The Director of Operations of the National Security Council, Col. Michael Opoku has said that the masked men who were at polling stations during the Ayawaso by-election were deployed on a confidence-building operation.
He said the presence of the personnel was to assure the constituents that they were ready to foil plans of any vigilante group intending to disturb the elections.
“The purpose was to provide the necessary surveillance for me. Most of those who were doing surveillance were in normal civil attire. The essence of that [confidence] patrol was to let the people within the constituency know that the security forces were ready to ensure that no vigilante group as they are known to be, could disturb the election on that day. So we were rather giving confidence to the populace to ensure that they come out and do what they are supposed to do,” Col. Opoku said.
The presence of the masked men, part of a national security team that was deployed to the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency has become a subject of controversy following acts of violence and physical assault they meted out to some citizens close to the house of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) parliamentary candidate.
Many civil society organizations and political actors have condemned the presence of the masked men, some attributing it to the meagre voter turnout with claims that their presence scared residents.
But Col. Michael Opoku, who deployed the personnel, believes the presence of the men scared voters.
He further indicated that the personnel were masked to protect their identities since they lived within the constituency within which they were deployed to carry out the operation.
While corroborating the testimony of the SWAT Commander of National Security, DSP Samuel Azugu who said that the personnel sometimes wear the masks to prevent mosquito bites, Col Opoku said the purpose of the masks for the Ayawaso by-election was not to prevent mosquito bites.
Instead, they were to protect the identity of the team who live in the community.