Home » Elections 2011, Headlines, INEC Politics » Govt tackles security lapses at polls, raises advisory body for INEC

Govt tackles security lapses at polls, raises advisory body for INEC

AN overhaul of the national security structure and arrangement to check lapses at elections have been initiated by the Federal Government.

The new framework makes security agencies in the states the nucleus of planning and conducting elections in the country. In essence, rather than a single, top-down plan often developed in Abuja, the present approach gives more voice to security officials on the ground to provide adequate local content and context to election security.

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi, who spoke on the new deal yesterday in Abuja, called for an effective collaboration between all arms of security agencies to make the 2011 elections hitch-free, fair and credible. Azazi declared that 2011 election was a defining moment for Nigeria.

The duo spoke at the inauguration of the newly constituted Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Elections Security (ICCSE) in Abuja. The outfit is a product of the workshop on security challenges of election management, held last October.

Jega said the function of the committee was purely advisory, as it was designed to increase the level of consultation, coordination, harmonisation and manage decentralisation in election security management.

He believed that the body, which had no legal status, would assist INEC on security issues to achieve free and fair elections in 2011 and beyond.

“Through this interagency framework, INEC seeks to give a greater say to the security agencies in providing a well coordinated plan for securing elections,” Jega said.

The committee is drawn from all security outfits in the country including the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Police, State Security Services (SSS), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), among others.

Azazi, who was represented by a Director in the NSA’s Office, Ambassador Clement Layiwola Laseinde, said 2011 was a defining moment for Nigeria as both the citizens and international communities looked up to the country to deliver a credible election. He also agreed that the amount of coordination among the security agencies towards elections had not been adequate in the past, saying the new initiative would help correct the development.

Jega noted that insecurity had become a recurrent challenge to election management bodies in Nigeria, adding that “this has spanned several issues such as physical security of election officers, protection of election materials, including documents containing election results, ensuring order at polling and collation centres as well as controlling violence among contending political interests.”

According to him, the new INEC, even within its short life span had experienced the stark reality of insecurity, citing instances of some bye elections in some parts of the country, where the commission’s officials were threatened with physical violence in an attempt to dissuade them from carrying out their responsibilities.

“More recently, 20 computers to be used for the registration of voters from January 15 to 29, 2011 were stolen at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos. While this incident does not in any way threaten the security and conduct of the exercise, it must be a matter of concern to us that such sensitive equipment could be stolen from location that should normally be well protected.

“While it is true, as some observers have argued, that security around elections only reflect the general security situation in the country, we believe that insecurity heightens at times of major electoral events.

Therefore, it becomes necessary to pay a particular attention to security issues around the electoral process through concerted efforts of not only security agencies, but the wider public.”

Jega said the commission opted to change its mode of engaging the security agencies because it discovered that having to rely on the security agencies 100 per cent as was done in the past had not yielded the desired result of combating electoral insecurity.

“Consequently, it becomes absolutely important for the commission to work closely with the security agencies to review our past strategies, which apparently have not served us as well as intended.”

The INEC chief blamed the situation largely on inadequate coordination among the various arms of security agencies around elections, saying the findings were as a result of separate discussions INEC held with all the agencies, adding, “while it is true that various security agencies have different legal roles, professional inclinations and organisational tendencies, effective security of elections requires that agency idiosyncrasies ought to recede in favour of inter-agency synergies.

“In addition, there seemed to have been inadequate involvement of security agencies in planning electoral security, particularly operatives in the field. This has meant training, logistics, planning, monitoring and evaluating security deployment have not benefited from the rich perspectives of different agencies, as well as specific contents from different localities.

“Moreover, centralised election security planning meant that security officials outside national headquarters only had to implement handed-down orders, which may be incongruous with the situations on the field.”

Jega said the unfolding electoral activities of the next four months pose huge security challenges confronting INEC. For instance, the forthcoming registration of voters entails working in 120,000 polling units and about 9,000 Registration Area Centres (RAC) across the country.

It also means simultaneous deployment of 120,000 sensitive electronic registration machines, other equipment and nearly 400,000 regular and INEC ad-hoc officials over some of the most diverse social, cultural and physical terrains in Africa.

He pledged the cooperation of the office of the NSA as the coordinating room for all security agencies in the country to the INEC chief, noting that, such cooperation was necessary if Nigeria were to avoid the mistakes of the past. He said attention had to be shifted to the remotest parts of the country, where he said rigging takes place in collusion with some security personnel.

Aziza called for a regime of severe sanctions on any security agency found compromising electoral process as well as those that develop laxity towards their job.  He said apart from yesterday’s meeting, the NSA would also meet with all arms of security agencies to further map out strategies towards safeguarding the electoral process.

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, has ordered that all inward bound cargoes into Nigeria must henceforth be taken to cargo sheds within 30 minutes on arrival.

Also, Demuren directed that henceforth, cargo sheds must be opened for 24 hours and all INEC materials treated as “high profile” items as in the case with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Such materials, he added, must be escorted from the airport to their destination for direct handover to the commission.

Spokesman for the NCAA, Sam Adurogboye confirmed the new security directive to reporters in Lagos.

Also, all airlines, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), cargo handlers, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) among others have been notified of the new system to forestall the embarrassment that trailed the reported theft of 20 Direct Data Capture machines (DDCs) from the ramp at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos two weeks ago.

Some criminal elements had reportedly attacked the consignment a few days after the arrival of the second shipment of the machines on the tarmac and made away with 20 of the machines, giving vent to assertions that the cargo was a target.

But two days after the equipment was confirmed as missing, the police sprang into action and recovered about 20 empty casements of DDC machines.

Moses Onireti, Commissioner of Police, airport command, who described the incident as a “constructive theft” and not an act of robbery, said four suspects were arrested during police investigation.

Similarly, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State, Dr. A. Ogunmola has called on security agencies to live up to their creed as the success and failure of the 2011 elections largely depend on them.

Ogunmola made the call at a pre-election public lecture held yesterday in Lagos.

“To a large extent, the success or failure of the 2011 general elections in Nigeria will depend on the conduct and performance of security agencies on election duty. Events during the build-up to the elections may have raised public fear about the safety and security of those participating in the exercise as voters, election officials, candidates or polling/party agents. This anxiety is heightened by the turbulent history of transition from one civilian government to another in Nigeria,” he said.

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Posted by on Dec 21 2010. Filed under Elections 2011, Headlines, INEC Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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