23rd January 2024
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has tasked security agencies to secure the electoral space and provide the enabling environment for the Commission to deploy personnel and materials for the bye-elections and rerun elections scheduled to be hold across the country on 3rd February 2024.
Prof. Yakubu made the call while addressing members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) during a meeting held at the INEC Headquarters, Abuja on Tuesday, 23rd January 2024.
The INEC Chairman, who also chairs ICCES, described the conduct of an election as a multi-stakeholder responsibility, adding that without a secure and peaceful environment, elections would be imperiled.
He said: “INEC has a role to play. So too are other stakeholders. As security agencies, it is your responsibility to secure the environment to enable us to deploy personnel and materials, the protection of observers, the media as well as the polling and collation agents representing the political parties and candidates.”
He pointed out that from experience, the conduct of isolated elections such as bye-elections and re-run elections could be quite challenging, insisting that “we must pay attention to the potential disruptive behaviour by some candidates and their supporters.”
His explained: “A re-run election conducted in one Polling Unit or a handful of Polling Units can be severely disrupted by acts of thuggery knowing full well that these few locations will determine the outcome of the election.”
He added: “Arising from the reports we received from the States, concerns have been raised about the impact of the prevailing insecurity in some States on the conduct of the elections, made worse by incendiary statements by some political actors. We will present such concerns and reports at this meeting for appropriate security response.”
Speaking on the frequency of elections and electoral activities in the country, Prof. Yakubu said, “what many people do not realize is that there is no election season in Nigeria any longer. Elections are held throughout the year between one general election and another. This adds to the enormous pressure on both INEC and the security agencies. For instance, in addition to the bye-elections and re-run elections holding next week, the Commission has also released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the two off-cycle Governorship elections in Edo State scheduled for 21st September 2024 and Ondo State holding on 16th November 2024.
“As required by the Electoral Act 2022, party primaries and nomination of candidates shall be done not later than 180 days before the date fixed for the elections. Accordingly, party primaries for Edo State will commence next week and end three weeks later (i.e. 1st- 24th February 2024). For Ondo State, primaries will be held between 6th and 27th April 2024. Our collective experience as election managers and security agencies shows that party primaries can sometimes be more acrimonious than general elections. Therefore, as we prepare for the bye-elections and re-run elections, we should equally be prepared for the two major elections later in this year in Edo and Ondo States.”
The National Security Adviser (NSA) and Co-Chairman of ICCES, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, represented by the Director of Internal Security at the office of the NSA, Hassan Abdullahi, congratulated the Commission for successfully conducting the Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo governorship elections. He also commended the security agencies for their doggedness during the elections.
The NSA said his office and security agencies will collaborate with INEC to ensure that the February 3rd elections are conducted in a secure and peaceful environment. He said: “In this regard, the coordination of security operations, deployment of personnel, and adoption of proactive security measures would be prioritized.”
Mallam Ribadu added that learning from the last off-cycle elections, strategic planning for post-election security was crucial for maintaining law and order to prevent post-election violence and address any security challenge that may arise following the announcement of election results.
He assured that his office will ensure adequate provision of resources to members of ICESS to enable them to discharge their duties during the February elections, with a high sense of responsibility.
On his part, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Dr. Kayode Egbetokun, said the Police as the lead agency in election security, will provide security alongside other security agencies for the bye elections and off-cycle elections.
He said: “We are aware of the challenges associated with isolated elections, and I want to assure Nigerians that we are on top of the situation. We have analyzed all 26 states where the election is going to take place and we are going to deploy according to the strength and threat assessment.
The IGP added: “We are also going to deploy adequately and massively for these elections, just like we did in the last off-season elections. I want to assure Nigerians that this election that is coming is going to be conducted hitch-free. We are going to ensure the safety of officials who are going to be deployed for the election, we are going to ensure the safety of the electorate who are going to come out on the day of the election, we will ensure the safety of materials for the elections.”