Representatives of the nation’s security agencies on Monday met with the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, Attahiru Jega, over preparations for the rescheduled general elections.
The PUNCH gathered that the meeting specifically assessed the security situations in the North-East in view of recent successes recorded by the military against the insurgents.
It was learnt that the meeting, which came under the aegis of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, emphasised the need for a strong military presence, particularly in the North-East, during the elections.
The military had recently said that it had librated many communities, in the North-East, including Baga and Mubi, from Boko Haram.
The PUNCH gathered from a senior security official at the meeting that “security agencies argued in favour of deployment of the military for the elections.”
The official added, “They said the recent threat by Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, should not be taken lightly.
“Besides, there have been suicide bombings in Yobe and only the presence of soldiers can allay fears of voters. Even residents of Maiduguri, Borno State, have been applauding the latest development. How do you tell soldiers to leave during elections.”
The legality of deploying soldiers for the elections has pitted the All Progressives Congress against the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.
Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, had on Thursday said President Goodluck Jonathan would deploy soldiers during the elections, but the APC insisted that two courts had barred the military from being part of the exercise.
Investigations by The PUNCH showed that the meeting which held at the INEC office looked into ways the government could assist displaced persons to return to their towns so that they could be a part of the elections.
When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Kayode Idowu, declined to give details of the meeting which he described as operational.
He said, “The agenda was routine technical evaluation and planning for elections.
“The meeting of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security is a routine operational platform that deliberates on technical (not policy) aspects of security provisioning for elections. It was not personally attended by the National Security Adviser (Sambo Dasuki), though his office co-chairs the committee with the INEC Chairman.”
The Defence Headquarters, Army, Air Force, Department of State Services as well as the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps are represented in the committee. They also sent representatives to the meeting.
INEC had on February 7, shifted the general elections from February 14 and 28 to March 28 and April 11.
Its chairman said the postponement followed reports by Dasuki and the service chiefs that their agencies would not be able to guarantee security of INEC personnel in some parts of the country.
Meanwhile, immediate-past National Youth Service Corps members will still be engaged for election duties.
Idowu said despite not being under the NYSC any longer, INEC remained disposed to engaging them owing to the election training they underwent.
He said the NYSC had earlier “kept these people in camps because of the elections. But now that there is a shift, there is no basis for you to keep on holding them in camps.
“Yes, they kept them in camp for INEC because of the elections and when elections are rescheduled, you can’t hold them in camps for six week.
“The corps members themselves, as many as have been trained and are available to take up the job for which they have been trained, they would still be there. Those that were trained and have passed out, as many as they are there, they would still be engaged. They have been trained for the job.”
Asked of the implication of engaging the discharged corps members since they are no longer under the scheme, he said, “They are the same people who were recently in the NYSC. The only difference is that because of the time of the rescheduling, they are no longer in the camps of the NYSC.”