The Presidential campaign organisations of the Peoples Democratic Party, the All Progressives Congress and the Labour Party have demanded increased security on campaign grounds.
Speaking against the backdrop of the terror alerts issued on Sunday by the United States Mission and British High Commission in Nigeria, the councils also insisted that they would not suspend their rallies.
The groups spoke to The PUNCH on Monday on behalf of their presidential candidates; Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Bola Tinubu (APC) and Peter Obi of the LP.
This is as the police pledged to deploy more personnel on campaign grounds and strengthen security nationwide.
The US and the UK in the security alerts warned their citizens in Nigeria about the risk of attacks by terrorists across the country, especially in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The warnings noted that the targets might include government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, sports gatherings, transport terminals, law enforcement facilities, and international organizations.
But speaking on the development, the PDP vowed to go ahead with its campaigns in preparation for the 2023 general elections.
A spokesperson for the PDP council, Kola Ologbondiyan, tasked the Federal Government to provide adequate security not just at campaign rallies but across the length and breadth of the country.
He said, “We have no plan to suspend our campaigns because of this terror alert. We will continue to take our message to rescue our country to all Nigerians wherever they are. We are determined to win this election come 2023. So, suspending campaigns because of this is totally unnecessary.’’
Asked if the party needs extra protection at its campaign grounds on account of the terror alerts, the former PDP National Publicity Secretary stated, “We can’t ask for any extra protection but it behoves on the Federal Government to provide security for all of us. That we are members of the opposition does not stop them from protecting us.’’
This comes as the National Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party, Abayomi Arabambi said the police must provide security at rallies, noting that the party had written to the police for protection.
“Although officially we have written for protection, we will not mind taking private security (guards) who will be loyal to the cause,’’ he stated.
He added, ‘’With or without the US security advisory alert, Labour Party is already under attack from the APC-led Federal Government. Our supporters were attacked in Lagos, Bayelsa and Ebonyi during rallies and even recently by the Iyaloja General of Lagos in conjunction with Governor Sanwo-Olu where our members trade. They were forced to pay N5,000 for the Tinubu rally. If you cannot pay, they take over their shops. It was all over the media, yet security agencies closed their eyes to this.”
But Emeka Obasi, media aide to Labour Party’s candidate, Peter Obi, on Monday gave condition for suspending the rallies.
Obi’s media aide believes campaigns and rallies should not be sacrificed for human lives.
He said, “These are human lives we are talking about. I think it is high time all the presidential candidates in this election sat the president down and discuss the insecurity issue. Otherwise, it is not going to be business as usual for people to go out anyhow for rallies.
“What if along the way, something happens to some people? Imagine if a bomb blast goes off somewhere, every party, not just LP, is likely to postpone or cancel their campaign outright. Insecurity is a very serious issue.
“On our part, we are not taking the security alert lightly because this is coming directly from the US Intelligence. For an American government to issue a such alert, it is not for nothing. Terror is terror everywhere. Nobody is safe.
“This is why I mentioned earlier that my principal is not something that will ignore this kind of threat and pretend all is well.
“But I can assure you that if there are some flashpoints or areas that are not safe for the campaign, my principal will stop it. He doesn’t like risking people’s lives.”
Similarly, the Spokesperson for Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo explained that the council had a security directorate that could handle any safety issues during the APC rallies.
“We have a directorate that is in charge of security. That is one of the reasons the particular directorate was set up. Any proactive steps regarding security threat, they will take care of it adequately,’’ the Minister of State, Labour and Employment stated.
When asked if the party would suspend its rallies because of the security advisory, Keyamo said, “We have not taken any of such decision yet. But I don’t think there is any cause for alarm.”
On what strategies would be deployed in the light of the latest terror alert by the US, Keyamo said such measures cannot be discussed publicly.
“You know security matters cannot be discussed in public. All I can assure you is that we have a security department, which will take care of such threats adequately,’’ he added.
But a member of the APC PCC, Nichola Felix, in an interview with The PUNCH, said there was no need to suspend campaigns. He, however, advised that security should be beefed up at campaigns.
Felix, who is the Deputy Youth coordinator of the APC PCC, stated, “I don’t think the alert is strong enough to want to make the APC cancel any campaign. But, of course, there will be a need to reinforce. I was just watching on TV how the DSS was telling everybody to be at alert. I want to believe every political party will take extra precaution because of this.
On the need to deploy more policemen and soldiers, the former presidential aspirant stated, “We should be expecting that. But it is not strong enough to call for outright cancellation of campaign or rallies. After all, the Federal Government did not say people shouldn’t gather. It only said people should be at alert.”
The Presidential Campaign Spokesman of the New Nigerian Peoples Party, Ladipo Johnson, said his party was mindful of the security situation, adding that the council had a security committee tasked with the responsibility of ensuring NNPP members’ safety at the rallies.
He further explained that the party would not endanger its members, adding that the council would request police or military support if needed.
Johnson stated, ‘’We have a robust security committee that has been set up for such a purpose. Where there is a need for police and soldiers’ protection, we will get it. I am sure part of the announcement that will be aired on Thursday will address it.
‘’We are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that our venues are safe and secured. We pray that by and large, we do not lose people unnecessarily from whichever party, not just NNPP, during this period.
‘’At the same time, we believed that we cannot be cowed by terrorists and people who do not mean well for this country. We will stand up to them notwithstanding which party we belong to until peace is restored in this country when, by God’s grace, government changes come next year. But we may also need to postpone rallies in some areas if the need arises.’’
Addressing the anxiety sparked by the security warnings, the Force spokesman, Muyiwa Adejobi urged political parties and candidates to involve the police in their plans.
He said, “Political parties and candidates are urged to put the police in their plans, get us informed about your activities to assist the police in their deployments to provide security for them as required.
“Political parties and candidates should inform the police of their gatherings and campaigns, and work with the police to fortify their campaign grounds to forestall any attacks or breakdown of law and order.
‘’They’re expected to seek the services of police anti-bomb unit to always sweep their campaign grounds, and work with the police and other approved security agencies for crowd control, traffic control, which are very crucial.’’
Assuring the nation of the police plan to secure the nation, the force headquarters said more deployments will be made to enhance national security.
“We will jack up our deployment for political activities considering the number of participants, for crowd and traffic control etc. So, we need to work with them (parties) for better security during the electioneering process,’’ the police maintained.
As part of its security strategy, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, has ordered all 36 states Commissioners of Police, including that of the FCT, and the head of police tactical squads, to restrategize the security management within their jurisdictions.
He also has announced a counter-terrorism incident simulation exercise which will take place in the nation’s capital, tagged, ‘Operation Darkin Gaggawa.’
The exercise will hold within the Force Headquarters and the Police Officers Wives Association School in Abuja, between Tuesday (Today) and Wednesday.
The exercise would involve the diversion of traffic, use of blank ammunition, and other operational manpower and assets, and is designed to improve interoperability and synergy between different units and formations of the Force in response to terrorist incidents and other violent crimes.
In a statement on Monday, Adejobi disclosed that the force would review the US and UK security advisories while strengthening security structures across the country for proactiveness.
Adejobi also noted that a review of the advisory was necessary, adding that the Police, as the lead agency in internal security, would not take any threat intelligence, either actionable or not, for granted.
“It read, “The Nigeria Police Force hereby reassures Nigerians and all other residents and visitors in the country that it will effectively review the United States of America Embassy in Abuja’s security advisory which was issued, widely circulated, and published by the media on October 23, 2022, indicating an elevated risk of terror attacks in the country, particularly in the capital city of Abuja.”
‘’The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, has however ordered the Commissioner of Police in charge of the FCT, heads of tactical squads domiciled in the FCT, and other State Command CPs to re-strategize security management within their jurisdictions, as the Force Headquarters will continually avail them with the required support, logistics, and deployments necessary for providing safety to all and sundry in Nigeria. While the NPF will continually work with other security agencies to make every part of Nigeria safe, especially the FCT,’’ the statement read.
The Director, Defence Information, Major General Jimmy Akpor, said the intelligence community was aware of the imminent terror attack and had put mechanisms in place to nip it in the bud.
Akpor said, “Though the UK and the US embassies have raised the alert. Before it filtered to the embassies, the intelligence community have been on top of the situation.
“The press, covering it, however, would only alarm and inflame the situation. It would serve no purpose unless it would stoke fear in the minds of Abuja residents. So, without any violent act of terrorism, the terrorists would have yet achieved their objective, because the primary objective of terrorism is to instil fear.”
The Department of State Services has also urged citizens to stay alert and assist security agencies with information on suspicious criminals in their neighbourhoods.
The DSS Public Relations Officer, Peter Afunanya in a statement urged Nigerians to remain calm, adding that necessary actions have been taken to prevent such an attack from happening.
There seems to be no end in sight in the crisis plaguing the People’s Democratic Party, as Governor Nyesom Wike has said those who disrespect Rivers State and disregard its electoral importance do not deserve the state electorate’s votes in the 2023 general elections.
Governor Wike spoke during the inauguration of the Rivers State People’s Democratic Party campaign council in Port Harcourt on Monday.
Recall that Wike had insisted that there will be no peace in the party unless the embattled national Chairman, Senator Iyorcha Ayu resigns to pave the way for a Southerner to replace him.
He pointed to how the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar picked people from Rivers State as members of the presidential campaign council without any input from him, indicating that they do not want the state (Rivers) to be part of what they are doing.
Wike said, “The presidential candidate entered Rivers State and picked those he wants to pick without the contribution of the governor. So, they said they don’t need me to campaign for them. They don’t need Rivers people to campaign for them. Will you force yourself on them?
“So, let’s campaign for those who have asked us to campaign for them here in the state, the governorship candidate, the senatorial candidates and others.”