Friday, 17 November 2017

Anambra Decides: Group warns against deployment of soldiers into streets




By Okechukwu Onuegbu
 
A renowned Security Research Firm, Centre For Law Enforcement Education In Nigeria otherwise known as CLEEN Foundation, a non-governmental organization has made public the notable flashpoints likely to experience electoral violence as well as potential threats that could militate against the smooth conduct of the November the eighteen governorship election in Anambra State, even as they warned against the deployment of soldiers into the streets.
 
     The foundation called on the federal government of Nigeria to desist from deploying the military into streets during the elections in order to avoid heightened militarisation of the state that could exacerbate voter apathy.  

    The locations identified by the group which they considered to be chiefly at risk before, during and after the election are follows: Atani, Ekwulobia, Fegge, Niger/Head Bridge (Onitsha), Nkpor, Obosi, Okija, Okpoko, Ozubulu, Ubuluisiuzo and Uli. 

    Also according to them, places such as Abagana, Aguleri, Agulu, Amansea, Anaocha, Aroma, Ifete, Nkwele Ezunanka, Nnewi-Ichi, Nsugbe, Ogbunike Ajalli, Ogidi, Okpuno, Orafite, Osumenyi, Ukpo and Umunze were equally potential flashpoints of violence. 

     Based on the foregoing, the group known for its robust and empirical security research findings had predicted voter apathy during the exercise owing to threats and unforseen circumstances

    This was made known during the Public Presentation of The Security Threat Assessment for the Anambra State Governorship held in Awka.

    Speaking on the essence of the presentation, the Assistant Programme Manager, Public Safety and Security CLEEN, Mrs. Chigozirim Okoro expressed gratitude to all those who helped the foundation one way or the other in actualizing its set objectives especially the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and other support groups. 

   Speaking on the security threat assessment, a senior lecturer at the department of Political Science, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) and the Lead Researcher, Dr. Freedom Onuoha, said the cycle and integrity of elections were critical to the democratic process, noting that any perceived or real threat to elections was often interpreted as a threat to the sustenance of democracy. 

    'Since Nigeria's return to democratic rule in 1999, elections had been characterised by security and administration challenges, resulting in discredited outcomes and associated cases of off-cycle elections. 

    'The November 18, 2017 governorship election in Anambra state is the latest in the list of off-cycle elections in Nigeria. The elections will take place in a largely tensed atmosphere, shaped by the resurgence of Biafra separatist agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), large number of political contestants, huge deployment of state security forces, influence of godfather politics, prevalence of cultism, and proliferation of arms, among other factors,' Onuoha said.

   According to the Lead Researcher, the Foundation embarked on an assessment of elections security threat to the November 2017 governorship election in Anambra State to engender peace, noting that the study examined the real and potential election security threats in the state, focusing on each of the three senatorial districts, adding that It adopted a mixed-methodology, involving both qualitative and quantitative research methods, to generate vital information on the nature and extent of threats to the November 18 elections.

    Onuoha said the report identified some critical actors whose conduct could undermine the peaceful conduct of elections in the state. 

    His words, 'These include IPOB agitators, party thugs, political parties, armed groups (Cultists), INEC officials, security agents, judiciary, media, traditional institutions, vigilante groups, and CSOs. The way and manner these actors behave before, during and after the elections could constitute election security threats. 

   'The findings of the quantitative survey revealed that the activities of IPOB agitators constitute the greatest elections security threats (70%).

   'The study showed that the group has the capacity to threaten the election through subtle intimidation of voters, propaganda operations using especially social media, and confrontation with security agents and electoral officials where there is weak or non-existent security presence. 

    'Besides the IPOB, other actors whose actions, inactions or misconduct could pose significant threat to the forthcoming elections are party thugs and political parties (67%), armed groups (61%), INEC (56%), and security agents (55%). The potentials of the conduct of the judiciary and media to contribute to the outbreak of electoral violence were ranked below 50%. 

    'However, there is widespread concern of possible misuse of social media by IPOB agitators, political contestants and some aggrieved individuals to instigate violence,' the university don concluded

     On the recommendations made by the stakeholders, they urged the federal government to develop a robust strategy for rapid deployment of the military to flashpoints of violence, to be activated only when and where there is serious security breaches that overwhelm the capacity of the police. 

    The group tasked the Ministry of Information to collaborate with the National Orientation Agency,  INEC and DSS to create a formidable influence operation team (IOT) that could proactively counter IPOB's propaganda, or hate speeches by desperate politicians and faceless individuals during the election period.

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