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Attacks: Parties demand more police presence at rallies

Following Friday’s killing of two persons at the All Progressives Congress rally in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, the ruling party and the All Progressives Grand Alliance, on Saturday, said they would ask for more police presence in their subsequent campaign rallies.

This was as the Peoples Democratic Party reiterated its earlier position not to disclose its internal security measures in order to prevent possible outbreak of violence at its campaign venues.

Some gunmen had reportedly on Friday night invaded the venue of a political gathering of APC members at Mkpuma Akpatakpa village in Izzi Local Government Area of State.

Two persons were reportedly killed during the attack, while two other persons reportedly sustained injuries and were taken to the  Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital,Abakaliki for treatment.

Also on Saturday, the governorship candidate of Accord Party in Rivers State, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, escaped assassination during his visit to Etche Local Government Area of the state.

Lulu-Briggs and his team had gone to Etche  to ascertain reports of an attack on the Accord Secretariat in the area when unidentified gunmen attacked his convoy.

His bulletproof vehicle was riddled with bullets.

Speaking to newsmen, Lulu-Briggs confirmed the attack, stating that the miscreants

opened fire and rained bullets on his convoy.

He said, “We got a very damning report that our party’s secretariat was attacked by organised PDP gang.

“So we had to go round to see what was going on in our secretariat. On our way there, the same boys opened fire. They attacked us, destroyed our vehicles, they shot at my vehicle. You can see my car. All my windscreen, glasses chattered.

“The whole convoy shot; they shot at people. It is terrible. I don’t understand what this has turned to. It’s a jungle state now, lawless place.

“We will mot be allowed to campaign and Rivers people will decide who will be their governor, their senators, you know. It is not by violence or attacking people.

“These things must stop. It is not a kangaroo state. We have a country. I tried to reach the Commissioner of Police, but I couldn’t get him. But I sent him a message by text.”

The spokesperson for the state police command, Grace Iringe-Koko, could not be reached for reaction.

Speaking exclusively to Sunday PUNCH, Director of Publicity of the APC, Bala Ibrahim, said in view of the security situation in the country, the ruling party would make request for more police presence at its campaign rallies. He, however, ruled out the possibility of inviting soldiers, saying that would be a threat to democracy.

Ibrahim said, “We don’t want to see soldiers’ presence in a democratic process because they are not supposed to be the first line of charge when it comes to civil defence. As a party, we will rather advocate for increased police presence and reinforce security, like the Department of State Services providing intelligence.

“As a party, the APC will do what it thinks is necessary to fortify venues and provide security especially for those who are coming to the rallies. But like I said, we don’t want any situation that would warrant the presence of soldiers because that will threaten our democracy.”

Also speaking, the National Publicity Secretary of APGA, Tex Okechukwu,said the party would demand more police presence in crisis-prone areas.

“There are peaceful places. In areas that are often violent, we may consider calling for more police to be on the ground but not soldiers. Our approach will be situational and we will act according to our assessment of any place we are going to campaign,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba urged Nigerians to hold the ruling party responsible for the worsening insecurity in the country.

Speaking with Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, Ologunagba said, “We are not going to disclose to you or anyone else what our party is doing in the area of security, particularly at campaign venues. We should understand that the ruling APC has failed all of us. If they can’t provide security in their own rallies, aren’t we supposed to know that this is a clueless party? All the promises they made, they failed to deliver. Nigerians should hold them responsible. Nigerians know what they want and they will express their wish on the ballot come February 25.”

On his part, the Deputy National Chairman of the New Nigeria Nigeria Peoples Party, retired Air Vice Marshal John Ifemeje, said the unrelenting violent attacks across the country was an attempt to disrupt the nation’s democracy.

He said, “These attacks are very abnormal and should not be allowed, security agencies should do what they can to check these hoodlums, else they will disrupt democracy.

“Democracy allows for freedom of speech, movement, association and activities. All these issues must be addressed if we want democracy to thrive in Nigeria.

“Everybody should, as much as possible, secure themselves but the job of the security agencies is to ensure that everybody is safe. It is the responsibility of the security agencies to protect lives and property; they are paid salaries to do that, so they should wake up to do their job.

“All hands should be on deck, whatever the police and other security agencies have on the ground they should mobilise it. They already know there is violence here and there, they should beef up security at every rally, campaign and across every part of the country to ensure adequate security.”

On its part, the Labour Party said it had put a clear strategy in place to secure candidates and citizens during its campaigns across the federation.

The spokesperson of the Peter Obi/Datti-Ahmed Campaign Council, Yinussa Tanko, said that the party had engaged the police and other relevant security agencies during their rallies.

Tanko stressed that the party had also involved security volunteers such as ex-servicemen and security experts within its fold.

He said, “We have internal security, and we have the Nigeria Police, the civil defence, the Department of State Services, all these security operatives have been contacted in all our rallies.

“We have volunteers everywhere, even for security we do have volunteers. Some of these volunteers are ex-policemen, ex-soldiers, so they have intelligence; they provide their security for our people free of charge.

“At the same time, we also handle internal security to ensure that our people will not be molested or attacked anyhow.”

Speaking on the forthcoming LP presidential rally in Kano, he said,  “As we speak we have reached out to all security operatives concerning our rallying points in Kano.”

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