By Nathaniel Gana
5th June 2020.
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu has called on the country’s security agencies to engage early with political parties ahead of the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections in order to create the atmosphere for peace.
Prof Yakubu made the call today at the first virtual consultative meeting of the Inter-Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), which was convened to deliberate on the pending two Governorship and 10 bye-elections, as well as the Commission’s new Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The INEC Chairman spoke against the background of what he described as “warning signals” that were already manifesting in respect of the two governorship elections, urging the security experts to act proactively in order to nip any potential crisis in the bud.
Prof. Yakubu told the audience that the party primaries for the nomination of candidates for the Edo governorship election had commenced and that 15 out the 18 registered political parties had already invited the Commission to monitor their primaries.
He however warned: “As you are aware, the conduct of primaries by political parties tends to be very acrimonious. The acrimony is carried forward into the electioneering campaigns and Election Day activities. Already, there are warning signals. The security agencies need to act proactively. An early engagement with political parties and aspirants is necessary in order to create the atmosphere for peaceful primaries and consequently peaceful elections.”
On the new policy, Prof Yakubu said: “In the next few months, the Commission will hold two major elections – the end of tenure Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for 19thSeptember 2020 and 10th October 2020 respectively. The Commission released the timetable and schedule of activities for the two elections early this year. At that time, no one anticipated that our preparations for the elections will be done in the middle of a global health emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the normal way of doing things, including the conduct of elections. For this reason, the Commission released a new policy on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy has been discussed with different stakeholders in the course of this this week and also shared with you for deliberation at this meeting.”
He continued: “In addition to the two Governorship elections, vacancies have occurred in 10 National and State constituencies in eight States across the country. The Commission is also making preparations for the consequential bye-elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Prof. Yakubu said the new policy was anchored on the guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force, based on the advisory of health authorities. According to him, the guidelines provide for measures to protect the electoral process and the people involved, ranging from election officials, observers, the media and voters.
He said there was also a need to review the security architecture against the background of the global pandemic in order to produce clear guidelines and supplementary code of conduct for security personnel on election duty.
His words: “As the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic will impact on the planning and deployment strategy for the conduct of elections generally, it is necessary for ICCES to evolve effective ways of securing and protecting the integrity of the electoral process. Fortunately, in the aftermath of recent Governorship elections, ICCES set up an ad-hoc committee to advise it on security arrangements for future elections. The report of the Committee, which will be presented for consideration at this meeting, is coming at an auspicious time. We should, as a matter of urgency, come up with a policy and code of conduct for security personnel in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On his part, the Co-Chairman of ICESS and National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General (Rtd) Babagana Monguno, who was represented by Mr. S. Galadima called on security agencies to work in unison to ensure that the forthcoming elections are conducted in a free, fair and rancor free environment.