By Chinwe Ogbuka (Asst. Director, Publicity) and Nathaniel Gana
11th January 2020
It will no longer be business as usual for perpetrators of electoral violence and fraud in Nigeria with the firm assurances given yesterday by the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Mungono (Rtd), and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Adamu at the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security meeting held at the INEC headquarters, Abuja.
Without mincing words, they vowed to henceforth deal decisively with sponsors and perpetrators of such negative acts, beginning with the next set of rerun elections. The INEC Chairman said the Commission had concluded arrangements for the 28 court-ordered rerun elections, scheduled to hold in 1 Senatorial District, 12 Federal Constituencies and 15 State Constituencies across 11 states on 25thJanuary.
Speaking against the background of the violence that took place in some parts of Kogi and Bayelsa States during the last governorship elections held on 16th November 2019, Prof. Yakubu declared that it was the failure to act decisively and collaboratively that had encouraged thuggery and served as an incentive for bad behaviour.
The INEC Chairman said: “it is the responsibility of the security agencies to secure the environment for the successful conduct of elections. The purpose of security deployment during elections is to protect the voters, election officials and materials, accredited observers, the media and to safeguard the integrity of the processes generally, including the polling units and collations centres.
“The Commission is concerned that security deployment in some of the most recent elections left much to be desired. There is more emphasis on numbers of security personnel to be deployed but less consideration on strategic deployment to protect the process, leaving the voters, election officials, party agents, observers, the media and even unarmed security personnel at polling units vulnerable to attacks by thugs and hoodlums.
“Furthermore, there is emphasis on numbers of security personnel but less on synergy, coordination and collaboration among the various security agencies in line with the purpose for which ICCES was established in the first instance. We must adopt a different approach to election security. We must translate the new approach to reality in the forthcoming re-run elections such that Nigerians will see a qualitatively different security arrangement.’
Prof. Yakubu continued: “No thugs and hoodlums can be more powerful than the Nigeria Police and other security agencies. It is the failure to act decisively and collaboratively that encourages thuggery and serves as an incentive for bad behaviour.”
He stated that although, the Commission has no power to cancel an election, nevertheless, it will not proceed in any constituency where the safety of voters, the Commission’s personnel and materials is threatened. Besides, he said collation of results will not proceed where the collation centres are invaded, while no declaration will be made where Returning Officers are threatened.
On the review of the electoral framework, the INEC Chairman said the Commission would work with the National Assembly and other stakeholders to do the needful. “One critical area of reform is the prosecution of electoral offenders, “he said. “We shall vigorously pursue the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal. Unless such decisive measure is taken, the present system of arrest, investigation and prosecution of electoral offenders will remain at best palliative.”
Prof. Yakubu also recalled that the last one year had been a very busy one for the Commission and the security agencies, with the conduct of the 2019 general elections and two off season governorship elections. He lamented the several infractions noticed in those elections and outlined some of the Commission’s efforts at curbing the challenges through inter-agency collaboration.
He said: “you will recall that at our last meeting, we expressed concern with the dimension that illegal deployment of financial resources to influence the outcome of elections, including vote-buying at polling units on Election Day was taking.
“The meeting, recognising the existing collaboration with the anti-corruption agencies in tracking campaign finance as well as the arrest and prosecution of vote-buyers, resolved that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) should be included as members of ICCES”.
He welcomed the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu and the Chairman of the ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye who were attending the ICCES meeting for the first time.
On his part, the National Security Adviser (NSA) and Chairman of ICCESS said that the lessons learned from the 2019 general elections and the recent Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections will be reflected in future elections, starting from 25th of January.
The NSA said: “What we need to do is to address the challenges that we had in the previous elections to ensure that these things do not reoccur. Securing the environment, protecting the electorate and those who will engage in the process, INEC officials and other state officials is a responsibility of all of us.
“Without active and sincere collaboration, we cannot instill confidence in the larger society. It is extremely important also for us to know that this time around, whatever gave rise to the problems we had in the last elections, we must be able to deal with it.”
Major-General Mungono (Rtd), maintained that henceforth, “there must be consequences for crimes and bad behaviour, not only in relation to thugs, criminals, outlaws and people who want to upset the entire system, but also our own elements, our own agents, who either by design or by default will want to scuttle the process must be brought to book.
“For the first time in the history of this country, we must be able to carry through to a logical conclusion, punitive actions against acts that are contrary to the interest of the state. Anybody who acts outside the confines of legitimacy will have to be dealt with. Anything that is illegal, we are not going to allow it to be swept under the carpet”.
The IGP, Mr. Adamu, called for synergy between INEC and security personnel on election duty. He said: “Without proper security, no election can take place. And for every election, a lot of resources and personnel are committed into the process before results are announced”.