Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The National Security Adviser, Babagana Munguno and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu yesterday took a swipe at roles security agents play in aiding election rigging, as such would henceforth face stiff punishments.
This was as the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahood Yakubu warned that his Commission would no longer conduct elections where their staff and other adhoc workers were not safe, adding that his staff would no longer announce results under threat or duress in furture elections. He herefore 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.
They spoke at the inter-agency summit to assess the journey so far in the country’s elections, especially how security fared in the c0onduct of the exercises.
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-elections 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 our 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.
“Securing the environment, protecting the electorate and those who will actually engage the process, the officials of INEC and other state officials is a responsibility for all of us.
“Without active collaboration, we cannot achieve confidence in the larger society. It is extremely important also for us to know that this time around, whatever be the problems we had in the last elections, we must be able to address them. There must be consequences for bad behaviour. Bad behaviour not only in relation to thugs, criminal, outlaws and people who just want to upset the entire system but our own elements and agents who either by design or default want to scuttle this process must be brought to book.
For the first time in the history of this country, we must be able to carry through to a logical conclusion any act that are contrary to what the state had placed. Anyone who behaves outside the confines of legitimacy will have to be dealt with. Anything that is illegal, we are
not going to allow to be pushed under the carpet. We have had a lot of meeting with the IGP and the Co-Chairman.
“I want to reassure the nation that we will as much as possible try and conduct election and secure the environment and those people who are engaged in. we want to keep everybody who wants to vote an atmosphere to be able to exercise his right without feeling of intimidation and without being pushed into a situation whereby he has to abandon what he wants to do”.
Also speaking, the Inspector General of Police 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.
“The area that I will call for synergy is synergy within security agencies performing election duties with INEC officials themselves. No touts can come out and commit any electoral offense on the election day without connivance from either security agencies or INEC officials or the politicians. But when we work together, everybody knows his responsibilities, when we work together, we can stop anybody that will want to disrupt election. No tout, if we cooperate can penetrate security agencies.
“The electoral officials when they are performing their duties, no interfering should come from anyone including security agents but when security or electoral breaches are seen and
security personnel advised INEC officials on the line of action to take so as to avert scuttling the process, that advise should be taken seriously. We have instances where advises were made but they were not taken and at the end, we know what happened, there were complaints here and there and the process was disrupted.
“We will reiterate our position that election that is to be conducted, we have learnt a lot of lessons. We saw some areas where breaches took place and if we observed them, solutions would be found especially we had ballot box snatching, violent actions from the electoral agents.
“From now onward, we will not tolerate that, from now onward, we are going to give an example during this rerun. Anybody that comes to disrupt the electoral process or within the security agencies, some who are coming to compromise the system, or within the INEC, some that will want to compromise the system, immediately you are identified, we will immediately take you out of the system and make sure that the system is not disrupted and serious action will be taken”.
In view of this, he said, “The same thing with the politicians. If we do not do this, then removing violence and disruption of electoral process will not happen. The rerun election is going to be a test case of what I am saying”.
The INEC chairman said that it was unthinkable that political thugs should be seen or be stronger than the Nigeria Police.
According to him, “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 had taken a proactive step to curb election violence and rigging.
According to the INEC chairman, “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. .
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 “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 over bearing 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.