Following reported violence that marred the November 16 Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called for a review of security arrangements for future elections.
This is as the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, said the two elections were peaceful despite the reported widespread violence that marred the elections.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, spoke yesterday in Abuja at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).
Prof. Yakubu said that there would henceforth be comprehensive information on security operatives and clear details of their postings and names to ensure that they were held accountable for their actions.
He said the commission believed that the purpose of security deployment during elections was 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 collation centres.
He said, “the deployment of security personnel in all future elections should be tied to specific locations and activities. All security personnel deployed to polling units and collation centres should be identified by name as is the case with INEC officials. This will not only enhance transparency, but the commission and security agencies will know who to contact in specific locations during elections when the need arises.
“They will also be held responsible for the proper conduct of elections in those locations. The Inspector-General of Police has assured the Commission that this new approach to the deployment of security personnel will be piloted in the court-ordered re-run elections holding next month.”
The INEC boss, who said the current electoral security framework provided for deployment of personnel in three concentric circles, added that in the innermost circle were the polling units where unarmed policemen were deployed while in the outer circles, armed security personnel were deployed to mount roadblocks, patrols and provide rapid response in case of any emergency at the polling units or collation centers.
He said, “We must also 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. Arrest of offenders must be followed by a thorough investigation so that thugs and their sponsors are penalised under the law.”
He said the commission lacked power under the law to cancel elections, but would not hesitate to suspend elections anywhere INEC officials reported the disruption of the process or threats to the lives of voters, election officials and observers by acts of thuggery or community connivance.
He said the commission would not return to the affected areas until adequate safety for all those involved in the process was guaranteed and that the nation must never allow violence and thuggery to define elections.
He said the commission would submit proposals to the National Assembly on how the electoral legal framework could be amended to sanction violators and further empower the commission.
On his part, IGP Adamu, represented by an Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Bashir Makama, said the polls were “relatively peaceful”.
The elections, reportedly marred by cases of violence, thuggery, ballot box snatching and intimidation of voters and electoral officials, also recorded at least the killing of six persons including Mrs. Salome Abuh who was killed when her house was set on fire in Kogi State.
He, however, admitted that there is a need to improve election security.
He said, “In the whole, despite the related infractions or some sort of thuggery observed and other challenges that were faced, the election could be said to be relatively peaceful. There is still room for improvements.”