INSECURITY: 2023 elections may be cancelled or postponed, INEC warns
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that the 2023 general election, which is just over a month away, faces serious threat of cancellation if the waves of insecurity in parts of the country fail to improve.
The nation’s electoral body also stressed that this must not be allowed to happen.
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who was represented by the chairman, Board of Electoral Institute (BEI), Prof. Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at the Validation of Election Security Training Resources.
The INEC helmsman stressed that security personnel, in particular, and all election officials, in general, must be security conscious and alert to unusual activities in their environment, and must be fully equipped to deal with any challenge.
He said, “We all appreciate the fact that election security is vital to democratic consolidation through provision of enabling environment for the conduct of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections and thus strengthening the electoral process.
“Consequently, in preparations for the 2023 general elections, the commission is not leaving anything to chance in ensuring that intensive and extensive security is provided for election personnel, materials, and processes.
“This is particularly significant to the commission given the current security challenges in various parts of the country and the fact that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members constitute the core of the polling unit election officials.
“Moreover, if the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder the declaration of elections results and precipitate constitutional crisis. This must not be allowed to happen and shall not be allowed to happen.”
Also, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Mohammed Babagana Monguno (retd), and the chairman, INEC jointly assured the nation that conducive environment will be provided for successful conduct of the 2023 general election.
He also said that there is a new Electoral Legal Framework that will guide the 2023 election as a result of the enactment of the Electoral Act 2022 which prompted the review of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for Conduct of Elections 2022.
He said, “In particular, Sections 47(2), 60(1, 2 & 5), 62(1), 64(4a & 4b) and 64(5) of the Electoral Act 2022, which confers INEC with the power to use any technological device to transmit or transfer election results electronically are instructive in this regard.”
He noted that emboldened by these legal protections, the Commission introduced new innovative technologies and procedures and made commitments to the Nigeria people that (a) Continuous Verification, Accreditation and Voting will be conducted at the Polling Units using the Bimodal Verification and Accreditation System (BVAS) and (b) Real-Time Polling Unit-level results will be uploaded on to the INEC Results Viewing (IReV) Portal using the same BVAS.
He said these commitments require innovative security strategies and deployments for protection of voters, election personnel, materials, equipment, the electoral processes as well as the general public and infrastructure.
“These innovative systems and processes minimize human errors and delays in results collation and improve the accuracy, transparency, and credibility of the results collation process thereby ensuring credibility of the process They were tested during the Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections, held on June 18, 2022 and July 16, 2022, respectively.”
The INEC boss added that reports on the conduct of security operatives during the elections conducted by the commission specifically stand-alone governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states had shown progressive and commendable improvement in their disposition to electoral training and professionalism on election duties.
In his goodwill message, the country director, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Seray Jah, said that the training of security personnel to be deployed for the poll is the antidote to peaceful elections.
“Managing security threats in the electioneering process is a tall order for INEC, which has the responsibility, together with Nigerian security agencies, of preventing, mitigating, and resolving electoral violence.
“To effectively do this, security personnel deployed during the elections would need adequate training on their roles and responsibilities during the election. The validation workshop with key stakeholders in elections security presents an opportunity to ratify the quality resources developed to train the security personnel as they prepare to deploy for the 2023 general elections,” Jay said.
Speaking earlier, director general, the Electoral Institute, Dr. Sa’ad Umar Idris, said that the validation exercise is in line with INEC’s practice to review training manuals and resources in line with the 2022 Guidelines and Regulations for the Conduct of Elections and the ICCES report on Election Security.
He also listed The Electoral Security Personnel (ESP) Training Manual, The Electoral Security Personnel (ESP) Training Facilitators Guide, The Electoral Security (ESP) Handbook, and The Basic Security in Election Duty (BaSED) Handbook, as the documents to be validated at the workshop.
Meanwhile, some civil society organisations (CSOs) have cautioned INEC against postponing the 2023 general election as a result of security threats.
According to the CSOs, there will be more chaos than the security threat if the 2023 general election is postponed and urged the security agencies to go after elements working against the success of the polls.
The CSOs that spoke with LEADERSHIP are Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Transparency International (TI) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).
Speaking through their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, the CSOs also cautioned INEC against making pronouncements that will dampen the spirit of Nigerians towards the polls.
“We are using this opportunity to caution INEC against making that kind of pronunciation. INEC should prevail on the government to provide security because Nigeria has suffered for democracy and will not succumb to threat and blackmail.
“The security agencies must rise up and prevent those who are working hard to stop the election from holding. If they postponed this election, the chaos would be more,” the CSOs said.
The CSOs said even at the height of the Boko Haram crisis, the election was not canceled.
“In Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where the Boko Haram crisis was high, elections were held. We do not think that individuals should threaten Nigerians from exercising their rights.
“If INEC is saying this, they want to succumb to what some people are planning. We call on everyone involved in the 2023 general election to ensure that we carry out the 2023 election in a peaceful manner,” Rafsanjani said.
The CSOs further said that Nigeria’s secret service must ensure that everyone threatening the peace of the country and planning to prevent the people from exercising their franchise is arrested.
“The security agents, both in uniforms and plain clothes, should rise up to their responsibility. Every stakeholder must rise up and ensure that violence or attacks do not occur.
“We call on Nigerians to insist that their fundamental human right is not truncated. There is no guarantee that anytime the election is fixed, these people will go to sleep. So, Nigerians must resist the activities of a few people who don’t want the election to be held,” Rafsanjani added.