With just two months to the general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has identified security as a major challenge.
The concern was raised as the commission said that all the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) for those who recently registered have been processed for collection at the INEC’s offices across the 774 local government area secretariats.
The commission is still working on the applications for replacement and transfer.
INEC chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu also noted that the conduct of some security personnel, who have the responsibility of securing the environment has become a major issue.
Yakubu, who spoke yesterday in Abuja at the Police/stakeholders’ security summit, organised by the Police, however, said that the commission will engage with the security agencies, particularly the police, in defining new parameters for the deployment of security personnel in the electoral process.
He also urged the security agencies to maintain professionalism and neutrality.
He said: “As with all elections, security is going to be a major issue in the 2019 general elections. Security agencies have a responsibility to secure the environment for elections. In doing so, there is the overriding responsibility for professionalism and neutrality.
“The rules of engagement must be clear to all. Learning from the cumulative experience of the off-season elections conducted into 195 constituencies since the 2015 general elections, the conduct of some security personnel has become a major issue of discussion. We are deeply concerned.”
The INEC boss also noted that it has become imperative to review the template for the elections so as to reassure Nigerians and international community of the commission’s preparedness to conduct free, fair and transparent elections.
Prof. Yakubu said: “Consequently, it is imperative to review the template for the 2019 general elections in order to reassure Nigerians and the international community of our commitment to credible elections and to protect the sanctity of the electoral process.
“INEC will engage with the security agencies, particularly the police, in defining new parameters for the deployment of security agencies in the electoral process.
“As I said at a recent workshop on election security, organised by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), INEC shall fully apply the provision of Section 29(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which places in the commission the sole responsibility for requesting the deployment of security personnel necessary for elections.
“ The responsibility for assigning them is also to be determined by the commission. INEC will remain responsible for the conduct of elections. The security agencies will continue to secure the environment in a manner that voters, observers and the media shall not feel intimidated or harassed.
“The process of conducting election shall remain the responsibility of INEC. We will continue to emphasise this point in our interaction with the security agencies both in a forum such as this as well as the meetings of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCESS).”
He noted that the commission shall continue to work with the security agencies for the arrest and prosecution of violators of the electoral Act. A collaboration which, according to him, has led to the prosecution of 42 electoral offenders.
“Working together with the police, we have successfully prosecuted 42 electoral offenders following violent disruption of the Minjibir State Constituency bye-election in Kano in 2016. Similarly, a number of other prosecutions are ongoing in Rivers State, and most recently in Osun State where the police has forwarded nine case, files to the commission, out of which three cases involving vote buying and illegal possession of PVCs, are being prosecuted. INEC believes that the best deterrence to violations of the law during elections is swift prosecution. We will continue to work with the security agencies in this regard.”
Speaking on INEC’s preparation for the 2019 polls, Yakubu said that the commission has already implemented six out of the 14 activities as outlined in the timetable and schedule of activities.
He said: ”I wish to assure you that INEC has gone far with our preparations. We have already implemented six of the 14 activities strictly on schedule as outlined in the timetable and schedule of activities for the general election which was release almost a year ago (on 9th January, this year),” he said.
“There is intense interest nationally and around the world in the 2019 general elections. In just a matter of weeks, some international observers will begin the deployment of their long-term observation missions for the election.”
On PVCs, he said the commission has successfully completed the printing for new registrants. He said: “ I am glad to report that all PVCs for fresh registrants have been printed and delivered to the states and the FCT for collection in our local government area offices for now. The commission plans to devolve the collection to at least the Ward level soon. We will keep citizens informed of the process.
He, therefore, appealed to all stakeholders including traditional rulers and religious leaders, socio-cultural associations, civil society organisations and the media to similarly mobilise the new registrants to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
However, the 1,178,793 requests for replacement of damaged, defaced or lost PVCs as well as the 769,917 requests for intra and inter-state transfers are being processed.
The PVCs he said, will be delivered to the states by the end of this week.