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.
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”.
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.
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.