11th December 2019
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to review the current election security framework in order to block identified loopholes in the electoral process and check malpractices.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) meeting held at the INEC headquarters, Abuja on 11th December, the Commission’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu observed that since the purpose of security deployment during elections is to protect the voters, election officials and materials, accredited observers, journalists and to safeguard the integrity of the processes, the posting of security personnel in all future elections should be tied to specific locations and activities.
According to him, all security personnel deployed to polling units and collation centres should be identified by name, just as INEC officials, in order to enhance transparency and to enable the Commission and security agencies know who to contact in specific locations during elections when the need arises, and who to hold responsible for the proper conduct of election in those locations.
He said: “The current electoral security framework provides for deployment of personnel in three concentric circles. In the innermost circle are the polling units where unarmed policemen are deployed while in the outer circles, armed security personnel are deployed to mount roadblocks, patrols and provide rapid response in case of any emergency at the polling units or collation centres.
“We must review the deployment of armed security to the outer perimeters so that they are readily available to counter the movement of thugs with the intention of disrupting elections through the intimidation of voters; harassment of election officials, observers and the media or snatching of election materials.”
Prof. Yakubu averred that any arrest of offenders must be followed by a thorough investigation to ensure that thugs and their sponsors are penalised under the law. He affirmed that while the Commission has no power under the law to cancel elections, “it will not hesitate to suspend elections anywhere its officials report the disruption of the process or threats to the lives of voters, election officials and observers by acts of thuggery or community connivance.”
His continued: “The Commission will not return to the affected areas for as long as it takes until we are guaranteed adequate safety for all those involved in the process. We must never allow violence and thuggery to define our elections. The Commission will submit proposals to the National Assembly on how the electoral legal framework can be amended to sanction violators and further empower the Commission in this respect.”
The INEC Chairman told the gathering that the Commission had, ahead of the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, appraised the security situation in the two states using its Election Violence Mitigation and Advocacy Tool (EVMAT), which identified some flashpoints. The assessment, he stated, was shared with the security agencies.
He said: “We also had several stakeholders’ meetings in Yenagoa and Lokoja involving the security agencies. At these meetings, stakeholders across the board expressed concern about the possibility of violence. The security agencies made their own assessment based on which they arrived at the numbers of personnel to be deployed as well as other operational details in order to secure the process. At this meeting, we shall review the efficacy of security deployment in relation to field experience on election day, in order to determine what we got right and what we did not.”
On the deployment of technology, Prof Yakubu expressed delight at the interest shown by the Senate Committee on INEC to amend the extant laws to allow for the use of technology for elections. He revealed that the Committee had already shared the Electoral Act Amendment bill with the Commission for its input.
His words: “We are excited by some of the new provisions concerning electronic transmission of results. We are glad that the electoral legal framework is removing some of the encumbrances to the full deployment of technology for the improvement of the electoral process in Nigeria, especially result collation and management. The Commission will work with the National Assembly for the expeditious passage of the amendment to the electoral legal framework so that work can begin in earnest to make future elections in Nigeria more technology-based. It is long overdue, it is doable, it is achievable and it is inevitable.”
The INEC Chairman also said that the Commission had already scheduled re-run elections to hold simultaneously in 28 constituencies across 12 states of the federation on 25th January 2020.