The military, police and the Department of State Services have begun massive raids on the hideouts of hoodlums as a pre-emptive measure to curb violence during Saturday’s general election.
As part of the crackdown, no fewer than 63 suspected thugs were arrested in Kano on Thursday after hoodlums attacked the New Nigeria Peoples Party supporters.
It was learnt that at least four persons were killed while 10 vehicles were destroyed during the attack which occurred at noon along Naibawa-Zaria Road.
It was learnt that the NNPP supporters were on their way to Kwanar Dangora on the outskirts of the city to receive the party’s presidential candidate, Rabiu Kwankwaso when the incident happened.
Kwankwaso was on his way to Kano for the grand finale of his presidential campaign rally.
Our correspondent gathered that the NNPP, the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressive Congress had mobilised their members to drum up support for their presidential and national assembly candidates but their plans were scuttled by the violence.
The Public Relations Officer of the state Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Ibrahim Abdullahi confirmed the arrest of 63 suspects to The PUNCH.
He said 40 suspected thugs were initially apprehended and handed over to the police but another set of 23 suspects were also arrested in connection with the attack.
“We have arrested about 63 suspected thugs for disrupting public peace, wielding dangerous weapons, burning vehicles and snatching handsets from people. They are going to be investigated before being arraigned in court, “ Abdullahi said.
Meanwhile, the state police command has ordered the immediate suspension of the presidential campaign grand finale planned by the APC, NNPP and the PDP in the state.
The police authorities also summoned the leadership of the three political parties to an emergency meeting on Wednesday evening, where they were cautioned against engaging in acts that could cause a public breach.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mu’azu Mohammed, in a statement, advised the parties to “postpone the planned presidential/national assembly rallies to a later date after the February 25 elections.”
In a related development, the DSS said it recovered dangerous weapons from a property along Airport Road, Nasarawa Local Government Area of the state.
The service in a statement by its spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, described untrue allegations by a party in the state that it was intimidating its members.
Although the service did not disclose the party, checks by our correspondent revealed that the Kano State chapter of the NNPP had earlier accused the service of intimidating its members and carrying out raids on its campaign offices in the state.
But Afunanya, who said the operation was intelligence-driven, questioned how the weapons got to the property.
The statement partly read, “To achieve the desired environment for the elections, the service engaged in proactive and intelligence-led operations across states.
‘’For instance, on February 22, 2023, the service conducted a legally backed search operation on a property along Airport Road, Nasarawa LGA, Kano State. During the operation, it recovered dangerous weapons including a gun, daggers, swords, and jack-knives from the said building.
‘’Therefore, the accusation that the service intimidated a particular political party in that state is untrue; otherwise, how come those weapons were found there? Are those objects of violence campaign materials?
‘’Whether in Kano or elsewhere, the DSS has provided equal opportunities for all political parties to engage in their lawful activities. We can say this without any form of contradictions or equivocations.”
Reacting to the allegation, the Chief Spokesman for the NNPP Presidential Campaign Council, Ladipo Johnson, said, “Let’s wait for the DSS to identify the party. How can we tell if this is not an attempt to disparage the party on the eve of a very important election? Do you know whether some people deliberately placed the weapons there? It is possible. I haven’t heard anything, but we will find out.’’
Speaking at a joint briefing with select journalists in Abuja on Thursday, the security forces vowed to defend democracy in the country.
The Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Tukur Gusau, warned that a ‘strong force’ would be deployed against those attempting to breach public peace during the elections.
He said, “We are set to conduct a hitch-free election in the country. The Armed Forces of Nigeria is prepared to support the police and other government agencies responsible for conducting elections. The Chief of Defence Staff has sent out strong messages that the AFN is committed to total collaboration with other security agencies to ensure this election is successful.
“The AFN is committed to strong and viable constitutional democracy, we are very loyal to the Nigerian state and we are ready to defend democracy at all costs. During the elections, all our normal operations and duties will continue simultaneously across the country.
“I want to use this opportunity to re-echo the warning of the CDS to undesirable elements that the AFN and other security agencies are ready and will subvert any threats to peace and tranquillity, and strong force will be applied to those that want to breach public peace during the general election. The AFN has adequately sensitised its personnel on their expected roles throughout the election.”
The Force spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, said the police were ready to protect democracy, assuring that the elections would be free and fair.
He said,” Like the military, we are ready to protect democracy, we are ready to give good security to our electoral process so that we can have free, fair, credible and even acceptable general elections in 2023 in the philosophy of Mr President who said he wants free, fair and credible elections. Despite belonging to a political party, he wants to give every Nigerian his rights, and liberty to do whatever he wants to do.”
He added that the ban on the unauthorised use of vehicles, sirens, revolving lights, covered number plates, unregistered vehicles, and tinted glasses was still in force, explaining that police officers on election duties had been ordered to arrest violators of this order.
Adejobi said anyone not enjoying immunity as prescribed by the constitution should not come to the polling units with their security details.
Adejobi said the restriction of movement order would be enforced, insisting that there would be a curb on free movement on election day.
Adejobi said, “The restriction order is very key for all of us to have a well-organized security arrangement for the success of the electoral process. Exceptions to these restrictions include accredited members of the press and essential workers.
The nationwide security operation is happening against the backdrop of the pockets of pre-election violence which had claimed several lives.
On Wednesday night, the Labour Party candidate for Enugu East Senatorial district, Oyibo Chukwu, was attacked and killed while returning from a campaign trip in the Agbani area of Enugu State.
The condition of the three other occupants of the car could not be confirmed.
Also, gunmen believed to be cultists attacked the campaign convoy of the Peoples Democratic Party candidate for Enugu North/South Federal Constituency, Oforchukwu Egbo, killing his driver.
Despite the assurances of the security agencies, gunmen on Wednesday kidnapped Ugoeze Umugborogu, the wife of the traditional ruler of Amuro autonomous community in the Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo State.
The rampaging hoodlums also razed the country homes of the chairmen of the All Progressives Congress and Labour Party in Amuro ward.
The development caused panic in the community as the residents fled their homes.
A source who did not want to be named told our correspondent that the attackers set the houses ablaze immediately after they arrived at the two compounds.
The source said, “Ugoeze Umugborogu, the wife of the late king of the Amuro autonomous community has been kidnapped.
“After kidnapping the woman, the gunmen went to the house of the Labour Party chairman in Amuro ward, Ifediora Umegboroagu and razed it. The man and his family were away when they struck.
“They equally razed the house of the APC chairman in the ward. This is getting out of hand. The government should come to our rescue.”
Okigwe LGA has in the past months become a hotbed for criminal activities.
Just on Tuesday, armed men razed down five houses in the Amagu Ihube community in the Okigwe LGA.
The affected houses belonged to the state commissioner for youths and sports, Emeka Okoronkwo, a former Dean of the Law Faculty of the Imo State University, Nnamdi Obiaraeri, a retired Director of State Security Service, Nnaemeka Ngwu and two others.
Some gunmen had last week torched the country homes of the Labour Party House of Assembly candidate for Okigwe LGA, Nnaemeka Obiaraeri and that of the Director-General of the campaign council for the LP House of Representatives candidate for Okigwe North, Okey Unam.
The spokesperson for the police in the state, Henry Okoye, told our correspondent that he had yet to be briefed on the latest incidents.
In Ebonyi, the series of pre-election violence rocking the state took another gruesome turn as armed men killed Monday Idoko, the chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance in Ohofia Agba Ward, in the Ishielu Local Government Area.
Idoko was reportedly shot in the head at his Onueke village in the Ezza South Council of the state at about 11pm on Wednesday.
A family relative who spoke in tears explained that the assailants dragged out the victim who was asleep before shooting him in the head.
“My brother, the story is very traumatic. It was a family member that alerted me that some unknown armed persons came to their house just before midnight, broke in and dragged him out before shooting him in the head,’’ he stated.
But for providence, the PDP candidate Enugu North/South Federal Constituency, Oforchukwu Egbo, might have been killed during an attack on his campaign convoy on Wednesday night at Eke-Otu in Amechi Awkunanaw, Enugu South Local Government Area of Enugu State.
Although details of the attack were sketchy, it was gathered that the hoodlums killed the driver of a bus in the convoy.
His body, according to reports, was burnt together with the vehicle.
The attack came to light as Enugu residents were mourning the murder of the Labour Party Enugu East Senatorial candidate, Oyibo Chukwu, who was killed on Wednesday night.