Kogi election: Police uncover plans to import thugs, arms
The police on Friday alerted the public to an intelligence report that some people were trying to smuggle arms and thugs into Kogi State ahead of the governorship election to hold today.
The Deputy Inspector-General of Police, in charge of Operations, Mr. Sotonye Wakama, who disclosed this, said for that reason, travellers going into the state should expect to be searched thoroughly.
Wakama also announced restriction of movements in the state from 6.30am on Saturday till after the election.
He advised travellers who planned to pass through the state to take alternative routes.
Kogi State is a major link between the Northern and Southern parts of the country with Abuja/Lokoja Road recording heavy traffic daily.
The AIG stated that the directive was to ensure violence-free election and aide security agencies, as well as other accredited personnel involved in the conduct of the election to do their jobs unhindered.
He also warned the public that there would be thorough screening of people.
He said, “If you know you are going to travel and pass through Kogi for any reason, I will suggest that you postpone or delay that trip, if you can. Or perhaps, you can take a more circuitous route and go round Kogi rather than through Kogi. Or if you can, you can take a flight.
“There are two basic reasons for this. First. if you are coming through Kogi and you are going to other states for business, it is certain that you will be stopped and screened because we have intelligence that some people are trying to move in arms and thugs.
“So we will screen everybody thoroughly. This will amount to inconvenience to some of those legitimate road users. If they can avoid it, they can pass around Kogi.
“The second reason is that, it will prove to be a distraction to the police and other law enforcement agencies from our duties on election day and we do not want to be distracted.”
Wakawa said, “The IGP has asked me to be here to supervise the election.
“As far as the police and other sister agencies assisting us are concerned, our duty is to protect lives and property and this extends to the lives of the personnel of the Independent National Electoral Commission and their materials. It includes the voters, and by extension, the inhabitants of Kogi State.
“There will be restriction of movement on Saturday from 6.30am until after the election. The restriction of vehicular movement is to enable operational staff of the INEC and law enforcement agents to go about their businesses unhindered, and for registered voters to go to polling booths and cast their votes without any hindrance.”
He described the restriction of movement as important while noting that there would be inconveniences as Kogi is a hub of travellers in the country.
Meanwhile, there was tension in major towns of Kogi State on Friday as the Independent National Electoral Commission concluded arrangements for today’s governorship election in the state.
Saturday PUNCH’s correspondents observed that the tension was heightened by fear of likely violence among residents as well as accusations and counter-accusations by supporters of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the opposition All Progressives Congress.
The governorship election did not hold in the state in the last general elections because the incumbent governor is yet to complete his four-year term in office.
As early as 8am, residents of Lokoja, the state capital, stormed Felele, Kabwa, Lokongoma and Kanaja markets to buy foodstuffs and other consumable items.
The state government had declared Friday as a work-free day as part of preparations for the election.
There was fear among residents that the election could be marred by violence following reports of “importation of small arms into the state.”
A resident of Lokoja, Idris Abdulsalam, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, said, “There have been reports that some people are bringing arms into the state, but we have been assured by the security agencies that the election will be peaceful.”
Armed policemen were seen patrolling major towns, including Lokoja, Ankpa, Kabba, Okene and Idah.
11,000 policemen for 2,548 polling units
Amid tension ahead of the election, there was massive deployment of police officers in the state on Friday.
The Kogi State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ovye Williams, said that the police had deployed 11,000 personnel to man the 2,548 polling units in the state.
He added that 4,969 anti-riot police officers had been deployed to complement the conventional police personnel.
Our correspondents observed that there had been periodic patrol by police officers, especially in Lokoja, the state capital. Also there had been helicopter surveillance in the city.