Following the directive from President Muhammadu Buhari that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should not rig election for anybody, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno; the chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, the director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS), Ibrahim Bichi; the acting chairman,
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu and the chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Olufunmileyi Owasanoye, have sounded a note of warning against election riggers. According to these agencies that make up the Inter-Agency Consultative
Committee on Election Security (ICCES), from now onward, it will be a tough time for election riggers.
Sharing the risk assessment of the 28 rerun elections holding on 25 January, 2020, the ICCES members concluded that it is adopting a different strategy from that of 2019, as they asserted that thugs and others engaged on vote buying will now face a difficult time from now onward.
Speaking at the first meeting of the 2020 Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said with the calibre of people gathered, from now henceforth, they will be able to track legal deployment of financial resources and track financial flow of illicit funds to corrupt the electoral process.
The INEC chairman described 2019 as a very busy year for the Commission and the security agencies, noting that in addition to the 2019 general election, there were governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, supplementary election for Brass 1 State Constituency in Bayelsa State, by-elections in Plateau and Katsina States and re-run elections for Kogi West Senatorial District and Ajaokuta Federal Constituency.
“You will recall that at our last meeting held on 11 December 2019, we reviewed the security arrangements for the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections in particular. You may also recall that the Commission intimated you about the re-run elections to be held this month in 28 constituencies across 11 states of the federation in compliance with the orders of Election Petition Tribunals.
“The Commission is concluding arrangements for the re-run elections scheduled for Saturday 25th January 2020 in one Senatorial District, 12 Federal Constituencies and 15 State Constituencies.
“You will similarly recall that at our last meeting, we expressed concern about the dimension that illegal deployment of financial resources to influence the outcome of elections, including vote-buying at polling units on Election Day, had assumed. The meeting, recognising the existing collaboration with the anti-corruption agencies in tracking financial flows for illicit purposes as well as the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of such flows, especially for the purpose of corrupting the electoral process through vote-buying, resolved that the EFCC and the ICPC should be included as members of ICCES.
Speaking on election security, the electoral boss said it was 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. 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,” the INEC chairman said.
He said going forward, INEC had decided that although the commission had no power under the law to cancel an election, it will not proceed with the process in any constituency where the safety of voters, its personnel and materials was threatened.
“Furthermore, collation of results will not proceed where the collation centres are invaded. No declaration of winners will be made where Returning Officers are threatened.
“The Commission is aware of the imperative of reform of which the review of the electoral legal framework is fundamental. We are working with the National Assembly and all stakeholders in this regard. One critical area of reform is the prosecution of electoral offenders. 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,” Yakubu said.
The National Security Adviser, Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd) said last year was saturated with elections but added that they had drawn lessons from all the processes, starting from the pre-election, the election and the post-election periods.
Monguno added that lessons had been drawn from the previous elections and that corrections would reflect in the rerun coming up on 25 January 2020.
“We have a responsibility because the voters have high expectations from us,” the NSA said of the security preparation during elections.
Monguno, who tasked the security agencies to address the challenges they had in the last elections and ensure they did not occur again, said the security agencies must always secure the environment for INEC officials and the voters.
Monguno warned that this time around, there must be consequences for bad behaviour from bad elements.
Also speaking, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu said they would ensure proper security in the coming elections.
Adamu, who called for synergy amongst the security agencies, said without security, no election can take place, even as he added that no thug will disrupt election without connivance with stakeholders, saying that if they worked together, they can stop anyone that will want to disrupt the election.
Adamu said that the lessons learned from the previous elections would help them in future elections.
“We must find solution to ballot box snatching, violent reaction from the electorate. From now onwards, we won’t tolerate that. Anyone that comes to disrupt the election, either as security agent or as an INEC official, the moment you are identified, we will take you out of the system. The same thing with the politicians. If we don’t do that, there will be problem,” the IGP added.
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