By Online Ediitor

• Urge safeguard of INEC’s independence

• How we ensured peaceful elections, by Police

THE governments of the United States and the United Kingdom yesterday advised Nigerians to uphold the sanctity of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), even as the Nigeria Police High Command, yesterday, insisted that it would do all within the ambit of the law to sustain the peace. A joint statement issued by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, and UK Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, welcomed “the largely peaceful vote on March 28,” saying they “have seen no evidence of systemic manipulation of the process.”Abba

According to Kerry and Hammond, the Nigerian people have shown a commendable determination to register their vote and choose their leaders. “Our governments welcome the largely peaceful vote on 28 March… So far, we have seen no evidence of systemic manipulation of the process,” they said.

The statement, which was electronically sent to The Guardian through the Africa Press Organisation (APO), however, raised the red flag, warning of possible plans to scuttle the process. Kerry and Hammond specifically said there are disturbing indications that the collation process – where the votes are finally counted – may be subject to deliberate political interference, which “would contravene the letter and spirit of the Abuja Accord, to which both major parties committed themselves.

They further said that the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom would be “very concerned by any attempts to undermine the independence of the Electoral Commission (INEC), or its Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega; or in any way distort the expressed will of the Nigerian people.”

Meanwhile, Force spokesman, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, an Acting Commissioner of Police, in a chat with The Guardian, said officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force would demonstrate high level of professionalism in the April 11 governorship elections. Ojukwu, in a telephone chat, said the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, had briefed all officers and men through their respective Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and Commissioners of Police on the need to maintain high professionalism throughout the elections. Said Ojukwu:

“What we saw yesterday (Saturday) was a result of good planning, good training and willingness of our officers and men and other security agencies to do the right thing. We are alive to our responsibility at any critical time. “We are ready to ensure continued professionalism by our officers, men and other security agencies. Police will continue to ensure peace, safety of lives and property and stability in our nation.

Nigerians should go about their business without any fear of molestation, as everything has been put in place to ensure safety of lives and property.” Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Cornelius Aderanti, and heads of Navy, Air force, Army, SSS and others, conducted aerial patrol of the metropolis. Aderanti and his colleagues, in helicopter, patrolled Badagry, Epe, Ikorodu and other parts of Lagos from morning till evening.

In Delta State, over 50 persons were arrested for alleged thugery and masterminding chaos. Spokesperson of the Police in Delta State, Celestina Kalu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, said no crisis was recorded. “Delta State was relatively calm. There was no major incident, except for a few people who tried to harass voters. We have arrested over 50 hoodlums.

Our policemen are everywhere and the state is relatively peaceful.” The Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 6 Calabar, Tunde Ogunshakin, noted that his zone was peaceful and that the police would continue to maintain the tempo. “The police is in charge and things are going on well in my zone.’’ Edo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Samuel Adegbuyi, told The Guardian that a man, who visited a polling booth with a gun to disrupt activities, was arrested. “Because our men were not allowed to bear arms on polling booth, they could not do much; so, some persons sustained bullet wounds. But we were able to arrest the suspect with the help of other people around.”

The Assistant Inspector General (AIG) in charge of Zone 2, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu, who moved around Lagos metropolis with his officers and men on Saturday, had urged residents and voters in Lagos to ignore rumours of crisis in some parts of the state. The Police boss, who spoke during his visit to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) resident commissioner in Yaba (during the presidential election), warned hoodlums and thugs to avoid violence during and after the election. Mbu noted that adequate security was put in place to ensure that there was no voter intimidation. According to him, “What we did now has not been done before. We have Commissioners of Police here within Zone 2.

The Commissioner of Police, Port Authority, Airport, Police Cooperatives, Railways commands. A Commissioner of Police heads each of the senatorial zones and they can give directives to the DPO’s and all officers under them. This arrangement is outside the Lagos State Police Command structure. It makes the job easy for the Commands’ Commissioners of police and all of us. “I have seen the Resident Electoral Commissioner and everything is going on well. Don’t listen to rumours. I have received text messages about crisis in some parts, but they were not true. Ignore rumormongers and do your jobs as media practitioners. Any hoodlum or thug that wants to come and snatch ballot box or cause mayhem will face his waterloo,” Mbu warned.

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