By Funke Busari

Nigeria’s general elections have come and gone, but some incidents that trailed the exercise left a sour taste in the mouths of many.

There were reported cases of electoral offences which ranged from ballot box snatching, voter intimidation, harassment and direct physical attacks, and in some cases death.

This drew condemnation from both local and foreign observers.

To many, both the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the police fell short of people’s expectations.

From Lekki to Surulere, there were reported cases of violence which many said were largely due to either inefficiency on the part of the police or outright collusion.

But the Lagos Police Command is trying to wash its hands off the blame.

On Tuesday, there was a parade at the Nigeria Police Force State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba, in Lagos State where suspected electoral offenders were brought before the media.

The media were not allowed to speak with them, but the alleged electoral offenders were accused of several offences. In all, 11 of them were paraded.

It was gathered that during the Presidential, governorship and states Houses of Assembly polls 28 suspects were arrested by the Lagos State Police Command.

Five of the suspects were transferred and exhibits recovered from them were sent to INEC.

Somewhere around Ibeshe during the governorship election, a suspect was arrested for allegedly causing grievous harm and causing a breach of peace. It was reported that the suspect used an object resembling an animal horn to attack his victim.

In Badagry, a suspect, Sunday Awnunu who acted in a way likely to disrupt peace was arrested. He was found with electoral materials.

Findings revealed that he was found with 19 pieces of INEC forms and 16 pieces of electoral materials.

Similarly, during the counting and sorting of ballot papers at the polling unit in Oworoshonki area of Lagos, a suspect, Omaji Oyegwra Kenneth, allegedly perpetrated an electoral offence on March 18, 2023 at No.34, Olorunfemi street Oworoshoki, Lagos. 

The suspect allegedly threatened INEC officials and voters. He was arrested for conduct likely to cause breach of peace.

He was accused of threatening the INEC official to upload the election result while the INEC official complained of poor network. In the process, the suspect reportedly assaulted the police officer at the polling unit including the INEC official. He has been handed over to the electoral body for prosecution.

In Iyana Ipaja, two suspects were found with electoral materials. The suspects are Okeke Vivian Chinyere and James Sarah Akintola. Electoral material suspected to be fake were recovered from the duo on the 16th March, 2023.

The woman was arrested with INEC identity card (tag) for election duty. She claimed to have printed the tag from one James Sarah Akintola printing office in Ipaja. They were arrested with one Fujistu laptop, 2,549 pieces of INEC Identity card/tag with different inscription namely: Presiding Officer, Collating Officer, and others.

Some other suspects – Chisom Kalu, Charity Hannah, Mike Nwokehia, Elizabeth Adenike and Josepha Agad were arrested in connection with unlawful possession of Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, /Diversion of sensitive electoral materials.

The police spokesman, Benjamin Hundeyin, a Superintendent of Police (SP) said the suspects were arrested for unlawfully possessing and diversions of 114 PVCs, in the Mushin, Aswani and Ojo area of the State.

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Also recovered from the suspects were two ballot boxes, one BVAS machine and three ballot papers. They have been handed over to INEC for prosecution.

Also said to be in unlawful possession of firearms was Animashun Kabiru who was picked up at Sabo area of Lagos.

Various exhibits, including two jack knives, small axe, pepper spray, one locally made pistols, one dagger and charms were items recovered from him.

Some criminally-minded persons who failed to stay away from crime were also arrested for allegedly engaging in criminal activities.

Hundeyin said: “We did not just look away and concentrate basically on the election, we were still alert in that regard, while the elections were going on, to the build-up to the elections. We were still protecting Lagosians, investigating cases and arresting criminals.”

He mentioned a case of conspiracy and kidnapping. “These are cases that we have concluded and arrested suspects and they are going to be arraigned.

“These people, three of them, specialise in kidnapping and transporting their victims to hideouts and collecting ransom. We were able to arrest them and through painstaking investigation we arrested others. We arrested all the suspects.

“Since they started their criminal activity, in October 2022, they’ve been able to rake in a total of N20, 700, 000.

“On 16th of March 2023, our officers on routine patrol sometime in the night and in the wee hours of the morning, arrested the driver of a car who was driving erratically, and it was suspicious, our men attempted to conduct a search, he zoomed off and was pursued and arrested.

“When he was searched, we discovered a locally made semi automatic pistol on him. He has been arrested, we are about to conclude investigation and charge the case to court.

“Two suspects have also been arrested on Tuesday 21, 2023 following information that a truck conveying a brand new Nissan belonging to the United States Embassy parked somewhere and before its driver came back to the car, the truck had been stolen with all its contents.

“Immediately we got this information, we deployed our intelligence assets and we started diligent investigation into this case.

“I’m happy to say we got the truck back. We located the truck. It was intact. The brand new vehicle in the container was still there and we were able to arrest two suspects. Very soon, we shall be handling back the vehicle to the owner, the US Embassy.”

Advising Lagosians, Hundeyin asked that people should disregard fake news.

“In the past couple of days, we’ve been seeing fake news all over the social media. We’ve been seeing old videos being brought up again and lies being peddled that some people are being attacked, property being destroyed in some parts of Lagos.

“We wish to state categorically that all our human and operational resources have been fully, optimally deployed across the length and breadth of the state.”

He reiterated that the CP Owohunwa mandated all area commanders and divisional Police officers to ensure that there is no breakdown of law and order in their respective areas of responsibilities. He assured that priority is being given to the safety and security of residents of the state, and enjoined them not to succumb to the antics of fake news peddlers.

He added that suspects have been arrested in connection with fake news.

According to him, cyber crime units have been activated and mandated to be in red alert to get criminally-minded people and bring them to book.

Finally, he urged members of the public to continue to give information to the police in order for Lagos State to continue to enjoy peace and tranquility.