FEMI MAKINDE and MUDIAGA AFFE
Six days to the presidential and National Assembly elections, there are concerns in some states in the North-East over the disappearance of military checkpoints along major routes.
Some residents of major towns in Adamawa, Yobe and Bauchi states have said the development might have negative effects on the elections as eligible voters are not likely to take the risk under the prevailing circumstances to vote on Saturday.
Insurgency in the North-East has posed major security threat in the region in the last couple of years. The activities of the Boko Haram terrorists have left thousands dead and several others rendered homeless.
Though efforts are ongoing by the Federal Government to stem the spate of insurgency attacks, some concerned residents of the region have always seen the military checkpoints as a sign of security presence in the region.
A lecturer at the Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola, Adamawa State, Prof. Anna Malgwi, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the security concerns in the North-East might lead to voter apathy.
She said, “A lot of people, more than ever, are willing to come out to vote, but my fears outweigh my expectations. I do not know if the elections will be free and fair. There is a high level of insecurity, particularly in the North-East.
“The insurgents might spring surprises because most of the military and police checkpoints that use to give us assurances of security presence on our roads are no longer there.”
Another resident of Yola, Mr Bashir Ali, said the over six-hour stretch of 409 kilometres from Yola to Maiduguri in Borno State now had fewer security checkpoints compared to what obtained about two months ago.
“We do not know what this means, especially at this time of elections. Whatever strategy that means, I am sure it will have a way of reducing the number of votes that will come from the region as many people might not want to go out to vote,” he said.
A Potiskum-based medical practitioner in Yobe State, Dr Sani Abdul, lamented that he had also observed the same situation in the commercial town, adding that the heavy security presence when travelling from Potiskum to Maiduguri and Potiskum to Abuja had reduced drastically.
Potiskum to Maiduguri, which is about three and a half hours journey by road, is 234.4 km, while the nine-hour drive from Potiskum to Abuja is about 490km.
Abdul said, “I have observed the same situation in some parts of Yobe State too. It started about two weeks ago and I wonder why they took that decision. Virtually all the checkpoints that used to give us a level of satisfaction that there is security presence have vanished. We can see just a few of them now.
“If we are going to Abuja now, we drive in fear because of the fewer checkpoints. Although there were long queues in areas where they have these checkpoints, it is not enough to remove them. Why did they choose to do this now that elections are around the corner?”
Another resident of Postikum, Foluso Adewale, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, however, said military presence was still visible in the town and other adjoining villages.
He said kudos must be given to the troops for being at alert, stating that the troops repelled an attack by the Boko Haram insurgents on Tuesday.
He said, “Security has been relaxed on the road from Bauchi but that does not mean there is no security presence in this area. The troops still patrol and they repelled the Boko Haram at Kalama just on Tuesday.
“Their response to the surprise attack by the insurgents was prompt and with that kind of attitude and commitment, we feel secure and we pray that God will continue to give them the wisdom to deal with the situation and protect them.”
The Force Public Relations Officer, Mr Frank Mba, when contacted said the military were in charge of security coordination in the area.
“Elections will hold everywhere in Nigeria,” Mba said.
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