunyili, husband of the late former Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and later Minister of Information Dora Akunyili, was killed by gunmen who were reportedly chanting that the November 6 governorship poll in Anambra must not hold.
About eight other persons were also killed on the same day during the attack at Nkpor, a suburb of the commercial city of Onitsha in Anambra State.
Again, on October 3, gunmen launched an attack in the industrial city of Nnewi, also in Anambra, killing two people in the process.
The gunmen targeted the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital (NAUTH) in Nnewi, and an office of the State Security Services (SSS).
INEC intends to deploy thousands of members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to serve as Adhoc staff for the Anambra governorship election.
Yakubu said the NYSC members needed to be reassured of their security.
He further observed that the security challenges surrounding the election had become even more worrisome because the security agents, who should secure the event, were themselves a major target of the attacks.
The INEC chairman admitted that the attacks in Anambra, which he described as mindless, were threatening the election.
But he added that the commission was working with security agencies and also consulting with respected opinion leaders in Anambra, as well as the National Peace Committee, to ensure that the electoral process was not derailed.
INEC’s headquarters in Awka, capital of Anambra State, was in May attacked by hoodlums.
The store, collation centre and the main office building, and several vehicles meant for the election were damaged. Some non-sensitive election materials were equally destroyed.
The building has since been renovated but Yakubu expressed concerns that specific electoral facilities and materials could once more become targets of attack.
- INEC insists election will proceed as scheduled
Despite the threat of attacks, INEC said it would proceed with the election as scheduled.
Two key events in the election timetable would come up in the next few days, Yakubu said.
The voter’s register will be presented to political parties in Awka on October 7. On the same day, the final list of candidates for the election would be published.
- New police commissioner takes over in Anambra
At the security meeting, National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno, represented by Sanusi Galadima, warned that the activities of the separatists constituted a clear and present danger to democratic rule in Nigeria.
The Nigerian government is determined to address the situation, the NSA said, citing the launch of ‘Operation Golden Dawn,’ a joint military exercise, in the South East.
Measures aimed at addressing security challenges in Anambra ahead of the polls include the redeployment of the Commissioner of Police Tony Olofu, who has been replaced with Echeng Eworo Echeng.
Echeng’s major mandate is to stop the attacks and restore law and order in the troubled state.
The Nigerian government has also deployed a detachment of Special Forces of the Nigeria Police Force to Anambra.
The special forces would complement the ongoing Operation Restore Peace, launched by the Nigerian Police Force to tackle insecurity in the state.