By Nathaniel Gana
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has expressed concern over the security situation in the country and its impact on the electoral process. Nevertheless, he said the Commission was confident that the security agencies have the capacity to secure the country.
Speaking at the second quarterly meeting of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), held at the Commission’s headquarters, Abuja on Friday 13th May, Prof. Yakubu said while the Commission appreciates the cooperation and support of all ICCES members in providing security for the deployment of election materials, protection of INEC officials, party agents, election observers journalists and voters, the security situation was concerning.
He said: “Even as we prepare for the 2023 General Election, the Commission is also preparing for two off-cycle Governorship elections in Ekiti State on 18th June 2022 and in Osun State on 16th July 2022.
“Furthermore, we have pending bye-elections in 18 constituencies across the country involving three Senatorial Districts, one Federal Constituency and 14 State Constituencies. In addition, as political parties end their primaries on 3rd June 2022 and candidates emerge, campaigns in public by political parties will commence nationwide as provided by the timetable for the election in line with the provision of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).”
He added: “The general security situation in the country and its impact on the electoral process is a source of concern to the Commission. However, we are confident that with nine months to the 2023 General Election, there is enough time to respond to the security challenges and secure the nation for elections to take place nationwide. The timetable for the election has also been released. Let us not wait until a few weeks to the election before we realise that time is not on our side and begin to seek for extension of timelines. The time to act is now.”
Prof. Yakubu, who doubles as Co-Chairman of ICCES, disclosed that Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) have been tasked to provide data on areas of security challenges and citizens living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in their respective states. He said the Commission would use the data as a basis for further engagement with security agencies and for determining the best ways to provide electoral services to citizens.
The National Security Adviser (NSA) and Co-Chairman of ICCES, Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) also expressed deep concern over “the growing uncertainty heralding the conduct of party primaries for the 2023 elections (and) the unabated spate of violence threatening the upcoming off cycle governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states, arising from internal party wranglings, increasing acrimony and bickering amongst political actors as well as the inability of various contending political blocs to amicably resolve their differences in line with democratic tenets.”
Represented by Mr Sanusi Galadima, the NSA observed that the “disturbing development has culminated in intense power play capable of heightening unnecessary political tension across the country.”
His continued: “More worrisome is the unguarded utterances of some highly respected individuals and groups which, more often than not, amplify divisive narratives to the detriment of national security and stability.
“Accordingly, heads of security and law enforcement agencies have been tasked to step up close monitoring and profiling of political actors, no matter how highly placed, who exhibit tendencies to subvert the electoral process, even as thugs and their sponsors would equally be trailed for possible arrest and prosecution.”
He emphasised the need for the Commission to impress it on the political parties to consistently abide by prescribed rules as outlined in their respective manifestoes.”