INEC Boss Raises Concern on Insecurity, Urges Security Agencies to Ensure Favourable Atmosphere for Peaceful Rerun-Elections

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), raised concern about the rising insecurity in parts of the country and its ability to affect the conduct of the February 3, rerun and bye-elections across the country. 

The INEC boss who spoke at the first quarterly meeting of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security on Tuesday, January 23, challenged the security agencies to make the environment conducive for the conduct of the bye-elections.

The first quarterly meeting of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security was well attended by the Inspector General of Police,  IGP Olukayode Egbetokun,  and representatives of service Chiefs and other security agencies. 

While saying that election is a multi-stakeholder responsibility, he said: “As security agencies, it is your responsibility to secure the environment to enable us to deploy personnel and materials, the protection of observers, the media as well as the polling and collation agents representing the political parties and candidates.

“Without a secure and peaceful environment, the conduct of credible elections is imperiled.

“From experience, the conduct of isolated elections such as bye-elections and re-run elections can be very challenging. We must pay attention to the potential for disruptive behaviour by some candidates and their supporters.

“A re-run election conducted in one Polling Unit or a handful of Polling Units can be severely disrupted by acts of thuggery knowing full well that these few locations will determine the outcome of the election.

“Arising from the reports we received from the States, concerns have been raised about the impact of the prevailing insecurity in some States on the conduct of the elections, made worse by incendiary statements by some political actors.”

The INEC chairman stressed that there is no election season in Nigeria any longer as elections are held throughout the year between one general election and another, adding that “this adds to the enormous pressure on both INEC and the security agencies.

“For instance, in addition to the bye-elections and re-run elections holding next week, the Commission has also released the timetable and schedule of activities for the two off-cycle governorship elections in Edo State scheduled for 21st September 2024 and Ondo State holding on 16th November 2024.

“As required by the Electoral Act 2022, party primaries and nomination of candidates shall be done not later than 180 days before the date fixed for the elections. Accordingly, party primaries for Edo State will commence next week and end three weeks later (i.e. 1st- 24th February 2024). For Ondo State, primaries will be held between 6th and 27th April 2024.

“Our collective experience as election managers and security agencies shows that party primaries can sometimes be more acrimonious than general elections. Therefore, as we prepare for the bye-elections and re-run elections, we should equally be prepared for the two major elections later in this year in Edo and Ondo States.”

He disclosed that the commission will be conducting two categories of elections on February 3, 2024, saying “First are the bye-elections arising from the death or resignation of members of the National and State legislative houses affecting two Senatorial Districts, four Federal and three State Assembly Constituencies.

“The second category is the re-run elections by order of Election Petition Appeal Tribunals. In my remarks at the Commission’s extraordinary meeting with leaders of political parties last month, I reported that the elections affect 35 National and State Constituencies.

“Since then, four additional orders of the Court of appeal have been served on the Commission in respect of Yabo/Shagari Federal Constituency of Sokoto State, Madara/Chinade State Constituency of Bauchi State as well as Kudan and Kauru/Chawai State Constituencies of Kaduna State.

“This brings the total number of affected constituencies to 39 which translates to 2.6% of the 1,491 Constituencies for which elections were conducted nationwide in the 2023 General Election.

“The nine bye-elections are fresh elections covering the entire constituencies. However, with the exception of three Constituencies (Plateau North Senatorial District and Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency in Plateau State, and Kachia/Kagarko Federal Constituency in Kaduna State), the re-run elections are to be held in a few Polling Units. In some cases, only one Polling Unit is affected in an entire Federal or State Constituency.

“Your task as members of ICCES is to ensure security for the elections. For this reason, the Commission has already provided the Nigeria Police Force, as the lead agency in election security, the full information of the locations where the elections will be held broken down by States, Local Government Areas, Registration Areas/Wards, and Polling Units. We have similarly provided the number of registered voters and Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) collected in each Polling Unit.

“The same information will be shared at this meeting with other members of ICCES. The updated information will also be uploaded to the Commission’s website and social media platforms for public information immediately after this meeting”.

The National Security Adviser and co-chairman of ICCES, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu said that the President has always maintained that the ability of security agencies to protect lives and property adds to the credibility of any election. 

Mallam Ribadu who was represented by the director of Internal Security in the Office of the NSA said the forthcoming elections must be held in a secure atmosphere devoid of intimidation and other security threats to uphold the credibility of the process.

He assured that the office of the NSA will continue to collaborate with INEC to ensure that elections are conducted in a secure environment, adding that the protection of election materials and the electorates will be paramount.

The Inspector General of Police, IGP Olukayode Egbetokun in his word said the security agencies were aware of the challenges of isolated elections and assured Nigerians that they were on top of the situation.

He said the police have conducted a threat analysis in the states where the elections will take place and will deploy adequate personnel to the areas for the elections.

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