21 March 2019

Nigeria: 1,119 Suspects Arrested Over Electoral Offences - Police, Military

Streets leading to polling units where election is currently ongoing in Osogbo fully militarised. Soldiers, police, SSS, NSCDC officials are standing guard in adjourning routes to the pu 17, Ward 5 of the LGA.

Police and military authorities on Thursday, confirmed that 1,119 persons were arrested in connection with electoral offences during the February 23 and March 9 elections across the country.

Police Spokesperson, Frank Mba, an assistant commissioner of police, made this known in Abuja at a joint news briefing by spokespersons of the police and the military at Defence Headquarters.

Giving the breakdown, Mr Mba said 796 suspects were apprehended during the Governorship and Hose of Assembly elections, while 323 were nabbed during the Presidential and National Assembly polls.

Mr Mba spoke on behalf of Onyema Nwachukwu, a colonel and Acting Director, Defence Information (DDI) and his counterparts of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

He said 256 were arrested in Akwa Ibom State, 117 in Imo State and 109 in Kaduna State.

According to him, as investigation proceeds, this number may either shrink or increase as the case may be.

"Some of the suspects may eventually be released without charge, while some of them may implicate or make statements that require us to make further arrests.

"So, this number is not sacrosanct," Mr Mba said.

He explained that the briefing was to "shed light on certain security challenges witnessed" during all the elections "before the supplementary elections".

On the alleged encroachment into INEC collation centre in Rivers State by soldiers, he said it was "a very serious matter and of concern to the military and police top hierarchy".

Mr Mba said the military and police high commands had ordered a thorough probe of the incident and other isolated cases.

He said "already, several of the video footages that are in circulation on social and online media platforms have been compiled to assist in the investigations."

On the crisis between the police and military over the Rivers incident, Mr Mba said it had been resolved, assuring that both agencies were no longer at loggerhead.

"The two security agencies are working in synergy to guarantee peaceful and secure environment for all law-abiding Nigerians to exercise their civic right of voting.

"In keeping to this mandate, we want to reiterate our joint commitment to the peaceful conduct of the forthcoming supplementary elections scheduled for March 23, 2019."

He, however, warned that any person or group of persons who may attempt to truncate the supplementary elections would be made to face the law irrespective of status.

Mr Mba commiserated with the relations, friends and associates of some Nigerians, civilians and security agents, who lost their lives during the elections.

He said no election was worth the live of any Nigerian, be it security personnel or civilian, and prayed for the repose of their souls.

Corroborating Mr Mba, the DDI restated that the military and police had resolved their differences arising from the incident in Rivers during the election.

Mr Nwachukwu said that both agencies' high commands had expressed serious concern about the alleged encroachment by some soldiers into the centre in Rivers.

"We want to assure Nigerians that we will remain non-partisan and apolitical; we will remain neutral, and of course, as professional as we have always been.

"Once again, that incident was a very unfortunate one. It is a major concern to the leadership of the armed forces and Nigeria police.

"We are also mindful of the fact that the role of the armed forces is complementary to that of the police force.

"We equally have no doubt that we are taking a back seat as the armed forces of Nigeria, while the police force takes the lead in the security architecture for the elections."

He disclosed that the gaps that brought about the unfortunate incident had been addressed, saying "the incident is being investigated and after exhaustive investigation, definitely, we will issue the report.

"So, we want to assure Nigerians that nothing will be swept under the carpet. We will be as transparent as possible," Mr Nwachukwu said.

(NAN)

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