Security agencies have vowed to prosecute no fewer than 203 electoral offenders who were arrested in 20 states during the just concluded general election.
Police commands in the states and other security agencies told The PUNCH on Thursday that the suspects would face trial after investigations.
In Ogun and Benue states, the suspects were caught with various exhibits, including cash, electoral materials, customised Automated Teller Machine cards and locally made pistols and were taken into custody by the police and the anti-graft agencies.
The PUNCH had reported that the February 18 and March 25 elections were characterised by violence in some states, voter inducement and other malpractices perpetrated by suspected thugs and other individuals.
While the police apprehended 134 suspects in Ogun, Lagos, Benue, Bayelsa, Delta, Kano and Anambra, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission nabbed 69 persons in Sokoto, Katsina, Osun, Ondo, Borno, Akwa Ibom, Kwara, Kaduna, Rivers, Cross River, Gombe, Kebbi and Niger states.
The Commissioner of Police in Ogun State, Frank Mba disclosed on Thursday that 30 persons were arrested for allegedly engaging in electoral violence and vote-buying during Saturday's governorship election in the state.
He explained that the suspects were arrested in different parts of the state for unlawful possession of firearms, and voter inducement, among other offences.
Speaking during a visit to the Independent National Electoral Commission office in Abeokuta, the state capital, the commissioner said his men also recovered 12 firearms, including an English Beretta pistol, 25 live cartridges and eight expended cartridges from the suspects.
According to him, 235 credit cards and customized ATM cards were also recovered from the suspects engaged in vote-buying.
Mba said, “A total of 30 persons were arrested for various offences, ranging from unlawful possession of weapons to disorderly behaviour around polling units, conduct likely to cause a breach of peace and also for offences relating to undue influence and attempt to indulge in vote-buying.
“We also recovered a total of 12 firearms of different mixes and shapes, most of them are locally fabricated short guns.
“We also recovered one Beretta, an English-made pistol. We recovered a total of 25 live cartridges and eight expended cartridges. We also have with us a total of 235 credit cards or ATM cards which are very customized ATM and credit cards.''
He stated that the cases would be transferred to INEC for prosecution after investigation, adding that the police would work with the commission to ensure a diligent trial of the suspects.
Mba noted, “Investigations are ongoing and as we promised on the day of the election, we will continue to keep citizens updated as we make progress with these cases, but you can trust us that we will certainly and surely do a good job.
“We believe that will be done very soon, you know under the new rules, the prosecution is handled by INEC, so at the right time, under the right directives from the office of the Inspector General of Police, these cases will naturally be transferred to INEC and we will work together with them, support them and ensure that these cases are diligently prosecuted.”
The police in Benue State have also detained 26 people suspected over alleged involvement in electoral offences during the last governorship election.
The command spokesperson, SP Catherine Anene noted that this happened despite the series of engagements and warnings to members of the public on the dangers of electoral offences.
She said, “Twenty-six suspects were arrested across the state for various offences including political thuggery, illegal possession of firearms, snatching of ballot boxes and intimidation of voters.
“Exhibits recovered from them include three locally made pistols, cutlasses, knives and wraps of weed suspected to be Indian hemp.''
Anene said that the Commissioner of Police in the state, Wales Abass, had ordered a detailed investigation into the cases and promised to deal with the suspects under the laws.
At least, 11 individuals suspected electoral offenders were nabbed similarly by the Bayelsa State Police Command.
Confirming this to our correspondent, the spokesman for the command, Asinim Butswat, stated, ‘'Eleven suspects were arrested across the three senatorial districts of the state.”
In Delta State, two ad hoc INEC staff and five other persons were detained by the police in connection with electoral fraud during the governorship and house of assembly election in the state.
The command's spokesman, DSP Bright Edafe also confirmed that two persons were killed in Mosogar by yet-to-be-identified individuals who invaded the community and set ablaze a house belonging to a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Wilson Omene in the Ethiope West council of the state.
“Two ad hoc workers were arrested when they were found diverting electoral materials to an unknown place while five suspected political thugs were arrested for allegedly snatching ballot papers and other electoral offences.
“The election was generally peaceful but with few skirmishes which occurred in Mosogar. I can confirm that in Mosogar, a building was set ablaze and two persons were killed, but I don't know what led to their death.”
The Lagos State Police Command also confirmed the arrest of no fewer than 11 suspects for various criminal offences during the general elections in the state.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Benjamin Hundeyin, who paraded the suspects at the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba, said eight of them had been handed over to the INEC for prosecution.
He also noted that the remaining suspects were being prosecuted by the command, adding that exhibits, including Permanent Voter Cards, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machine, ballot papers, weapons and charms, among others, were recovered from the suspects.
The Kano state Police Command, on its part, said it had arrested 29 suspects in connection with the attack and looting of the residence of popular Hausa Singer, Dauda Adamu Abdullahi popularly known as Rarara.
Similarly, eight suspects were also arrested for the attack and destruction at the All Progressives Congress secretariat.
This was contained in a statement by the command's Public Relations Officer, SP Abdullahi Haruna, on Thursday.
It stated, “On March 20, 2023, at about 1400hrs, some group of thugs under the cover of celebrating the governorship election victory went berserk, stormed and attacked the residence of one Dauda Adamu Abdullahi (Rarara) located at Hausawa Layout Zoo Road Kano, his studio located behind Gidan Dan Asabe Zoo Road and his office named “13×13” Movement located at opposite Kano Zoo, Zoo Road Kano.
They burnt and destroyed parts of the buildings, his two vehicles and looted and destroyed properties worth millions of naira, and also attacked other four commercial shops belonging to four different people.
“Another group also attacked the APC state secretariat located at Hotoro, Kano, and destroyed parts of the building and looted properties.
“On receipt of the reports, teams of Operation Restore Peace as well as firefighters were mobilized to the scenes. The fire was brought under control and normalcy was immediately restored.''
He said the recovered looted properties included an ice cream machine, motorcycles, an office chair, Plasma television set, one Samsung air conditioner, a refrigerator, one HD Canon Camera and parts of a Mikano generator.
“It is very obvious from the above that these are not either celebrants or members of any political party, but criminals who are out to ensure they cash in on the celebration mood to perpetuate crimes, as such they will be charged to court upon completion of the investigation,” Haruna said.
The police operatives in Anambra State also said on Thursday that they have in their custody five suspected thugs who allegedly mobilised to disrupt the state assembly election.
According to a short message by the state Police spokesperson, DSP Toochukwu Ikenga, the men were arrested in the Ihiala Local Government Area of the state with four pump action guns.
Ikenga said, “Five armed thugs were arrested in Ihiala LGA and four pump actions were recovered. Further development shall be communicated, please.”
Similarly, four policemen were nabbed in Rivers State for alleged involvement in electoral offences.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Grace Iringe-Koko, disclosed that the culprits include an officer and three inspectors.
Also in Bauchi, 11 miscreants were detained for allegedly wielding dangerous weapons in the wake of the announcement of the governorship polls in the state.
The police spokesman in the state, Ahmed Wakil, explained that the suspects were arrested in different locations within the Bauchi metropolis.
Those arrested included six teenagers and five adults.