By Nathaniel Gana
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and the newly appointed Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, have agreed to develop a new template to secure the electoral process in the forthcoming general elections.
The assurance came today when the INEC Chairman led other members of the Commission to brief the IGP and other top management staff of the Police force, including Deputy Inspectors General of the Police, Assistant Inspectors Generals of Police and Police Commissioners from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on preparations for the 2019 polls at the Force Headquarters in Abuja.
Prof. Yakubu expressed joy at the renewed commitment of the newly appointed Police Chief to provide a level playing field for all parties and candidates.
The INEC Chairman said: “there is need for professionalism. We must turn a new leaf. 2019 must be an affirmation of the maturity of the Nigerian democratic process. We must work in partnership to give Nigerians a pleasant voting experience. Our responsibility is to serve the Nigerian people and this is a higher national call that we must all dedicate ourselves to”.
He reminded the officers that INEC and the Police were two organisations in the electoral process that the citizens look up to for free, fair and credible elections, just as he underscored the need for neutrality and professionalism on their parts.
His words: “There are two institutions that this country looks up to for conducting free and fair elections. The first is INEC. The second is the Nigeria Police. INEC is responsible for conducting the elections, the Police is responsible for protecting the entire process, from the INEC officials that we deploy for elections, to observers, the media, civil society and the voters themselves. So much actually depends on the work of the police, particularly professionalism and neutrality.”
Prof. Yakubu said the 2019 general election was an opportunity to prove to the world that the Nigeria’s democracy was on course and that the success achieved in 2015 was not a fluke.
He said: “This election is going to be an intense media event and there will also be intense global interest. Nigerian achieved free, fair, credible elections in 2015. Now is the time to show the world that what we achieved in 2015 was simply not a fluke. 2019 must be an affirmation of the maturity of Nigeria’s democracy.
“This morning, I had two meetings, back to back, with the long-term European Union Observation Mission. They have already arrived in Nigeria and immediately after that, I had another one with the ECOWAS Long Term Observation Mission. We are expecting the Commonwealth, the African Union (AU) and other observer groups. When they come, they will deploy not only in Abuja and other major areas, but also in other nooks and crannies of Nigeria. The responsibility for protecting them and ensuring that they have unimpeded access is entirely that of the Nigerian Police.”
He continued: “We will accredit them and make evidence of their accreditation available to the police. But once they are accredited, they must be allowed unimpeded access. On election day, the media will be there in their numbers and the media must also be provided unimpeded access. I can’t over-emphasise the importance of the process. Our responsibility as INEC and Police is to safeguard the process. The Police have no candidate in the elections and INEC is not a political party. We have no candidate in the elections. Our responsibility is to safeguard the process such that what Nigerians vote for is what determines who wins. Simple”.
The INEC Chairman called for deeper collaboration at all levels. He said: Election is a legal process governed by law. The constitution is very clear, the Electoral Act is also clear. But also, we have regulations and guidelines formulated by the Commission, based on the powers conferred on us by the Electoral Act.
“We must continue to work together in the spirit of the Electoral Act. The 2015 Amendment, particularly Section 29 (3) says that deployment of security will be done by the Commission in consultation with the security agencies. We are going to consult with the security agencies and achieve that requirement. I am very happy to hear from the new IG is determination to actualize that provision of the law”.
Prof. Yakubu used the opportunity to call for the apprehension and prosecution of violators of the electoral laws and processes, stressing that it would serve as a deterrent to others.
“Nigerians expect that violators of our laws will never go scot free in 2019. Arrests have been made in the past but prosecutions have not been done speedily in the way that Nigerians expect. The more we prosecute, working with the police, the easier our work, because prosecution also deters prospective or potential breakers of the law. Any nation that does not prosecute offenders of its laws is doomed and we must work together with the police in 2019 to ensure that this is achieved”, he said.
Prof. Yakubu also gave a breakdown of the number of elections that “must be secured in the forth coming elections.
His words: “we should appreciate the fact that in 2019, we have the highest number of political parties contesting in the elections. We have the largest number of registered voters ever in the elections and we have the highest number of constituencies into which the elections will be conducted, meaning that we have to safeguard the processes no matter what it takes.
“Elections will be conducted into 1,558 Constituencies. We have 119, 973 polling units. As for the number of candidates contesting the elections, we have 1 Presidential Constituency that is going to be contested for by 73 candidates; 1,904 candidates will be contesting for 109 Senatorial seats; we are going to have over 4,600 candidates that will contest for 360 Federal Constituency seats; and over 14, 600 candidates will compete for 991 State Constituencies.
There will be governorship elections in 29 states, for which we have 1,068 candidates vying for 29 governorship seats at state level and then in the FCT, we have 68 constituencies made up of 6 Area Council Chairmen, and 62 councils.
In all, we have 806 candidates in the FCT. On the whole in 2019, over 23, 000 candidates will be competing for 1,558 seats”.
Earlier, the acting IGP of Police explained that the briefing became necessary in order to update the officers on their roles and expectations before, during and after the general elections, so that they can cascade same to their officers in their respective states.
The Police Chief warned: “this is a crucial election that we are getting into and the election must be free, fair and credible. Police officers must be seen to be neutral and give every party a level playing field to do what they are supposed to do”.