Violence: INEC flays security approach, slams security agencies

The Independent National Electoral Commission has blamed security agencies for their failure to act decisively when there is poll violence in the country.

Many people were killed and hundreds of properties destroyed by thugs during the presidential/National Assembly  governorship/House of Assembly polls on February 23 and March 9,  2019 respectively.

At least a dozen people also lost their lives during the November 16, 2019 governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states.

And INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu,  who expressed his dissatisfaction with the security arrangements for  elections in the country, demanded a new approach to treating poll  issues.

Yakubu, who spoke during the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security meeting  in Abuja on Friday,  said  the security agencies often placed more emphasis on  the number of  officers  to be deployed,  focusing  less on strategies.

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According to him, it is the responsibility of the security agencies to secure the environment for a  successful conduct of elections.

The INEC chief said, “The commission is concerned that security deployment in some of the most recent elections left much to be desired.

“There is more emphasis on  the number 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 the   number 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.”

He added, “It is the failure to act decisively and collaboratively that encourages thuggery and serves as an incentive for bad behaviour.”

Yakubu  told  the committee to  work towards a new approach to the January 25  reruns in parts of  the country   for Nigerians “to see a qualitatively different security arrangement”.

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He said, “We must translate the new approach into reality in the forthcoming rerun elections such that Nigerians will see a qualitatively different security arrangement.

“No thugs and hoodlums can be more powerful than the  police and other security agencies.

Yakubu said    they   would stop  elections in any constituencies where  the lives of  voters and  INEC  officials were under  threat.

He said there would be no  collation of results in any  collation centres invaded by thugs.

Yakubu said, “The commission is aware of the imperative of having a reform and 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 measures  are taken, the present system of arrest, investigation and prosecution of electoral offenders will remain at best palliative.”

The National Security Adviser, Mohammed  Monguno, said  the government  had learnt some  lessons from the conduct of  the 2019 general elections.

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He  promised  that the lessons learnt would  reflect on future elections.

The retired General   said, “Securing the environment, protecting the electorate and those who will actually engage the process, INEC  officials  and other state officials. Without active collaboration, we cannot achieve confidence in the larger society.”

Monguno said, “There must be consequences for bad behaviour. Bad behaviour not only in relation to thugs, criminal, outlaws and people who just want to upset the entire system, but our own elements and agents who either by design or default want to scuttle this process must be brought to justice.”

The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu,  warned against thuggery during the by-elections.

Adamu said, “No thug can come out  and commit any electoral offence on Eection Day without  the connivance of   security or INEC officials or  politicians.

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