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MATTERS ARISING: With attacks on the rise — how feasible is Anambra guber election?

MATTERS ARISING: With attacks on the rise — how feasible is Anambra guber election?
October 07
09:36 2021

On September 28, Chike Akunyili, husband to the late Dora Akunyili, ex-minister of information and communication was shot dead by gunmen. 

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Akunyuli was reportedly killed alongside his police escort and one Aloysius, his driver.

Two days later, gunmen set ablaze the Ajali divisional police headquarters in Orumba north LGA in the state.

Three persons, including police officers and a civilian sustained gunshot wounds in the attack.

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On October 3, the violent attack took another dimension as gunmen set ablaze the operational base of the Department of State Services (DSS) and an office of the Federal Road Safety Corps in Nnewi, the commercial capital of the state.

The gunmen were said to have invaded the town in four Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs).

They also set ablaze the house of Joe Igbokwe, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in Nnewi.

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Igbokwe, in a now deleted Facebook post, accused the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of setting his house on fire.

During the attack in Nnewi, two persons were reportedly shot dead, including one person who was recording the attack.

These attacks are a fraction of the multiple violent attacks that have occurred in Anambra and other parts of the south-east in the past 10 months.

ANAMBRA ELECTION AND THE BIG SECURITY QUESTION

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On November 6, registered voters in Anambra state are expected to go to the poll to elect another governor that will pilot the affairs of the state for the next four years.

However, the recent security situation in the state and other parts of the south-east has cast a doubt on the chances of conducting the election this year.

Some stakeholders have argued that with the security situation in the south-east, particularly in Anambra, there are chances that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will not be able to organise the election in a security-challenged environment.

The offices of INEC have not been spared in the arsons as gunmen attacked the commission’s office in Awka, the state capital, on May 23.

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Political campaigns have also witnessed a share of the violent attacks as gunmen attacked members of the APC during the party’s rally at Uruagu, Nnewi, leading to the death of a party chieftain, on September 26.

On the same day, the gunmen set ablaze a car belonging to Nelson Omenugha, the leader of Chukwuma Soludo campaign team, in Nnobi, Idemili south LGA, where three people were reportedly killed.

The big question is: will the November 6 election be conducted amid the security tension?

THE RUMOURED THREAT AND IPOB’S SIT-AT-HOME ORDERS

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The violent attacks in Anambra and many parts of the south-east have been widely attributed to the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra and its security outfit, Eastern Security Network (ESN) — a claim that the proscribed group has repeatedly denied.

It has also been rumoured that IPOB may declare a sit-at-home in Anambra on the day of the election in a bid to frustrate the conduct of the election in the state.

According to media reports, the sit-at-home order issued by the proscribed group, in recent weeks, especially with the detention of Nnamdi Kanu, its leader, witnessed total compliance in Anambra and parts of the south-east.

The enforcement of these sit-at-home orders by non-state actors resulted in a series of attacks on those who defied the order.

Owing to IPOB’s sit-at-home orders, many stakeholders are worried that if the proscribed group decide to declare a sit-at-home on the day of the election in Anambra, it may lead to voter apathy.

The enforcement of the order may also spark violence that could mar the conduct of the election.

IPOB: WE’VE NOT ISSUED ANY OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON ANAMBRA ELECTION

The proscribed group, in a statement, on September 29, said it has not issued  any official statement on the governorship election in Anambra.

The secessionist group said it is not interested in politics and that those saying governorship election will not hold in Anambra are not its members.

IPOB denied involvement in the killings going on in the south-east, alleging that they are politically motivated.

“We also wish to clarify that IPOB has never issued any official statement that there would be no governorship election in Anambra State. Those peddling such rumour are not our members, and should be ignored,” IPOB said.

“Our position on Anambra election will be made public at the right time through our normal channels of information dissemination. Anything to the contrary should be disregarded. Members of the public should stop believing social media fake stories purported to have emanated from IPOB.”

INEC EXPRESSES SECURITY CONCERNS BUT DETERMINED TO ORGANISE THE ELECTION

In May, INEC raised concerns that attacks on some of its offices, especially in the south-east, are impeding early preparations for the 2023 general election.

With less than one month to Anambra election, Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, on Tuesday, said the commission is worried that the goal of the masterminds of violent attacks in Anambra is for the governorship election not to take place.

Yakubu said the commission has almost recovered from the destruction of some of its election materials and that if it again loses vital materials and facilities, the ongoing preparations will be adversely affected.

The chairman said the commission is also concerned about the safety of voters and its staff, which include members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), during the election.

He said the commission will continue to work with security agencies, stakeholders in the state and the National Peace Committee to ensure that the attacks do not ruin the electoral process.

EFFORTS OF SECURITY AGENCIES

On Sunday, the Nigerian Army launched a new exercise codenamed ‘Golden Dawn’ in the south-east.

New military operations were also launched across divisions in the south-west and south-south.

According to the army, the exercises, which are routine, are to stem the tide of criminality as Christmas approaches.

On Tuesday, Usman Baba, inspector-general of police (IGP), ordered the posting of Eworo Echeng to Anambra as the new commissioner of police for the state.

The posting of the new police commissioner to Anambra is to take effect immediately.

Baba also deployed special forces in the state to beef up security and ensure the safety of the lives and property of residents.

THREAT OF EMERGENCY RULE

On Wednesday, the federal government threatened to declare a state of emergency in Anambra to ensure that the November 6 governorship election in the state takes place.

Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, said the government has a responsibility to protect citizens.

“And you cannot rule out the possibility of declaration of state of emergency where it is established, in essence, that there is a failure on the part of the state government to ensure the sanctity of security of lives, properties and democratic order,” Malami said.

PREVIOUS THREAT AND RECONCILIATION

This will not be the first time the Anambra governorship election will be shrouded in uncertainty.

In the build-up to the state governorship election in 2017, IPOB had threatened that the election would not take place as scheduled on November 18, 2017.

It took the intervention of Ala-Igbo international foundation, a non-governmental organisation, for IPOB to withdraw the threat and the election was conducted.

At the moment, the possibility of conducting a peaceful election in Anambra is still up in the air. Only time will tell if the election will be conducted on the scheduled date.

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