The Nigerian Army and the Bayelsa State Government have warned youths in different parts of the state against violence in the forthcoming elections.
They gave the warning while speaking to a crowd of youths during a peace marathon to douse tension following security concerns ahead of the elections.
The Commander 16th Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Kelvin Aligbe led some officers of the command to partake in the marathon, I Run for Peace, organised by the state’s Commissioner for Youths, Udengs Eradiri.
All the security agencies such as the Department of State Service (DSS), the police and other paramilitary agencies were involved in the race, which aimed at discouraging violence before, during and after the elections.
Scores of physically-challenged persons, youths, government officials and residents in the state undertook the 12km marathon, which began at the Tombia roundabout Yenagoa and terminated at the Peace Park, opposite the Government House, Onopa.
Cash awards were doled out to winners in various categories with the16th Brigade donating N200,000 to support the physically- challenged.
Eradiri in his remarks, commended the military and other security agencies for support efforts of the government to ensure peace in the election period.
Insisting that election is not war, the commissioner warned youths against engaging in acts capable of destabilizing the state in the name of election.
He said the government of Governor Seriake Dickson had worked hard to enthrone peace in the state and would not allow anybody to hide under elections to truncate the peace.
Eradiri said: “This is the type of relationship that Bayelsa State is looking for. We should see security agencies as our own brother, family and friends. This run is a contact point to reforming our society, Bayelsa.
“There are too many drugs in the streets. We have too much of cultism. People are doing the cult as if it originated from our state. Other people use it for friendship and empowerment, but our people hide under it to kill their brothers. It must stop. Drug abuse, crimes must all stop. The government will do its bit to empower the young people and take them out of the streets.
“So, the essence is to bring young people together to preach against violence especially in this period of the election. It is not palatable to hear that young people are dying because of elections.
“The violence that is being caused by politicians especially politicians from Bayelsa, we must kick against it. We want to reorganise the Bayelsa society for peace through this marathon. The result of the marathon shows that Bayelsans are ready for peaceful elections.
“The Governor has made a lot of investment in security to ensure peace in Bayelsa. To attract investors and development, we need a peaceful Bayelsa and my ministry will continue to engage young people to bring to help them focus on peace”.
Aligbe on his part, commended Eradiri and the state government for initiating programmes to discourage youth engagement in violence.
He said such programmes would make the job of the military easier inter region adding that Bayelsa remained the safest state in the zone.
He said: “As members of armed forces, we are concerned when we conduct operations, we go to communities and our internment is taken out of context. They see us as enemies. But I want to use this opportunity to tell you that the military belongs to the people.
“Even if we have the mandate of the President, the Chief of Defence Staff and other service chiefs to come and operate in any community, we cannot succeed if we don’t have the mandate of the people on ground.
“We want to close the gap between you and us so that we can protect you better and you make our job easier. Bayelsa is not all about the negative narrative that is going out there.
“Bayelsa is actually the safest state in the South-South. That is the truth. During elections, we should be calm in our communities. Give us information so that we can protect the society better” he said.
The initiator of the event, Irvin Allen, said they mooted the idea following increasing criminal activities in the state.
He thanked Eradiri for partnering with them to actualise the event and advised the people to vote instead of fighting.
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