Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Ahead of the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, the National Security Adviser (NSA) Major-General Babagana Munguno, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu and the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Manhood Yakubu, yesterday, released a comprehensive code of conduct for all security personnel to be engaged in election duties.
The document signed by the trio of the NSA, the Police IG and the INEC boss, listed procedures for arrests to be made during elections as well as the cautions to be observed, stating that it would constitute an offence if personnel on election duties did not wear uniform, in addition to being barred from holding arms within polling stations.
According to them, the Code of Conduct is to guide all members of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) and their personnel while on electoral duties, is spelt out in this document.
Electoral duties refer to activities related to elections as established by the INEC, including but not limited to voting at elections, collation of results and political party campaigns and rallies.
The code of conduct states that all security personnel on election duty shall account for personnel and equipment, such as weapons and other related equipment issued to them, adding that duty parade must not disrupt or delay the smooth conduct of elections and other electoral activities.
The code of conduct stated that, “Except for personnel deployed on covert operations, all personnel on electoral assignment will ensure a neat turnout in their prescribed uniform and name tags, which must be identifiable to the public, stating that ICCES may from time to time approve a common means of identification for all security agencies on election duty.
“Personnel on covert operations will ensure they turn out in clean outfits, having strict regard for the authorised identification card. Officers engaged in traffic control will ensure that white gloves and armbands are worn.
“No unauthorised item of accoutrement/kits like cudgel, horsewhip, etc. shall be carried by any personnel on election duty. At no time will personnel deployed to Polling Units be allowed to carry firearms.
“Prescribed and appropriate weapons and riot equipment are to be issued to personnel, who are entitled to bear them. Clearly marked vehicles are to be used for every election exercise and/or operation. The use of personal vehicles to convey personnel for duty is highly discouraged.
“Pocket notebooks shall be carried, where important incidents encountered during tours of duty can be noted, in view of the fact that all security personnel can be personally summoned to account for their actions/inactions while on election duty,” the document stated.
Also, the code of conduct stipulates that, “At venues of all electoral activities, designated officers will identify areas to be classified inner and outer rings respectively to serve as a guide in deployment.
No Lethal Weapon Except Baton Allowed
“On no account should personnel deployed to the inner ring of the venue of political events or voting centres/polling units be assigned any lethal weapon except baton. Involvement of the officers at political gatherings shall be limited to the maintenance of peace and order and enforcement of extant laws.
“Officers shall at all times exercise maximum restraint while covering political gatherings or deployed at voting/collation centres. Officers shall not at any time turn themselves into spectators but shall at all times be conscious of happenings around them, observe precautionary measures and personal safety while on duty.
“Security personnel shall use tact and persuasion to resolve issues, when dealing with or confronted by agitated persons in the crowd. Refer cases to senior officers or supervising officers to avoid escalation where there is tension.
“Be cautious, polite and firm at all time,” adding that, “Where reasonable suspicion is established that any person at a political gathering or election venue possesses weapons or any dangerous object on his/her person, such individual will be isolated, and a body frisk/pat-down search shall be conducted on him/her. Such searches should be conducted by at least two (2) officers. One to perform the search while the other provides protective cover.
“Where the suspect is a female, a female officer shall conduct the search and in any instance, where an arrest should be made, no violence or unnecessary force shall be used and the person to be arrested shall not be subjected to any greater restraint than what is necessary under the circumstances,” the rules of engagement stated.
On the procedures and rules on management of political Parties’ conventions, rallies, campaigns and Crowd Control on voting day, the documents stated that, “High-risk suspects must not at any time, be transported without proper escort and handcuffs.”
It added that where a political gathering is becoming confrontational or the likelihood of an otherwise peaceful gathering becoming violent, the officer is to initiate and encourage dialogue as well as adopt Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) amongst leaders/organizers to prevent the situation turning to a full-blown breach of peace.
Security Checks for IEDs
On venues of political gatherings, voting, collation centres and other electoral activities, the document urged personnel to as much as possible survey and sweep the venues for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) by the Police Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) personnel ahead of the event.
In the case of an unexpected incident of explosion, “Police EOD Section shall be informed promptly, if not present at the venue, and an evacuation process shall be initiated immediately, while the area is sealed to prevent obstruction during rescue operation and loss of evidential materials.”
However, it further said proper coordination amongst security and Disaster Management Agencies shall be ensured by the designated Commander at the theatre of operations and designated commanders on ground are to ensure effective traffic management at the routes leading in and out of venue of political gatherings, including identifying parking areas and determining whether arrangement will be made for joint movement of people in buses.
The code further stated that specific areas will be designated for VIP Escorts to allow the escorts engage in show of force within the arena of political gatherings and that, “Personnel armed with lethal weapons shall not at any time be deployed to the inner ring of any crowd control operation, such as political parties’ conventions, rallies/campaigns and manning of polling units/voting and voter registration centers.”
On the rules for escorting/protecting of electoral materials, the code said there would be establishment of checkpoints/roadblocks that must be part of election security plan of ICCES.
Where no prior information on movements of electoral materials and personnel are available to checkpoints and roadblocks, clearance must be obtained from designated INEC officials to obtain passage.
The code noted that security personnel on election duty shall “Swear to an oath of neutrality in accordance with the Electoral Act; be at alert at all times; be approachable by all members of the public; exhibit a high degree of professionalism; maintain impartiality and fairness in dealings with all parties.”
On the general conduct, it said Security personnel on election duty must share information with authorised members of ICCES and “Be duty bound to render assistance to those in need of such, especially the vulnerable persons.
“Malingering is strictly prohibited while on duty. Officers shall be attentive at all times and avoid getting distracted by gossips with colleagues. The use of mobile phones and soliciting for food or any other items are also strictly prohibited.
“Officers shall remain at designated duty posts until completion of duty or until such time as they are properly relieved. Relief duty/shifts should be properly planned prior to deployment and shared with INEC designated officials at the theatre of operation. Ad-hoc shifts should be avoided to prevent impersonation.
“All security personnel on election duty must acquaint themselves with, observe and assist in enforcing all the provisions of the INEC Policy on the Conduct of Elections in the Context of COVID-19.
“Security personnel on election duty must wear masks at all times and use other protective materials provided for them. However, they may be required to lower their facemasks for proper identification when necessary.
“In the course of an election or any other electoral activity, a security personnel, who falls sick or develops symptoms of COVID-19 such as high temperature, coughing and sneezing, shall, a. Immediately inform his immediate supervisor and an electoral official at the location; b. Immediately isolate him/herself from other persons at the location; c. Request the electoral official to arrange necessary medical assistance and support; and d. Obey all directives issued by health officials.
“If security personnel on duty observe a voter or any other person at an election location to be in breach of the INEC Policy on the Conduct of Election in the Context of the COVID-19 pandemic, he/she shall politely caution the person. If the breach persists or threatens the good conduct of activities, he/she shall call the attention of the presiding officer or any other designated INEC official, who may authorise the removal or arrest of the person.
“In enforcing the provisions of the INEC Policy on the Conduct of Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 pandemic, security personnel shall and share information with authorized members of ICCES; and be duty bound to render assistance to those in need of such, especially the vulnerable persons.
Conduct during elections amidst the rules of engagement to guide the operations of all security agencies in electoral activities is as follows: “a. The principle of minimum force and proportionality must be applied at all times; b. Whenever operational situation permits, every reasonable effort shall be made to control situation through measures short of using force, including personal contact and negotiation;
When Use of Lethal Force is Allowed
“c. The use of lethal force shall only be resorted to if all other means to control the situation have failed or case of unexpected attack during, which a delay could lead to loss of life or serious injury to personnel; d. Any force applied must be limited in its intensity and duration; it must also be commensurate with the level of threat posed.
“e. Force is only to be used when absolutely necessary to achieve an immediate aim; f. The decision to open fire shall be made only on orders and under the control of the on-the scene commander, unless there is insufficient time to obtain such order. Fire can however be opened if the life of a personnel or any member of the public requiring protection is in grave danger.
“g. Fire must be aimed and controlled. Automatic fire will only be opened as a last resort; h. Indiscriminate firing is not permitted; i. Avoid collateral damage; j. After fire has ceased, render medical assistance and record details of incident both in writing and using audio/visual equipment whether or not casualty has been recorded; k. Whenever in doubt, seek clarification from higher authority.
“l. An Officer must remember that his action in using firearms, which results in the killing or wounding of a human being is open to investigation by the Courts and he/she is liable to be held responsible for his/her action under criminal law, if the court finds that his/her use of fire arms was unreasonable in such circumstances.
“Force is only to be used a. against clearly identified armed miscreants; b. to defend oneself and colleagues against hostile act or intent; c. to resist attempt to abduct or detain oneself or colleagues; d. to resist attempt to abduct electoral officials or cart away election material; e. to protect government property from vandalism.
“f. To protect law-abiding citizens and their property, including election monitors and observers under imminent threat of physical violence; g. Against any person or group of persons that hinder freedom of action of members of the security agencies, election officials or law-abiding citizens; h. When there is enough evidence that suspect is caught in the act of perpetuating heinous crime; and i. Force must never be used as a punitive measure.
On the ‘Application of Force’, other details are procedure for arrest and since handling of exhibit in crime scene requires an expert to do so, personnel are not to touch anything (exhibit) with bare hands.
On the caution to personnel effecting arrest, “Reports of all incidents or important occurrences, arrests, searches, confiscation of weapons and most importantly, use of lethal weapons much be made as appropriate, indicating circumstances necessitating such actions.
The NSA, the Police IG, and INEC chairmanship stated that all deployment of security personnel in electoral activities must be guided by the provision of section 29(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As amended).
“All officers deployed for election duty shall be guided by the Standard Operational Guidelines/Rules herein set out to: Ensure efficiency and uniformity in methods with which their roles are discharged;
“Prevent abuse of fundamental human rights and misuse of powers; c. Mitigate criminal and administrative liabilities; Ensure safe conduct of electoral activities; and ensure the security and safety of all involved in electoral activities.
“Mustering shall be held, where personnel will be adequately briefed and inspected prior to deployment for election duty. Debriefing parade shall also be held on completion of every election duty,” the document for code of conduct stated.