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.”