All land and sea borders were closed last night while international flights to and from Nigeria will be suspended by midnight today as Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday to elect the President and members of the National Assembly.
With just 48 hours to the election, residents besieged the markets to buy foodstuff with prices of food items sky-rocketing, even as the Department of State Services has urged voters to be vigilant in crowded environments.
The United Nations on its part appealed to Nigerians to disappoint all the prophets of doom by conducting a peaceful election just as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Police and the Army have expressed their preparedness for the polls.
Announcing the closure of borders yesterday in a statement by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Abubakar Magaji, the Federal Government said: “All borders will effectively be closed from midnight March 25, to midnight Saturday, March 28 to allow for the peaceful conduct of the forthcoming national elections.”
The statement added that the Nigeria Immigration Service had been directed to ensure that non-Nigerians do not participate in any part of the election process.
COAS warns politicians
Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General KTJ Minimah has declared that any politician or group of politicians who instigate or provoke violence during the elections with a view to making the country insecure, should be ready to face organized violence in return.
He said that all security agencies, including the Police and the military were committed to ensuring that the elections were violence-free and that lives and property of Nigerians were not threatened.
His words: “Regarding the question of security before, during and post elections, I want to say the Armed Forces, the Police and other security organisations have made adequate arrangements for security during the general and local elections in a few days and a few weeks coming.
“I do not envisage any issues because this is just an election and it will come and go; though we know there are also elements within the political class that will not want a normal election process to come and be put behind us.
“I will appeal to politicians and their followers and supporters to keep the peace; maintain the peace and ensure a violence-free election. I will appeal to law-abiding Nigerians to come out en-masse, vote for candidates of their choice without fear of intimidation, without fear for their safety. It is their right to vote.
“And whoever wants to invoke or provoke violence would meet organised violence waiting for him. Whoever threatens violence will meet violence.”
Asked how he can reconcile presence of soldiers on the streets and court order barring them from elections, Minimah said: “I can interpret it this way. This is not our first elections in this country. You have seen several elections in Nigeria and you have seen soldiers providing security for the elections. Have you at any time seen soldiers at polling booths? Have you seen soldiers counting ballots or carrying ballot materials, ballot papers, ballot boxes or whatever?”
DSS urges vigilance in crowded environments
The Department of State Services, DSS, on its part has urged eligible voters to be vigilant in crowded environments before, during and after the conduct of Saturday’s elections.
The DSS in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Marilyn Ogar, also called on the electorate to abide by all stipulated guidelines emplaced to ensure peaceful conduct.
Promising to provide adequate security for voters, the DSS charged that all forms of trading should be discouraged at the scene of voting.
The statement said: “The general elections are scheduled to commence on March 28, 2015. Accordingly, we wish to advise all registered voters to go out and exercise their civic responsibility as security is guaranteed. It is imperative to remind all eligible voters to be law-abiding and security conscious while exercising their franchise.
“Equally, they should remain vigilant in crowded environments before, during and after the elections and abide by all stipulated guidelines emplaced to ensure peaceful conduct.
“Voters are advised to be wary of persons in loose or bulky midriff clothings, which are inappropriate for the weather, look out for unattended bags, luggage, dustbins, strange containers and other suspicious items. Similarly, all vehicles, motorcycles, tricycles and bicycles must be parked far away from the polling stations.
“All forms of trading should be discouraged, suspicious persons, activities and movements should be promptly reported to security agents. The task of nation-building is our collective responsibility. Therefore, let us all play our parts and shun violence. Once again, we restate our commitment to ensuring a peaceful atmosphere for all Nigerians to contribute towards strengthening our democracy.”