INEC Chairman Advocates New Approach to Security during Elections

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Mahmood Yakubu
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

* NSA: There must consequences for bad behaviours during polls

By Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahood Yakubu, has called for a new approach in elections security that would translate to protecting the voters, INEC staff, as well as security synergy to check thuggery during elections in Nigeria.

The INEC chairman said that it is unthinkable that political thugs should be seen or be stronger than the Nigeria Police.

He spoke at an inter-agency security meeting where the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, posited that there must dire consequences for bad behaviour of security officers that aid violence or rig or snatch ballot boxes during any election.

Also, the Inspector General of Police (IG) Mohammed Adamu threatened that henceforth any security officer that disrupts, found rigging or causing violence during elections would be taken out of the system. However, he did not explain what he meant by being taken out of the system.

According to the INEC chairman in his opening address, “We must translate the new approach to reality in the forthcoming re-run elections such that Nigerians will see a qualitatively different security arrangement.

“No thugs and hoodlums can be more powerful than the Nigeria Police and other security agencies. It is the failure to act decisively and collaboratively that encourages thuggery and serves as an incentive for bad behaviour.

“It is the responsibility of the security agencies to secure the environment for the successful conduct of elections. The purpose of security deployment during elections is to protect the voters, election officials and materials, accredited observers, the media and to safeguard the integrity of the processes generally, including the polling units and collations centres.

“The Commission is concerned that security deployment in some of the most recent elections left much to be desired. There is more emphasis on numbers of security personnel to be deployed but less consideration on strategic deployment to protect the process, leaving the voters, election officials, party agents, observers, the media and even unarmed security personnel at polling units vulnerable to attacks by thugs and hoodlums.

“Furthermore, there is emphasis on numbers of security personnel but less on synergy, coordination and collaboration among the various security agencies in line with the purpose for which ICCES was established in the first instance. We must adopt a different approach to election security.”

He said that the commission has taken a proactive step to curb election violence and rigging.

Yakubu said: “Going forward, INEC has decided that although the commission has no power under the law to cancel an election, it will not proceed with the process in any constituency where the safety of voters, our personnel and materials is threatened.

“Furthermore, collation of results will not proceed where the collation centres are invaded. No declaration of winners will be made where Returning Officers are threatened.”

He said that the commission is aware of the imperative of reform of which the review of the electoral legal framework is fundamental, explaining that INEC is working with the National Assembly and all stakeholders in this regard.

The INEC chairman said that one critical area of reform is the prosecution of electoral offenders, adding that: “We shall vigorously pursue the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal. Unless such decisive measure is taken, the present system of arrest, investigation and prosecution of electoral offenders will remain at best palliative.”

On the overbearing influence of vote buying, he said that the meeting, recognising the existing collaboration with the anti-corruption agencies in tracking financial flows for illicit purposes as well as the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of such flows, especially for the purpose of corrupting the electoral process through vote-buying, resolved that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) should be included as members of ICCES.

On this note, he said: “It is my pleasure to welcome the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, as well as the Chairman of the ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, to this meeting as members of ICCES.

In his comments, the NSA, Mongunu, said: “We have all seen that 2019 was saturated with elections at all levels right up to the presidential election. We have been able to draw lessons from pre-election preparations, the actual conduct of
election and the post election activities.

“A lot of things have come to light. We have converged at the security sector to look at the outcome of elections. We have made out assessment, not only at the strategic operations but right down to the tactical level. Lessons have been drawn. I want to assure everybody that these lessons are actually going to reflect on the elections to be held early this year.

“We have a responsibility to securing this process. The voters and indeed the wider society have a lot of expectations from us and we need to fulfill the legitimate expectations of the people by behaving in accordance with the statutes. For those of us in the security environment, what we need to do is to address the challenges we had in the previous elections and to ensure that these things do not recur.

Also speaking, the IG said: “Ours in the security circle, both the police and other security agencies, ours is to provide an enabling environment in terms of securing all the different aspects of the electoral process.

“Therefore preparation has to be taken proper in securing of INEC materials, the
officials, the electorate themselves. The only area that I want to talk on is the area of synergy. Everybody knows that without proper security, election cannot hold and in every election, a lot of resources and personnel are committed into the process before we even achieve the result that is announced.”