Ahead of the Saturday governorship election in Osun State, the police and other security agencies, including the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, have declared war on vote-buyers and mapped out strategies to checkmate their activities.
To curb the malpractices during the poll, the security agencies have deployed detectives, including undercover operatives, to monitor the election and apprehend vote-buyers.
The deployment of police personnel will also be complemented by soldiers, the Civil Defence Corps, and the Amotekun Corps.
Vote-buying has been a blot on the integrity of recent elections in the country as voters are heavily induced by agents of political parties at the polling booths to skew the outcome of the polls in favour of the highest spender.
We gathered that the security agencies had mapped out elaborate strategies aimed at preventing a repeat of the vote-buying incidents recorded during the Ekiti governorship poll as well as other elections in the recent past.
The EFCC had arrested some suspects, including party agents, for allegedly engaging in vote-buying during the June 18 governorship election in Ekiti.
Some of them were also said to have been caught with bags of money with a book containing details of voters of certain voting areas at a private residence.
Similarly, during the Peoples Democratic Party presidential primary held at Eagle Square, Abuja, there were widespread incidents of vote-buying by aspirants despite the presence of law enforcement officers.
But a team of EFCC operatives which monitored the convention failed to apprehend suspects.
Media gathered that the EFCC, which would also monitor the Osun poll on Saturday, would give no room for vote-buyers to operate.
However, the commission’s spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, could not be reached to confirm the number of men that would be deployed for the operation as he did not respond to calls on his phone. He had yet to reply to an SMS on the issue.
We have mobilised FIB operatives against vote-buyers – Force PRO
Explaining the police strategy against vote-buying, the Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, informed the Media on Tuesday that the force would not take it lightly with anyone caught engaging in electoral malpractices during the Osun poll.
He explained that the police would deploy the Federal Intelligence Bureau, Tactical Corps and the Special Forces to curb the incidents of vote-buying.
According to the Nigeria Police Force website, www.npf.gov.ng, the Federal Intelligence Bureau is the apex of intelligence gathering in the Force. It is the only arm of the Force that provides intelligence on crime and national security. Some of the functions of the bureau include collection, collation, assessment/evaluation and dissemination of criminal intelligence affecting the activities of criminals with particular reference to organised crimes; identifying criminal syndicates carrying out criminal activities using gangster techniques; disseminating criminal intelligence to various police formations continuously and maintaining surveillance on organised gangs, identify members, associates, daily activities and method of operation.
Adejobi said, “The IG said it today (Tuesday) during the stakeholder forum (in Osogbo) that we are not going to take it lightly with anyone that engages in any electoral violence or malpractices including vote-buying, snatching of ballot papers or boxes, attacking electoral or INEC officials or observers, campaigning during the polls or wearing anything that has any particular logo or emblem during the polls.
“All these violate the provisions of the Electoral Act which is criminal. So we are going to go after those who violate the Electoral Act and the laws of the land. So, we are going to be serious about it but don’t forget that vote-buying is not something you do in the public. We can only go after those we see doing it.”
Asked if the police would deploy undercover operatives to monitor the poll and apprehend those engaging in vote-buying, the force spokesman stated that the Force Intelligence Bureau would be on the ground during the election.
He added, “The FIB operatives are there, Tactical Corps have been deployed to Osun, including my department-Public Relations Department. So every unit and sector of the department of police is involved.
“Don’t forget that we have the Electoral Offences Desk officer who happens to be the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of CID in Osun state. He will collate and investigate all electoral offences. They are there to do their job while we appeal to the people of the state to be calm and law-abiding.”
On her part, the Osun Police Command Public Relations Officer, Yemisi Opalola, added that there were strategies in place to forestall vote-buying during the poll.
Opalola, who said police operatives would be posted across the state, noted that they would not allow any form of vote trading.
She said, “We will not allow it to happen. We will do whatever is within our power to prevent it. Vote-buying and selling would not be allowed. We have emplaced a lot of security measures and strategies. We have been sensitising people against vote-buying because without a seller, there won’t be a buyer.
“We have been using every means to discourage people from engaging in it. On the day of the poll, we will ensure that vote-buying does not happen because the police will be posted everywhere and the operatives that would be on duty won’t allow vote-buying.
Speaking in a similar vein, the spokesperson, Osun NSCDC command, Olabisi Atanda, and the Field Commander, Osun Amotekun Corps, Amitolu Shittu, said vote-buying would not be allowed during the election.
They both said their organisations would collaborate with other security organisations to prevent any form of an unlawful act, including vote-buying.
Atanda said, “We have been working with other agencies to ensure that vote-buying does not happen. We won’t allow vote-buying with the preparations we have made so far.”
Shittu, who also said his men had been given specific instructions to disallow vote-buying noted, “We won’t allow vote-buying and our men have been given specific instructions to monitor the environment very closely and work with other security organisations to prevent it.”
Also, the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Osun State Amotekun Corps, the police and FRSC would deploy 2,100 personnel for the election.
While the FRSC would post 1,500 officers, Shittu explained that the Amotekun Corps would have 600 men on election duty.
The FRSC spokesman, Bisi Kazeem in a statement explained that the corps operatives drafted to cover the election had equally been mandated to clear obstructions from the roads, carry out rescue operations in case of emergencies, and maintain orderliness at polling booths.
It read in part, “To ensure that the Corps plays an effective role in the elections, the Corps Marshal has directed the deployment of 1,500 personnel of the Corps and 35 vehicles including tow trucks, ambulances to strengthen enforcement of restrictions during the entire process of the election.”
APC, PDP disagree
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party on Tuesday traded blame over alleged pre-election vote-buying.
The Director of Media and Strategy in Osun PDP, Oladele Oluwabamiji, in a chat with The PUNCH, accused the APC of paying N20,000 to residents for a permanent voter card and called on the security agencies to arrest the trend.
But in a swift reaction, the Media Adviser to the Osun State APC Chairman, Kola Olabisi, said the PDP should prove its allegation, saying it was the opposition that was planning to buy votes.
Oluwabamiji said security agents had been alerted to the alleged vote-buying by the APC through petitions and lamented the lack of action on the complaint.
Asked what the party was doing to prevent vote-buying during the poll, Oluwabamiji, who said only security agents could arrest the situation, expressed hope that the relevant authorities would act and prevent people from resorting to self-help.
Oluwabamiji said, “We know that is what they are doing already, we have always been bombarded with information that they (APC) are collecting people’s voter cards and giving them N20,000 per PVC. They have started it already and I believe so strongly that they will continue with it on Saturday.”
But Olabisi dismissed the allegation, saying with the performance of Governor Oyetola, APC would not resort to vote-buying before winning the election.
He said, “whoever alleges must prove. It is just a mere allegation, baseless without any iota of truth. It is what they are doing that they are accusing APC of. APC does not need to buy a vote before it can win the election because Oyetola’s achievements have already done 80 percent of the work for him.
“We don’t know if some people are planning to buy votes because vote-buying is not in the dictionary of the APC. But the PDP is found of pushing out what they want to do. They are just accusing Oyetola and APC of what they intend to do.”
Speaking at the Election Stakeholders’ meeting held in Osogbo on Tuesday, the Inspector-General of Police, Baba Alkali, said 21, 000 policemen would be deployed for the governorship election.
The meeting was attended by the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Osun Election, Johnson Kokumo, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, and some candidates participating in the election, among others.
Alkali, who warned that the police would not allow any person or group of persons, no matter how highly placed in the society, to derail the electoral process, also noted that vote-buying or any form of inducement would not be allowed as they remained serious offences.
Speaking earlier, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Osun, Prof. Abdulganniy Raji, said to ensure that the Commission announces the results in less than 12 hours, all the stakeholders must collaborate and work towards a common goal of a free and conclusive poll.
According to him, all non-sensitive materials were already batched to polling unit level and ready to be conveyed to the RACs, while sensitive materials should arrive on Tuesday.
Mahmood in his remarks, said as an indication of the intense national and international interest in the 2022 Osun governorship election, 87 observer groups comprising 79 domestic and 8 international, deploying a total of 7,790 field observers have been accredited for the poll.
About 476, 062 Permanent Voter Cards remain uncollected three days to the Osun State governorship election, the INEC chairman has said.
Yakubu added that so far, 76 percent of registered voters had already received their PVCs.
“I appeal to all registered voters that have yet to collect their PVCs to seize the opportunity of the additional measures to do so. Many of the PVCs have already been collected by citizens. Of the 1,955,657 registered voters in Osun State, 1,479,595 (or 76 percent) have collected their cards as of Sunday, July 10, 2022,” the INEC boss said.
A former INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Lai Olurode, said the high number of uncollected PVCs may be caused by various factors including the death of some registered voters, relocation or just voter apathy.
Meanwhile, the INEC chairman has restated the importance of the Osun election which is the last major poll before the 2023 presidential election which comes up in seven months.
Yakubu added that all non-sensitive materials for the election had been delivered to all 30 Local Government Area offices across the state.
He said for more effective supervision of the process, INEC would deploy five national commissioners, 12 Resident Electoral Commissioners and many senior officials to support the state office.
The INEC boss stated that the collection of PVCs from the 30 LGA offices had been devolved to each of the 332 Wards across the state, thereby increasing the number of collection centres and bringing the process closer to voters.
Yakubu said the distribution of PVCs would continue till Thursday.
He also called on the National Assembly to speedily pass the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal Bill.
An associate of Atiku said the former Vice-President, who has been out of the country for nearly a month, will return on Wednesday (today).
Ahead of the Saturday governorship election in Osun state, the President of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, Sukubo Sara-Igbe Sukubo has urged the electorate, particularly the youths not to sell their votes but choose candidates who have the competence and capacity to ensure delivery of dividends of democracy.
Sukubo gave the advise Ilorin, Kwara state on Tuesday at a one-day youth leadership seminar for youths in the North Central, with the theme: ‘Youth and Leadership in Nigeria:2023 in Perspective.’
An analyst, and President, Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative, Olusola Owonikoko, described vote-buying as a form of rigging, arguing that security personnel deployment may not be able to stop it.
A lawyer, Sunny Anyanwu, said vote-buying was rife because the government lacked the will to conduct transparent elections.