Former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mike Mbama Okiro, has said that police officers who sit back and watch while criminal elements threaten voters and also orchestrate violence at their polling units should be sanctioned.
Okiro who said this while condemning intimidation of voters and other violence during Presidential and National Assembly polls, said it is imperative for him to air his concern because Nigerians and the international community monitored the exercise.
The former IGP also urged the current Inspector General, Alkali Baba and other service chiefs not to allow miscreants to tarnish the image of the country.
“Some observers, for example, said they witnessed 135 incidents involving but not limited to seizure or snatching of ballot boxes by armed gangs and political thugs, vote-buying, delays and irregularities.
“These resulted in delay in uploading results from each of 176,000 polling units to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) portal.
“What strikes me most, and which are objectionable and condemnable is violence and voter-intimidation, especially use of gunmen and thugs to harass, scare away voters and officials, as well as snatching of ballot boxes.
“Sadly, some policemen were accused of watching while the violence was orchestrated. In some domains, some were accused of threatening voters to vote certain candidates against or face consequences, like being driven away where they live.
“In other areas, property are destroyed, ostensibly to cow them to vote for candidates not their choice. Should such conduct still be trailing Nigeria in the 21st century? The answer is NO!
“The Constitution guarantees freedom of movement as well as freedom of Nigerians to reside in any part of the country without molestation. It stipulates freedom to vote and be voted for in any part of the country.
“Any Nigerian has the right to contest election in any part of the country once such a citizen is qualified to stand for election. Citizens should not be forced or cowed to vote for or pander to dictates of any candidate other than the candidate of their choice.
“Therefore, as the governorship and House of Assembly elections hold on Saturday, March 18, I implore the social media to be vigilant and aggressive in capturing video clips of violence involving armed gangs and thugs hired to disrupt the polls.
“Persons, no matter how highly or lowly placed, threatening or forcing Nigerians to vote for candidates not their choice are not exempted, including policemen who watch irregularities and violence being perpetrated.
“Such social media report should be explicit with the state, local government, ward, polling unit or specific domain where such incidents are witnessed. The report should also be signed or bear the name of the reporter so it will not be dismissed as fake news by investigators.
“By the same token, I implore the IGP to deal with policemen who watch while violence is being committed by hired gunmen, thugs and sundry election miscreants and offenders.”