Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Preliminary Statement issued by the National Human Rights Commission and the CLEEN Foundation on the Conduct of Security Officials in the Presidential Election held on April 16, 2011


 Background

Free, fair and credible election requires the guarantee of the security of people and materials involved in the electoral process. The personnel of the electoral management body, politicians, electorates and the general public should be protected from violence and intimidation during voter registration, campaigns, primaries, polling, collation and declaration of results and post-election dispute resolution. In addition, the safety of the election materials should be guaranteed.
Past elections in Nigeria were generally characterised by violence due to political intolerance, lapses in the conduct of the elections as well as inadequate, ineffective, partial and generally unprofessional security personnel at the polling units and collation centres. Beside violence, there have also been reports of partiality and the involvement of security officials in several electoral malpractices, including ballot box snatching and stuffing, disruption of voting and alteration of election results. These security lapses and challenges contributed to the lack of credibility associated with past elections in the country.

A preliminary report on the conduct of security officials during the last parliamentary was released last week. Today, we present the preliminary report on the observation of the conduct of security personnel during the presidential election held on April 16th 2011.  We are aware that the Police Service Commission has also deployed its staff to monitor the conduct of the police on election duties. We hope that the two reports will serve as basis for enhancing the performance of the security agencies in the professional policing of elections as required by democratic practices.

Prior to the April 2011 elections, there were concerns about the state of security as incidences of violence were recorded in different parts of the country. There were cases of bombing of public spaces leading to scores of deaths; maiming and assassination of political aspirants; contradictory directives by INEC and security chiefs on whether voters should stay at the polling stations or go after voting; and the disappointing postponement of the national assembly elections from April 2 to 9 due to logistics problems faced by INEC. The most dramatic incidences of violence were the election eve and Election Day bombings of INEC offices in Suleja, Niger State and Maiduguri, Bornu State respectively. Whereas the Suleja incident killed and injured a number of persons, among other INEC officials, the Maiduguri incident recorded no loss of life. These and other incidences of violence scared people away from exercising their franchise and heightened tension in the polity thus underscoring the need to pay special attention to security and security officials in the elections.

In the on-going elections, the National Human Rights Commission and CLEEN Foundation, with support from OSIWA and the UNDP, are collaborating to observe the conduct of security personnel deployed for election duties and not just the police as was the practice in the past. The need to extend the exercise to other security agencies involved in elections is based on the fact that they all play important and complementary role to the police during elections. Several security agencies have become very visible in their functions at polling stations in the fourth republic elections. These agencies include Federal Road Safety Commission, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Custom Service, Nigeria Prison Service and the Nigerian Army which complemented the Police in election security duties

The functions of security agencies during elections

The Guideline issued by the Police Service Commission identified six major function areas for the police during elections, which are relevant to all security agencies involved in the electoral process. These are:
1.      Safeguarding the security of lives and property of citizens during campaign and voting, so that citizens will not feel unsafe on account of holding, associating with or expressing a political opinion;
2.      Ensuring the safety of electoral officers before, during and after elections;
3.      Providing security for candidates during campaigns and elections;
4.      Ensuring and preserving a free, fair, safe and lawful atmosphere for campaigning by all parties and candidates without discrimination;
5.      Maintaining peaceful conditions, law and order around the polling and counting centres;
6.      Providing security for electoral officials at voting and counting centres; and ensuring the security of election materials at voting and counting centres and during their transportation thereto. It is the duty of the police to ensure that election materials are not stolen, hijacked, destroyed or fraudulently altered by any group or person.

In carrying out these functions, security agents are expected to exhibit the qualities of alertness, approachability, professionalism, impartiality, fairness, restraint in the use of force, prompt communication with superiors in event of imminent security threat, adequate knowledge of the electoral law, wearing of identification tag, and collaboration and cooperation with relevant legitimate electoral, security and civil society officials. These were the qualities and factors we paid special attention to in observing the conduct of security officials during the national assembly election of April 9, 2011 and the presidential election of April 16, 2011 across the country.


METHODOLOGY

Observers were deployed across the 36 states of Nigeria and Abuja the Federal Capital Territory. Majority of them were stationed in particular polling stations to observe conduct of security officials from the time they arrived to the end of the elections. The remaining were roving observers who covered each of the three senatorial districts in a state. However, the selection of polling stations that were observed was based on purposive rather than random sampling methodology.

The checklists used in the observation consisted largely of close-ended questions to enable generation of quantitative measurement of the findings. However, incident sheets were also provided to enable recording of particular incidents the observers witnessed. The checklist has a total of 26 questions, designed to elicit answers to questions on punctuality, professionalism, use of force, impartiality, politeness and alertness of the security officials in each polling unit. Observers were to complete the checklist through observation and interview of randomly selected voters and security officials in each poling unit.

A total of 3,992 completed questionnaires were returned indicating that 3,992 polling units across Nigeria were observed during the presidential election. However for the purpose of this preliminary report a random sample of 964 completed questionnaires were analysed for the Preliminary report. The findings that follow are based on analysis of the checklists and media reports on the elections. Caution is advised on generalisations based on the findings given the small number of polling stations observed, the preliminary nature of this statement and more importantly the use of convenience rather than classical random sampling methodology in the observation. However, the report provides important insights and analysis that have not been explored elsewhere.

FindinGs and Recommendations


1.      Punctuality
Observation reports indicated that security officials arrived 65% of the polling units before 8.00am when polling was supposed to commence while 26% arrived between 8 and 9 am. This result shows an improvement on level of punctuality recorded in the National Assembly elections. Generally, the South-East and South-South zones had the highest percentage of polling units where security officials arrived after 8 am when voting was expected to have commenced. Security officials were also reported to have remained in the polling units until the end of the voting exercise in most polling units. Only in 17% of polling units did security officials leave the polling units during the elections. This also represents a slight improvement on the National Assembly elections in which observers reported that security officials left 27% of polling units during the election. The improvement can be attributed to the presence of food and drink vendors at polling units that was obviously a market response to the observed demand for refreshments at polling units during the National Assembly elections. Like in the previous election, observers reported that most of polling units (79%) were manned by security officials throughout the duration of the polls.

2.      Deployment
Generally, 3 or more security officials were deployed to the 35% of polling units and 36% of polling unit had at least 2 security officials. Consequently, 51% of polling units were deemed to have ‘adequate’ security while another 26% were said to have ‘very adequate’ security. The South-South zone had the highest number of polling units with three and above security officials (62%), while the South East zone had the lowest (25%). The security officials were easily identifiable in 83% of polling units with nametags. The northern zones remarkably had the highest percentage of polling units where security officials were reported to be without nametags. Reports from observers showed that all the polling stations in the city centers had adequate security personnel while some polling stations in the suburbs and hinterland had fewer or no security personnel deployed to them.

3.      Conduct of the security officials at the polls
The observers also reported that the conduct of security officials was in most cases satisfactory, consistent with observations in the National Assembly elections. Most of the polling units were recorded to have security officials whose overall conduct was rated to be ‘good’ (58%) and ‘very good’ (23%). The friendly disposition of security officials was noticeable in most of the polling units with observers recording that they found the security officials ‘very approachable’ (92%). This disposition of security personnel can be attributed to sustained sensitisation and training of security personnel deployed on electoral duties for 2011 general elections by the National Human Rights Commission, CLEEN Foundation, civil society groups and other stakeholders.   The same percentage of polling units recorded security officials who were considered to have been ‘impartial’ and ‘very impartial’ during the polls. However, there was significant variance in perception of partiality or otherwise of security officials across the states. States with highest record of polling units where security officials were considered partial are Benue (50%), Ogun (40%), Akwa Ibom (23%), Cross River (23%), Anambra (20%) and Kebbi (18%). To these states must be added Delta and Rivers States where observers curiously did not record perception of partiality of security officials.

In most of polling units (72%), security officials were reported to have followed instructions of presiding officials during the elections. This percentage is, however, relatively lower than the compliance rate (78%) recorded at the National Assembly elections. The North Central (15%) and South South (11%) zones recorded the largest percentage of polling units where security officials reportedly failed to comply with instructions of presiding officials.  This trend probably also explains the drop in percentage of polling units in which observers were willing to recommend security officials for recognition from 70% recorded in the parliamentary elections to 50% in the presidential elections.


4.      Safety and security of the polling units
Safety and security of polling units is a very important precondition for conducting free, fair and credible elections. This explains why safety of polling units was one of the major areas of concern before the commencement of the 2011 elections, especially the controversy over the security implications of the modified open ballot system. The relative sense of security reported in the National Assembly elections expectedly rubbed off on the presidential elections as voters were perceived to have felt safe and secured in most of the polling units (86%). Only an infinitesimal 1% of polling units was considered ‘not safe and secure at all’. Again, observers noted that the presence of voters at the polling units throughout the duration of the polls engendered a greater sense of security even for the INEC officials who could easily be overpowered by hoodlums and party agents if left alone after voting.

The perceived slight improvement in sense of security of polling units is also evidenced by the fact that only 10% of polling units, as against 13% reported in the National Assembly elections, witnessed incidents considered as threats to security. Security officials were also credited to have handled the threats in a commendable manner with minimal cases (6%) in which force was used. The North Central (12%) and North East (10%) had the highest percentage of poling units were security officials were considered to have used force. This is probably due to the reported incidences of violence in these zones during the elections. Consistent with reports on the National Assembly elections, most of the observers considered the degree of force applied to be proportionate to the level of threat.  The minimal use of force at the polls stemmed from the high rate of compliance of security officials with election guidelines on firearms at polling units following adequate training by stakeholders on human rights standards expected of security personnel on election duties.

However, new security threats were identified in the presidential elections. These include cases of reported kidnap and arrest of election observers by security agents and political thugs as well as an isolated incident of kidnap of a female voter in a polling unit in Enugu State. Generally observers were warned across the states by both security personnel and voters to be more careful during the Governorship/House of Assembly elections as tensions are very high in the states on the outcome of the elections of 26th April.

5.      Security (to)at collation centres
The observation reports showed that there was no improvement in provision of security (to)at the collation centres. On the contrary, the security officials were reported to have accompanied polling officers and election materials to collation centres from 54% of polling units, a drop from 66% recorded in the parliamentary elections. This anomaly and breach of security was most common in the North Central and South South zones. Thus, security of election materials and personnel to (at) collation officers remained the weakest link during the presidential elections as in the National Assembly elections.



6.      Security implications of high voter turn-out
Observation reports also indicated that the relatively higher voter turn-out recorded in the presidential elections in some parts of the country generated a security challenge. The inability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide ‘baby’ polling units in overpopulated polling units, as promised, contributed to the prolongation of the accreditation of registered voters and disenfranchisement of voters across the country. The struggle among eager voters to get accredited before 12 noon created an atmosphere of disorder in a considerable proportion of polling units with more than 500 registered voters.

7.      Post-election violence
Although the presidential election was conducted in a relatively free and peaceful atmosphere, it was marred by post-election violence in several towns in Northern Nigeria. The violence was the spontaneous reaction of supporters of the main opposition candidate to early announcement of results, which showed that their preferred candidate was trailing behind the incumbent president.    The rapid spread of the violent protests and significant loss of lives and property suggest that the early warning system for post-election conflict was not very effective. It is gladdening that the security agencies have taken swift measures to prevent further spread of the violence.

8.      Welfare of security officials
Adequate provision for welfare of security officials is imperative for the conduct of free and fair elections as it will likely insulate security officials from corruptible offers of politicians. Observers noted complaints of security officials on the non-payment of allowances in some states of the federation. The reported boycott of election duties by security officials in Lagos State was a case in point.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The Presidential election has generally and rightly been adjudged to be substantially free, free and credible. However, election observation conducted by the National Human Rights Commission and CLEEN Foundation revealed a number of lessons especially in the conduct of security officials, that need to be addressed to guarantee the success of the upcoming gubernatorial and house of assembly elections.  While noting that recommendations made in our preliminary statement on the National Assembly elections on Mandate Protection and Early deployment of security officials have been addressed, we wish to restate pending recommendations and raise new ones as follows:

        I.            Security reinforcement during movement to collation centres
Reports of sporadic snatching of ballot boxes during the movement to collation centres suggests the need for reinforcement by armed escorts during transport of results to collation centres.

     II.            Redeployment of suspected partial security officials
In cases where security officials played suspected partisan roles such officials should be redeployed and investigated accordingly. There is need for a comprehensive review of the performance of security officials especially in Benue, Plateau, Kebbi, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Abia, Imo, Cross River, Ogun, Delta and Rivers states. This is particularly important as alleged partisanship of some security officials is likely to have a very negative impact on the forthcoming gubernatorial elections.

   III.            Enforcement of Regulations on firearms
The absence of firearms at the polling units enhanced security and more effective management of conflict. This regulation, especially the regulation which prohibits incumbents from coming to the polling units with armed escorts, should be enforced.

   IV.            Timely prosecution of election rule offenders
Early and open trial of suspected violators of election regulations arrested in the last election will help check security breaches and enhanced credibility of the role of the security agencies on elections. It is particularly important that the security agencies are seen as having made some progress in arresting the masterminds, if any, of the post-election violence to restore confidence in the electoral process.

     V.            Post-election reviews
Security agencies should embark on post-election review of security after each election with inputs from political parties, independent observers, INEC Monitors, religious leaders and the mass media.

   VI.            Early warning system
The unfortunate incidents of post-election violent conflict call for the strengthening of the early warning system. Security agencies need to improve on intelligence gathering. Since observers have been warned generally on the tension in the various states on the April 26 Governorship/HA elections, there is need for security agencies involved in managing security deployments during the April 26 elections to make extra security arrangements. They should deploy security personnel to both polling stations in city centers, suburbs and hinterland LGA’s etc, provide adequate communication equipment to security personnel for quick response to security alerts and deploy more operational mobile units to support increased demands for assistance from security personnel at the polling stations.

VII.            Special protection of election observers
The leadership of security agencies involved in the elections should take appropriate steps to provide security for election observers and discipline security officials involved in the violating the rights of election observers.

VIII.            Payment of entitlement of security officials
Authorities of security agencies should ensure that funds allocated for transportation and feeding allowances of security officials are disbursed before election day to enhance morale of the officials and promote the integrity of the electoral process.

Tony Ojukwu Esq.                                                               ‘Kemi Okenyodo
Project Coordinator, NHRC/UNDP                                   Deputy Executive Director
Election Security Project                                                      CLEEN Foundation
National Human Rights Commission

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