2023 Election Security: The Imperative Of Inter-Agency Collaboration.

….Election security summit held with stakeholders at INEC headquarters Asaba

By Naomisophyblog

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Election has come to be known across the globe as the process by which a group of people or people within a particular geographical space, vote to choose persons to represent them in government or in any other group to which they subscribe. In every democracy, sovereignty belongs to the people and the legitimacy of any government in a democracy is conferred by the people through the ballot box. Electoral integrity is very vital for election credibility which is sine qua non to an acceptable electoral process.

An election can only be said to be fair and credible if it is peaceful, non – violent, accessible, without intimidation and threat and above all, the outcome reflects the wishes of the electorate expressed in a conducive atmosphere that allows for free voting by all qualified citizens without let or hindrance. There is therefore a direct correlation between security and credibility of elections.

During elections, the state authorities strive to ensure that all involved, notably the voters, electoral officials, observers, candidates and all other stakeholders are able to conduct their respective part without fear of harm or molestation while also trying to ensure that all sensitive electoral materials are kept secure as election security is critical to the advancement of democratic culture.

The specific security requirements for elections vary and are basically determined by the prevailing factors within the electoral environment. For instance, when elections are to be conducted in places where there is ongoing conflict or there is reasonable apprehension of violence, securing such elections will require the situation being taken into cognisance. Potential for violence in any election could come from majorly ethno-political, economic and socio-religious dimensions.

One of the major goals of election security management is to checkmate electoral violence which essentially is the employment of force to coerce the electoral officials, contestants, voters and other actors involved in the process in other to affect the outcome of the election. Effective election security management plan should thus involve identifying the early warning signs, mobilizing and engaging the citizenry, voters’ education as well as ceaseless and robust public enlightenment.

The much-awaited 2023 General elections is fast approaching with about one hundred and forty {140] days to its commencement. In actual fact, the electioneering process has commenced with the seal taken off the lid of campaigns and political rallies with effect from Wednesday, 28th September, 2022.

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With the elections expected to hold in all the five thousand, eight hundred and sixty – three (5,863) Polling Units of the two hundred and seventy (270) Wards in the twenty – five (25) Local Government Areas of the State, it is not unexpected that security issues will take the front burner among issues requiring serious attention for a hitch – free electoral process. For a state like Delta, election security managers must give consideration to such crimes as cultism, kidnapping, communal clashes, civic agitations and the infiltration of elements sympathetic to the course of the outlawed Independent People of Biafra {IPOB}.

While the Independent National Electoral Commission {INEC} is the body statutorily responsible for the conduct of the election, the Nigeria Police Force, by the provision of Section 91(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 is the lead agency vested with the duty of providing “……. adequate security for proper and peaceful conduct of political rallies and processions…..”. For a successful management of the 2023, the Nigeria Police Force, pride being the lead realises that synergy between security agencies through inter-agency collaboration cannot be overemphasized as being very important purpose of enforcement of electoral laws, maintaining peace and security before, during and after the process, the Force will adopt several strategies which involves consultations and engagements with relevant stakeholders, public enlightenment through the Police Public Relations Officer {PPRO} as well as arrests and prosecutions whenever it becomes absolutely necessary.

Periodic Elections are the cornerstone of every democracy. They constitute a vital link between leaders and citizens. Legitimacy of any government in a democracy is conferred by the people through the ballot box.

An election can only be said to be fair and credible if the outcome reflects the wishes of the electorate expressed in a conducive atmosphere that allows for free voting by all qualified citizens without let or hindrance:
} Peaceful
} Non-Violent
} Accessible
} Free of intimidation and threat
There is therefore a direct correlation between security and credibility of elections.

Election Security refers to the protection of elections; voting infrastructure & persons as well as processes from attack, threat or intimidation and ensuring compliance and adherence to laid down laws, rules and procedures.

Security is indispensible to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections, it covers a wide range of activities and scenarios:
v Campaigns and Rallies
v Personnel: Poll workers, Observers, Media, Voters
v Public & Private Property (Buildings, Machinery, equipment etc.)
v Networks, data, processes and intangibles

Insecurity – The risk or threat of violence has characterised elections in Nigeria. There have been several well documented reports of killings, maiming, kidnappings, arsons and other violent acts leading up to the elections, on polling day and the post-election period. Recent examples include the 2011 post-election violence in Bauchi and Kaduna and Polling Day violence in Kogi, Bayelsa and Rivers States which recorded some deaths.
Some of the effects on Insecurity on elections include:
v Inconclusive elections
v Low Voters’ turnout
v Discourage participation of vulnerable groups
v Is a drain on resources
v Impugns integrity of the process
v Questions legitimacy of government
v Leads to mistrust of the system
v Breeds instability and insecurity.
Registration Offences
} Buying and selling voter’s card S(22)
} Unlawful possession of voter’s card S23 (1)
} Unlawful signing of registration form, procurement of fictitious person as registrant.
} Procuring registration of a person who ought not to be registered or a fictitious person.
} 23 (2) By duress or threat causing anyone to refrain from registering, hindering anyone from registering.
} 26 (2) Any INEC or Security official who does not take the oath of loyalty and neutrality

SECTION 114 -129

} S114 & 115: Registration & nomination offences Destroy, mutilates, defaces or removes any estimate, false publication, impeding a registration officer, forgery, undertaking registration at an authorized place, candidate signing nomination paper or result form in more than 1 constituency Unlawful possession or printing ballot papers or result sheet or manufacturing of any ballot box or election related devices.

} S116- inciting or disorderly behaviour
} S117- improper use or sale of voters’ card
} S118- Use of government vehicles to convey people to register
} S119- Impersonation of registration and at election
} S120- Any officer appointment for the purpose of this Act who without lawful excuse commit any act or omits to act in breach of his or her official duty commits an offence liable on conviction to N500,000 fine or imprisonment for 12 months or both polling officials who report late or fail to report for duty on election day faces the same punishment.

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