…urges adequate security around border polling units
…says military overstretched, funding inadequate
…true federalism, state police, power devolution to shape poll
…says Nigeria has 60,000 abandoned projects estimated at N12trn
Ex-Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.- Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, fears the security challenges facing the country could pose a potential threat to the 2023 election. Delivering a paper at the BluePribt Public Lecture & Impact Series/Awards entitled: “2023 Politics: National Security And Nigeria’s Stability” in Abuja yesterday, the former Minister of Interior called for total reform of the security sector to deal with the bandits, terrorists and other criminals terrorizing the populace. He fears terrorists will continue to attack soft targets, preventing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting elections in some communities.
The retired army chief said: “Would insecurity affect the 2023 elections? Surely it would, because Punishsome of the community would still be displaced and the terrorists would likely continue attacks on soft targets, INEC officials and ad hoc staff would be highly apprehensive despite the assurance by the government to protect them. Access to polling units in border communities may pose some difficulties. This is a more reason adequate security must be provided. “As we also prepare for the election, we should also think of the possibility of an attack on the election process by violent groups.
The security threats against the 2023 election are not limited to the activities of terror groups in the North but also the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South East.” According to him, issues such as true federalism, state police and power devolution may affect the election. However, he expressed confidence in the ability of the Muhammadu Buhari government to ensure a free, credible and violencefree election. Dambazau said: “The most extreme view in the debate is that the 1999 Constitution should be completely discarded for an entirely new one. “In general, however, the agenda of the restructuring debate consists of such items as true federalism, state police, and devolution of power, regional autonomy, ethnic nationalities, sovereign national conference, and resource control. “These issues are likely to resurface in the 2023 election campaigns and debates as they did with the Obasanjo, Jonathan, and Buhari presidencies. “Identity politics, resulting from the politicization of religion and ethnicization of politics, is another factor likely to have farreaching consequences on 2023 politics.”
He also said the decision of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to go into the presidential poll with a Muslim-Muslim ticket might have intensified arguments/divisions in the polity along ethnic lines. He made a case for adequate security at polling units around border areas to guarantee the sanctity and inviolability of ballots.
The former COAS said the military is overstretched, even as he claimed that “inadequate funding” may not have helped the situation. He said: “This situation the military finds itself underscores the fact that the institution is overstretched amidst inadequate funding to carry out these duties effectively and efficiently.” Dambazau added: “Countering the activities of the violent groups requires a multi-dimensional approach, and the civilian population must be fully involved.
If clerics could encourage their congregations to give maximum support to the security forces the way they directed them to register with INEC and collect their PVCs, the efforts of the security forces would greatly improve. “Out of fear or sympathy, some civilians directly or indirectly support these violent criminals in carrying out their dastardly acts.” He said winning the “hearts and minds” is a necessary factor in win-ning counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations.
The ex-minister said: “With the total strength of less than 200,000 of all ranks, the armed forces have a serious deficiency in the required strength necessary to deal with the kind of security challenges we are confronting in Nigeria. “This is in addition to the fact that they have the constitutional responsibility of defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country with a land size of 923,768 sq. km, and a population of over 200 million people.” The ex-COAS, however, raised concerns that the country is battling with no fewer than 60, 000 abandoned projects, which he estimated at N12 trillion.