Commendations were poured like water on Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State on Monday at the opening session of a three-day conference and retreat for senior police officers in Owerri, with President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba setting the tone for others to follow.
The event which held at the Landmark Event Centre, Owerri with the theme – The imperative of a Nigeria Police strategic plan for peaceful elections – attracted the who is who in the police (both serving and retired), ranking members of the military and para military organisations, top federal and state government officials, members of the national and state assembly, politicians and traditional rulers.
President Buhari who was the Special Guest of Honour and said “the retreat at this stage in our nation’s democratic progress is both timely and significant,”
lauded Governor Uzodimma for committing resources and time for national security governance.
Speaker after speaker, including the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Lucky Irabor, Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi, among others were full of commendations to the Governor for supporting the police to host the event.
Buhari congratulated and commended the Inspector-General of Police for “providing focused, courageous, and visionary leadership for the Nigeria Police, and for striving assiduously to stabilize the internal security order.”
He added: “I also commend the Imo State Governor for his exemplary support to the Federal Government on security governance as further exemplified by the hosting of this event.”
The President said: “The Conference and Retreat will enable us to discuss issues relating to the role and capacity of the Nigeria Police, being the lead agency in the electoral and internal security process, towards ensuring a peaceful, secure, free, fair, and credible 2023 General Elections.
“It also provides a unique opportunity to brainstorm on pathways to guaranteeing a stable internal security space in the countdown to the electoral transition exercise.
“In my address at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly on 19th September, 2017, I made it very clear that ‘our faith in democracy remains firm and unshaken’.
“In reinforcing my unwavering commitment to democratic values and strong democratic institutions to govern the process, during my farewell speech at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on 21st September, 2022, I noted that ‘we have invested heavily to strengthen our framework for free and fair elections’ and hence, I re-affirmed on the global stage that ‘as President, I have set the goal that one of the enduring legacies I would like to leave is to entrench a process of free, fair, transparent and credible elections through which Nigerians elect leaders of their choice’.
“I also noted that ‘it has been my experience that a democratic culture provides a government with the legitimacy it needs to deliver positive change’.
“I remain steadfast to these commitments. This informed my disposition to strengthen the legal frameworks and enrich our legal processes as exemplified by my assenting to the amended 2022 Electoral Bill on 24th February, 2022.”
President Buhari recalled all the interventions his administration had made to ensure that the police perform their duties professionally and said the officers and men are today better positioned to play key role during the 2023 elections.
“It is recognized that no nation advances its democracy and attains its socio-economic and developmental goals without an effective policing system. There must, therefore, come a time in the life of a nation when the people and government must, in national security interest, frontally address challenges that have historically, been negatively impacting on public trust, partnership, and institutional efficiency of the policing agency.
“For us as a government and nation, we recognize that the time is now.”
The President said a solid foundation towards the restoration of the operational competence and professional efficiency of the Police had been laid, noting that the police “in conformity to my democratic visions, and in manifestation of the positive impact of these reforms, have in recent times been demonstrating high professional, ethical and operational standards as reflected in their performances in internal security operations and during the recent off-season electoral outings in Edo, Anambra, Ekiti, and Osun States.”
While commending the leadership of the police and all officers of the Force, he urged them “to continue to project a Force that will remain apolitical, firm, and loyal to our democratic values in the countdown to the 2023 General Elections.
“It is only by so doing that our Police can truly, be defined as not just the true friends of the citizens, but as dependable and trustworthy partners in the drive to advance our democratic journey.”
“I, therefore, task the Inspector General of Police to sustain his leadership standards that will guarantee a level playing field, and secure public space for the citizens to freely exercise their franchise and for the outcome of the elections to be a true reflection of the peoples’ choices.
“It is my expectation that the Force will maximise the opportunity of this Conference and Retreat to achieve two critical goals. First, to review the current and evolving internal security threats as they may impact on a peaceful and successful elections. Second, to perfect operational plans that will guarantee a credible outcome in the 2023 General Elections.”
Usman Alkali Baba told President Buhari and the galaxy of persons in attendance in his opening address that Governor Uzodimma has done for the police what no other Governor in the country today has been able to do to encourage them.
Baba said that the outcome of the retreat will be critical to the election processes as it will ensure unhindered police monitoring and effective policing of the 2023 election.
He said that the election will present new challenges but quickly promised not to disappoint the expectations of Mr. President and the people of Nigeria, adding that “already the Police are collaborating with all the security agencies to deliver the most credible, free and fair to Nigerians in 2023.”
The IGP appreciated Mr. President for coming in person to flag-off the retreat and thanked him of the several reforms he had approved and the many bills on police matters that he has signed into laws, saying they have gone a long way in improving the police force as an institution.
He recalled how President Buhari funded the police to procure and deploy sophisticated equipment and world class facilities that have gone a long way to reenergize the Nigerian Police.
Baba singled out Governor Uzodimma for maintaning a relationship with the Police that is unparalleled and thanked the Governor for being there always for the police.
The IGP who described Governor Uzodimma as the most outstanding friend of the Police in Nigeria also recalled that recently, the Governor procured, equipped and donated 10 brand new Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) to the Police, noting that his intervention on other welfare matters involving the police personnel since the inception of his administration is immesurable.
Baba beckoned on his guests to help him appreciate Governor Uzodimma. And they did with standing ovation.
He thanked everybody that attended the programme and promised that the Conference and retreat will yield
the desired result.
All other speakers in their goodwill messages, including the Minister of Police Affairs Mohammed Dingyadi, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, the INEC Chairman ably represented by a federal commissioner, Gen. Alkali Modibo, congratulated the police for the conference and highlighted the benefits to the forthcoming general election.
They all promised to collaborate with the police to achieve a free, fair and a crises free 2023 elections.
The INEC chief said though people say the elections in Anambra, Edo, and Osun were good and better “the 2023 elections will be best as INEC and the Police are already strong partners in progress.”
In his remarks, an elated Governor Uzodimma said he was able to support the police because he was first supported by President Buhari, noting that the event is a reassurance that Imo is safe for business and tourism.
To the shock of the police leadership, Governor Uzodimma said that he is not yet suffering from any support fatigue.
“Let me use this opportunity to also reaffirm my unflinching support for the Police, and promise that my government will continue to do whatever we can to make their job easier, safer and more efficient. I am aware that supporting the Police goes beyond training and the provision of equipment; the welfare of officers and men of the police force is equally paramount. I acknowledge that the current management of the force has been proactive in ensuring the prompt promotion of officers and men, as well as in the payment of insurance to families of deceased officers.”
He said it was heart warming that the conference was taking place some weeks after Imo State hosted a similar event organised by the Nigerian Army.
Uzodimma said: “I am personally delighted that on both occasions Imo State emerged the preferred destination and host of such significant and important events involving our armed forces.
“There is no doubt in my mind that hosting these events will help to reassure both residents and visitors that Imo State is safe again for business and tourism. All thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and the security agencies, the nightmare of insecurity witnessed in the state a short while ago is now a thing of the past.
“I believe that the presence of the top brass of the Police and other security agencies in the state for the next three days will also help to restore the much-needed confidence in our people and help fortify our sense of security and safety. I hope you will all find the time to move around and interact with our people, and take advantage of your visit to behold for yourselves the profound transformation of the state which my administration inherited only a couple of years ago.”
Governor Uzodimma said the importance of the conference cannot be underestimated since it is aimed at evolving strategies towards discharging the duties of the Police ahead of the general elections scheduled for 2023.
“It is, therefore, gratifying to note that history will remember that it was in the beautiful city of Owerri, during my tenure as the Governor of Imo State, that the Police met and planned how to give Nigeria one of the most peaceful elections in its history. l say this rather prophetically because I foresee a very peaceful and credible elections in 2023. The President has made a commitment towards this and the Independent National Electoral Commission has also reassured us that this would be the case.”
Governor Uzodimma also highlighted what obviously are nuggets to achieve both credible elections and for dealing with post-election menace.
His words: “As you may know, I have remained a relentless advocate of free, fair and peaceful elections in the country. I have always maintained that every election dispute can, and should be, resolved peacefully through available legal channels, and not by violence or by heating up of the polity.
“When we as politicians accept the fact the losers of today can be the winners of tomorrow, then we will see no reason to rock the boat when we lose. I believe that this conference should look more critically at this sore aspect of our politics. Perhaps, if you do, you may find lasting solutions to the threat which election losers continually pose to our national cohesion.
“I am happy that the Police high command has chosen a perfect theme for this retreat. The theme: “The imperative of a Nigerian Police Strategic Plan for a Peaceful Election”, is not only apt but reassuring as we approach the general elections of 2023. Permit me, therefore, to suggest that this strategic plan should include a recommendation that all candidates in the elections must undertake, under oath, to denounce violence.
“They should also commit and sign an undertaking that all disputes over election results can only be challenged peacefully through the court process, and that the parties to the dispute must be bound by the outcome of that process. I make this submission because it is obvious to me and other objective observers that post – election violence constitutes a major threat to our democracy. Whereas an election could be adjudged peaceful and free, the refusal of some politicians to accept an outcome of defeat often throws up more severe threats to our democracy.
“As we all know, the Police is at the forefront of ensuring compliance, peace and order at any election in Nigeria. The involvement of other security agencies during the conduct of elections is purely complementary. There role, therefore, is to help you carry out your constitutional duties of maintaining law and order during the process. As such, you must take this responsibility very seriously. I expect that you will come out of this retreat far better aware and prepared for the challenges ahead.
” I believe that with the innovations evolved by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), all that is needed now is a conscientious and competent Police to conduct a credible, fair and transparent election in the country come 2023.
“Apart from preparing the Police for the immediate task ahead, which is the 2023 elections, they also have to be prepared for the daily challenge of fighting crime and criminality. For some time now, it does seem that the criminals have been armed with sophisticated weapons that have emboldened them to even attack the Police not just at check points, but also at Police stations.
“To be frank, this is unacceptable in any civilized society. Let me, therefore, use the opportunity of this auspicious event to appeal to both governments and other stakeholders, especially the private sector, to continuously support the Police at this point when they are going through the most challenging phase of policing and law enforcement in the history of our country, Nigeria.
“As we know, the protection and security of lives and property should be the concern of all and sundry. To this end, I appeal to big corporations to also step out and do more to support the police by assisting them with the provision of operational, communication and logistic equipment which they need for greater efficiency. I am aware that various states have also been supportive of the Police and would continue to help in that regard. For us in Imo State, we have long realized that a well – equipped and trained Police is a sure way of combating crime.”