Government & Politics

Police not prepared for Rivers rerun, says Odinkalu

In this photo taken Monday, March 24, 2014. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission speaks during an interview in Lagos, Nigeria. Two generals and officials of Nigeria’s feared State Security Service had to testify under oath at a hearing of the National Human Rights Commission into killings of unarmed civilians _ a “quantum leap” in accountability in Nigeria, according to the country’s top rights advocate. The December hearings were the first time such high-ranking officers, including the chief of army staff, have been held to account since Nigeria's military dictatorship, said Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.  It published a report blaming State Security agents for the unlawful gunning down of eight civilians and wounding of 11 others, and ordered the government to pay reparations of some $820,000.  (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

The immediate past Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, says the police are not prepared to curb electoral violence ahead of the state and National Assembly rerun elections scheduled for March 19 in Rivers State.

The ex-NHRC chairman said the unpreparedness of the police and inability to contain violence had led to the loss of lives of innocent persons.

Odinkalu, who spoke during a programme on Channels Television entitled, ‘Politics Today,’ said violence had become rife in Rivers State because politicians used it as a tool to winning elections.
Responding to a question on whether the police were prepared to forestall violence during the polls, the Commissioner of Police (Operations), David Folawiyo, during the programme said that the police had mapped out strategies to forestall the breakdown of law and order.

Folawiyo said the police were embarking on the sensitisation of stakeholders in the state in order to curb electoral violence.

“I have told you that we are fully prepared. We are comfortable (with our preparations). We have always improved on every election,” Folawiyo had said.

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Odinkalu, however, faulted Folawiyo’s comments.

He said Folawiyo’s statements were factually inaccurate.

Odinkalu said, “People’s lives depend on this election and I suggest that you (Folawiyo) take this a little more seriously. Your statement that the police are prepared for the rerun is not true. Why can’t you tell Nigerians the truth? Politicians put too much pressure on the police in Rivers. The lives of police officers and innocent voters are at risk.

“In a state like Rivers, violence pays. Violence is an occupation, a business; people sell it. They sell it to oil companies, government and politicians .During the political period, they sell it to politicians across the party spectrum and the youths understand that during the political period, the price of violence is high, so they put a premium on the price and politicians are willing to pay. That is exactly what is happening.”

The former NHRC chairman said he suggested the deployment of soldiers in Rivers during the election because the police could not curb violence in the state.

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