Inspector General of Police Usman Baba has said not less than 52 cases of politically-motivated, intra, and inter-party violence have been recorded across 22 states since the official commencement of campaigns for the 2023 general elections September 28, 2022.
The Police also accused some state governors of encouraging political thugs and sub-national security outfits under their control to disrupt seamless and statutorily guaranteed campaign activities of parties or candidates with whom they hold opposing political views.
The police boss stated this Thursday in his opening remarks at a meeting with national security and intelligence agencies and leadership of the 18 registered political parties and other stakeholders in preparation for the general elections, at the Force Headquarters Abuja.
He said: “This meeting became expedient following a noticeable trend within the national political space which, if not promptly addressed, could evolve into a potent threat to not just our national security but the electoral process.
“Drawing from the experiences of the past, electoral violence both in the process leading to an election as well as the fall out of elections has always constituted the most dangerous threat to our democracy.
“Political violence manifest in three forms. First is violence that is targeted at the personnel and assets of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as recently witnessed in Ogun and Osun states.
“The second form of political violence manifests in form of inter-party intolerance and violence which often become particularly pronounced during campaigns, elections, and post-elections phases.
“It is on record that not less than 52 cases of such politically-motivated, intra, and inter-party violence has been recorded across 22 states since the official commencement of campaigns for the 2023 general elections on September 28, 2022.
“The last form of political violence relates to the conduct of some state governors who manifest traits of political intolerance which often inflame political tension.”
The police boss therefore said: “In this regard, we have been receiving reports of some state governors who encourage political thugs and sub-national security outfits under their control to disrupt seamless and statutorily guaranteed campaign activities of parties or candidates with whom they hold opposing political views.
“In so doing, they deploy their powers and influences to either prevent the mounting of campaign bill boards or pull them down, while also denying political opponents of spaces to undertake their campaigns or peaceful political congregations in contravention of the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 (As amended).”
“Most of the recorded violent incidents or threats often result from political extremism, misinformation, intolerance, wrong political orientation, hate speeches, incitement, and, most importantly, the desperation of strategic actors within the political field who often place their parochial political ambitions over and above national security interests and our nation’s stable democratic order.
“Such actors, usually give a wrong direction to their party faithful, arm them, re-orient them and encourage them to resort to the use of threat, violence, and other extra-legal means to frustrate competing political parties and impose their own faulty perception of politicking,” he added.
IGP Baba further said: “Even more worrisome is the fact that just about a month ago, the aspirants in the 18 political parties publicly made a firm commitment to the nation to maintain peace and abide by rule of law and the Electoral Act in their political activities with the signing of the Peace Accord on September 29, 2022.
“To complement this, Mr. President had at various global and national platforms openly affirmed his commitment to deepen our democratic journey by encouraging the virtues of a peaceful electoral process in which the interests and wishes of the electorates take pre-eminence.”
The police boss, who emphasised that violence was a crime well captured under extant criminal laws both in its planning and execution, noted: “If political thugs are armed with any sort of weapons and inspired by any political actor to advance an illegal act including attacking innocent citizens for political purpose or attacking INEC assets and personnel, or any other critical infrastructure in the country, such persons and those orchestrating them stand the risk of being brought to justice for the specific crime associated with their conducts regardless of their political affiliation, status, or ambitions.
“The NPF and all other national security agencies in fulfilment of their statutory obligations to the nation, remain duty bound to initiate enforcement actions that will restore order within the political and national security systems.
“Henceforth, therefore, we shall put machineries in motion that will in the most proactive manner identify, isolate, apprehend, and bring any political actor and the foot-soldiers they might be motivating to engage in violence at political rallies or any other political engagement to deserved justice.”
While acknowledging that the leadership of each political party was “critical in eradicating the menace of political intolerance, threat, violence and other negative tendencies in our democratic culture, he said they were the strategic gatekeepers to democracy, just as their conducts or misconducts has reverberating effect on the actions of their followers as well as on the national political space.
“It is for this reason that I wish to appeal to the leadership of all political parties here seated to be determined to show the right leadership virtues and publicly dissociate themselves from acts of political brigandage and violence as this is the only way we can reassure our citizens and the international community of our nation’s commitment to a peaceful 2023 general elections.
..Urges INEC to assert itself
“I wish to similarly appeal to the Independent National Electoral Commission to, in cognisance of their critical regulatory, enforcement and supervisory roles as enshrined in the Electoral Act 2022, assert their statutory powers, and scale up their compliance actions towards complementing the Nigeria Police and other law enforcement agencies in checkmating the threats being poised to our democratic order by actors within the political system.
“This requires that INEC should take decisive actions against candidates and parties that violate the Electoral Act in the areas of conduct of political parties, candidates, and other actors in relation to hate speeches; campaign funding regulations; encouraging, supporting, or inciting violence; and depriving political opponents of basic electoral rights guaranteed under the Act.”