From FRED ITUA, Abuja, Feb 2, 2015; SunNews
Ahead of this month’s general elections, service chiefs met in Abuja yesterday to review the level of preparedness. The meeting which was conveyed by former military ruler, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, was also attended by representatives of various political parties and religious leaders.
Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Marshall Alex Badeh, said the military was prepared to assist the police and other civil authorities in providing security before, during and after the polls.
He said: “We are not directly involved in elections and electioneering, but before the elections, we will deploy our personnel across the nation to assist civil powers and authority. During the elections, as we have done in other states, we will also ensure that people are not used to go and foment trouble or mayhem.
“After the elections, should there be disturbances, we will assist the police to deploy as much as we can across the nation. Even though we are busy in the North-East, we also have the capability to provide across the nation. The Chief of Naval Staff will be busy around the creeks, the Chief of Air Staff is working with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but will he also deploy troops.
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The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Kenneth Minimah, also promised to support police and other civil authorities during the elections.
He said: “We are aware of the need for security before, during and after the elections. We will deploy across the states of the federation. In areas we have discovered that they have the capacity for violence, we are prepared to ensure we have a peaceful election.
“We appeal to politicians to obey the rules of the game and advise their followers to respect the laws of the land. As stipulated in the Electoral Act and the Constitution, no individual or groups should take the laws into their hands. We want the nation to have peace after this election.”
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu, said: “We have commenced the airlift of materials needed for the elections starting from Abuja. We will continue into the whole spectrum of the election would be involved.
“We have a lot of unmanned airports in Nigeria, we have deployed our men to man these airfields and should there be saboteurs, it will be difficult for them to bring in illegal materials into the country.”
Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, said: “The support to civil authorities by the military is provided in the Constitution. The military has the responsibility to support civil authorities in providing security. That is why they need to strengthen the civil security agencies during the elections. In some of the areas identified as flash points, we will invite the military to assist. But it will not include the polling booths. The police will continue to conduct its role in ensuring there is law and order in the country.”
Warning against a repeat of 2011 post-election violence, General Abubakar said: “When I was approached to chair this committee, I did not hesitate. Since I left office, I have been involved in a lot of engagements in Nigeria and across Africa. If you go to many African countries, you will see the kind of carnage going on as a result of post-election violence. We must live in peace. Whenever there is election violence, people blame politicians.
“But the people are the ones inflicting violence on themselves. If we destroy properties and other things, we will still have to come back and rebuild what we have destroyed. I am very happy that the contestants in the forthcoming presidential elections have signed a peace accord and it is expect that they follow up in keeping with this agreement.
“We all have roles to play. The media has a role to play in ensuring that they preach peace. People tend to believe in what they read. Avoid sensational stories and help preach peace.
“They have briefed us on the measures put in place to ensure there is peace during and after the elections. But no matter what the security agencies put in place, if we Nigerians do not support them, there is nothing they can do.
“We are not taking the utterances of those threatening violence lightly. There is freedom of speech and everyone has the right to speak, but there is a limit to freedom of speech. We are addressing these issues and we will ask the political gladiators to call their people to order. I appeal to Nigerians.
“The buck stops with them. Any Nigerian who loves this country must preach peace. There is apprehension and there is no need for that. Nigerians, please, I beg you. Learn from the former mistakes. We must ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. We must ensure February elections are peaceful and secure,” he said.