At least 13 different groups of Civil society organisations have applauded the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun over his redeployment of the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Ahmed Barde.
However, the groups insisted that more needed to be done by the police hierarchy to ensure the neutrality of security agencies during the November 11 Imo State Governorship Election.
The CSOs said: “More needs to be done to guarantee a peaceful, free, fair and credible electoral process and outcome.”
It should be recalled that CSOs had accused the CP Barde of being partisan and dancing the tune of the governor, Hope Uzodinma. This followed the alleged assault on the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero. The NLC had given Egbetokun an ultimatum to redeploy Barde or else face an industrial strike, the IGP had immediately complied and redeployed Barde.
The CSOs in a statement said: “We, the undersigned civil society organizations in Nigeria, welcome the redeployment of Commissioner of Police Mohammad Ahmed Barde from Imo State Police Command.
“However, we note that this measure falls short of the far-reaching measures necessary and urgent to address the serious security concerns surrounding the Imo State gubernatorial election, especially the need to rein in all partisan security agents, pro-government militia, and other mercenary armed groups, which are major instruments of violence and sources of threats to electoral integrity in the state.
“The IGP, the INEC Chairman, and President Tinubu must urgently take more far-reaching measures to reassure Imo citizens of their genuine commitment to ensuring that there will be no interference from security agencies, other merchants of violence, or compromised INEC officials in the Imo State gubernatorial election.
“They must also put in place all necessary measures to guarantee a free, fair, and credible election. These measures include redeploying the Commander of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the Imo State Police Command located at Tiger Base, Owerri, reining in Mr Chinasa Nwaneri, the Special Adviser on Special Duties to Governor Hope Uzodinma and redeploying SP Shaba Adamu, the Chief Security Officer in the Imo State Government House who is said to be the man that lays down the strategies for attacks.
“Also on the list is the Imo state Director of the DSS, Mr Wilcox under whose command the Ebubeagu militia of the Imo State Government operates. These men have been identified as key to the ongoing culture of impunity, including the unleashing of terror on political opponents and the violation of the fundamental rights of Imo citizens generally.
“During the state assembly elections in March 2023, both Chinasa Nwaneri and the commander of Of Tigar Base played key and documented roles in unleashing terror and intimidation on political opponents and the electorate, as well as the suppression and manipulation of votes.
They were reported to have rampaged across polling units in the state with armoured vehicles harassing voters, disrupting and suppressing votes and manipulating election results in favour of the incumbent Governor and his political party.
“Videos abound online of Policemen hijacking electoral materials with Armoured Personnel Carriers. The Police under Barde also deployed an Armoured Personnel Carrier to a private individual who was also a candidate in the election on election day.
“Ola and other operatives of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit, Imo State Police Command, have been accused of involvement in the harassment and violent attacks on political opponents in the state, including attacks on the home of Federal House member Ikenga Ugochinyere on three occasions.
“Despite evidence of the perpetrators’ identities, there have been no investigations into these attacks. They were also involved in the recent attack and brutalization of the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) President on November 1, 2023, and in preventing Chief Athan Achonu, the Labor Party candidate in the November 11 governorship election in Imo, from accessing and entering a church premise where he was invited for a religious event on November 5, 2023.
“The Commander of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad at Tiger Base, Mr. Ola, is long overdue for redeployment and appropriate disciplinary action for his many brazen unprofessional and criminal activities and gross human rights violations in Imo State.
“We believe that the deployment of Barde will make no difference if the entire structures of terror and intimidation in Imo State, led by Chinasa Nwaneri and the Commander of the anti-kidnapping squad, are not dismantled.
“We are disappointed that the Nigeria Police, in announcing the redeployment of Barde, emphasized that it was not an indictment. This is the same Commissioner of Police who provided security cover for the illegal announcement of results in the Adamawa governorship election, by a person not lawfully authorized to do so, while vote counts were still ongoing.
“In the query issued to him by the former Inspector-General of Police, who ordered his immediate withdrawal from Adamawa on account of his misconduct, his actions were described, inter alia, as “disgraceful” and “unbecoming” of a senior police officer occupying the high position of Commissioner of Police. What could be more indicting?
“The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Imo State, Prof. Sylvia Agu, is also in league with those positioned to undermine the election. Her connection with the ruling party in Imo State, her partisan disposition and her inability to act with neutrality and impartiality are neither hidden nor undisguised.
“No credible governorship election can be achieved in Imo with Ola and the terror squad operating from the government house and with Prof. Sylvia Agu as REC.”
Members of the CSOs added: “The should order the immediate redeployment of Ola, the Commander of the rogue Anti-Kidnapping Unit (Tiger Base), Imo State Command for his partisan roles and gross violation of human rights.
“The IGP should take genuine measures to ensure that all police officers act in line with professional standards and, in particular, in line with the Code of Conduct for Security Agents on Election Duty.
“Security agents and all armed thugs and mercenary groups interfering with the electoral process must be apprehended and disciplined accordingly.
“INEC must focus more attention on the conduct of its officials and staff, including the National and Resident Electoral Commissioners, to identify and address any form of misconduct.
“The Commission must resist political interference in election management, increase oversight of elections administration, and work with security agencies to tackle vote buying.”
The 13 groups are listed as Alliance for Credible Elections, Abuja, RULAAC, Lagos, Centre for Citizens Rights, Lafia, Initiative for Social Development in Africa (iSODAF), Niger State, Women Literacy and Vocational Development Initiative (WOLIVODI), Niger State, Bauchi Human Rights Network (BAHRN), Bauchi State, Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation (HURSDEF) Rivers State, Better Community Life Initiative, Imo State, FENRAD. Abia State, Rainbow Watch and Development Centre, Rivers State, Centre for Human Rights Advocacy and Wholesome Society (CEHRAWS), Abia State, DIG Foundation, Ebonyi State and Initiative for Safety, Security and Educational Development in Nigeria network, Enugu State.
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