Friday, 29 April 2011

Preliminary Statement issued by the National Human Rights Commission and the CLEEN Foundation on the Conduct of Security Officials in the Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly Elections held on April 26, 2011



INTRODUCTION

In continuation of our observation of conduct of security officials in the April general elections in Nigeria, which began with the National Assembly elections on April 9, 2011, the National Human Rights Commission and the CLEEN Foundation, with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the UNDP observed the gubernatorial and state assembly elections held on April 26, 2011 in 34 states across Nigeria.

As elaborated in our previous statements, the election security observation project was necessitated by widespread concerns among stakeholders rising insecurity in Nigeria in the build up to the April elections and the actions/inactions of security agencies in responding to threats and actual incidents of electoral violence, which cumulatively had contributed in giving previous elections in the country a bad name amongst the electorate and observer groups within and outside the country.

The most recent dramatic signposts of concerns about election security were the election eve bombing of INEC office in Suleja, Niger State on April 8, which killed and injured a number of youth corpers among other INEC officials and the post-presidential election violence in some Northern states, which led to brutal killing of many people and large-scale destruction of property. These incidents underscored the need to pay special attention to security and security officials in the gubernatorial and state assembly elections, which we did, focusing on the performance and conduct of the police, Federal Road Safety Commission, Civil Defence Corp, Immigration Service, Custom Service, Prison Service and the armed forces in ensuring adequate security during the elections.

The preliminary reports on the conduct of security officials in the National Assembly elections and presidential elections were released on April 12th and 19th respectively. Today, we present the preliminary report on the gubernatorial and state house of assembly elections.

The Functions of Security Agencies During Elections


The election security observation exercise was guided by the Guidelines issued by the Police Service Commission on conduct of police officials during elections, which identified six major function areas 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 superior 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. We paid attention to these principles in our observations.

Methodology

Observers were deployed across the 34 states of Nigeria in which elections held on April 26th.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, impartiality, politeness and alertness of the security officials in each polling units. Observers were to complete the checklist through observation and interview of randomly selected voters and security officials in each poling unit.

A total of 3,619 polling units across Nigeria were observed during the Governorship/House of Assembly election. The findings that follow are based on analysis of 1004 checklists that were retrieved on time for this preliminary report 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
Reports from our observers indicated that in 58% of polling units, security officials arrived before 8.00am when polling was supposed to commence while 25% arrived between 8 and 9 am. This result shows a drop in the level of punctuality recorded in the Presidential elections.
However, like in the presidential elections, the Southeast and South-South zones had the highest percentage of polling units where security officials arrived after 8am 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 16% of polling units did security officials leave the polling units during the elections. This is consistent with the improvement observed in the presidential elections, which was attributed to the availability of food and refreshments around the vicinity of polling units. Most of polling units (82%) were manned by security officials throughout the duration of the Governorship/House of Assembly elections.

2. Deployment
Generally, 3 or more security officials were deployed to the 38% of polling units and 37% of polling unit had at least 2 security officials. This was a slight improvement in the level of deployment recorded in the presidential elections. The North Central (53%) and South-South (45%) had the highest percentage of polling unit with 3 and above security officials. Remarkably however, 1 polling unit in the South-South zone was reported as not having a security official during the election. Like in the presidential elections, observers were predominantly of the view that the polling units had ‘very adequate’ (25%) and ‘adequate’ (57%) number of security officials. The security officials were easily identifiable in 82% of polling units with nametags. The North West (19%), South East (14%) and South South (11%) zones remarkably had the highest percentage of polling units where security officials were reported to be without nametags. It is not clear whether this is an indication of fake security personnel since all proper security personnel used during the elections should wear easily identifiable tags.

3. Conduct of the security officials at the polls
The observers continued to express satisfaction at the conduct of security officials in most of the polling units monitored. This is because security officials were considered ‘approachable’ and ‘very approachable’ in cumulative 92% of polling units. Moreover, security officials in most of the polling units were considered to have been impartial in the discharge of their duties. Only in 4% of polling units were security officials deemed to have been partial in the
discharge of their duties. It is important however to note the regional variation in the South West zone where 12% of polling units had security officials who were considered to be ‘not impartial at all’. Like in the presidential elections, observers reported that 72% of polling units had security officials that followed instructions of presiding officials during the elections. As observed in the presidential elections, this percentage is, regrettably relatively lower than the compliance
rate (78%) recorded at the National Assembly elections. The North West (25%), South East (16%) and South-South (16%) zones recorded the highest percentage of polling units where security officials reportedly failed to comply with instructions of presiding officials. Still, in most of the polling units (93%) observers rated the conduct of security officials as ‘fair’, ‘good’ and ‘very good’. It is believed that this commendable performance of the security agencies can be attributed to trainings and sensitisation carried out by both the Nigeria Police
Force and other stakeholders to prepare them for their duties during elections.

4. Safety and security of the polling units
The expression of satisfaction about the conduct of security officials arises from the perception of observers that the security officials provided the required security for the polling units. It would be recalled that the safety and security of polling units was a major source of concern as Nigerians prepared to vote in the gubernatorial and house of assembly elections. It was feared that the bloody post presidential election violence would reverse some of the security dividends of the modified open ballot system reported in earlier elections. Observer reports however show that most polling units (95%) were considered to be safe and
secure during the elections. Only in the South East was up to 3% of polling units considered to be unsafe. Furthermore, observers reported that polling units were mostly ‘very orderly’ (29%) and ‘orderly’ (58%). This is consistent with findings of previous elections.

The perceived slight improvement in sense of security of polling units is also evidenced by the fact that only 9% of polling units, as against 13% and 10% reported respectively in the parliamentary and presidential elections, witnessed incidents considered as threats to security. These incidents were however contained as security officials were adjudged to have handled the threats well in 78% of polling units. There was however significant regional variations as
observers in the South East (11%) and South-South zones (8%) were least satisfied with the way the security officials handled the security threats. The poor reputation of security officials in the two southern zones in the area of responding to threats is consistent with observations of the last presidential elections. It is also important to note that the degree of satisfaction with the response of security officials to the threats is much lower than what obtained in the previous elections.

The reports of our observers are confirmed by media reports of increased levels of political violence during the gubernatorial and house of assembly elections in various parts of the country. Unlike in previous elections, most of the security threats appeared to have occurred at the polling units where ballot papers and boxes were snatched. This is not surprising given the greater number of contestants and interests and high stakes in the just concluded elections. While the security agencies rose to the occasion, in a number of cases they were reported to have been perpetrators and accomplices of electoral fraud in a number of cases.
`
5. Security to collation centres
The observation reports showed that there was no improvement in provision of security to the collation centres. On the contrary, like in the presidential elections, 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 all the zones, as observers could not affirm that security officials accompanied pooling officers and materials to collation centres. Unfortunately, we are compelled to restate that security of election material and personnel to
collation officers remained the weakest link during the presidential elections as in the National Assembly elections. It also constituted the weakest link in the Gov/House of Assembly elections resulting in most of the allegations that results were being manipulated between the polling stations and the collation centers.

6. Impact of post-election violence
Although there were assurances of improved security following the arrests, detentions and restriction of movements in various parts of the country and postponement of elections in two states as a result of the violence that followed the presidential elections, the mayhem scarred many voters away from the polling units. This resulted in reported low voter turnout in various parts of the country, especially in the North. Even in areas not affected by the violence, heavy troop deployments impacted negatively on the electoral process, as it tended to favour incumbents in some states.

7. 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. As in previous elections, observers noted complaints of security officials on the non-payment of allowances in some states of the federation.

RECOMMENDATIONS
The Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections have gone generally well and rightly been adjudged to be substantially free, fair 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 future elections in Nigeria. While noting that recommendations made in our preliminary statements on the National Assembly and presidential 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. Proper Management of Deployment of Security Personnel
There is still evidence of disproportionate deployment of security personnel in favour of urban areas. Whereas rigging of elections are now generally widespread in rural areas and difficult terrains. Improved deployment would be better managed under a joint deployment arrangement and coordination.

II. Prosecution of suspected partial security officials
Press reports and observation reports show that in several states of the federation, some security officials were alleged to have supervised electoral fraud or provided security for perpetrators of electoral fraud. We reiterate the call for investigation of all suspected cases of compromise by officials and prosecution of officials found guilty. We restate our recommendation 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 as there was no evidence of improvement of conduct by security officials stationed in these states.

III. Timely prosecution of election rule offenders
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.

IV. Post-election reviews
As the 2011 elections are now almost over, it is incumbent on security agencies that participated in the elections to embark on a post-election review of security during the 2011 elections. The review should be comprehensive and aimed at exposing lessons learned to enhance performance in future elections.

V. Special protection of security officials
The leadership of security agencies involved in the elections should take appropriate steps to provide security for election security officials. Cases where politicians or their thugs were accused of assaulting security officials should be invested and those found guilty punished according to the law notwithstanding their position in society.

VI. Payment of entitlement of security officials
Finally, we restate our recommendation that 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.

CONCLUSION
The National Human Rights Commission and the CLEEN Foundation are very grateful to the media for their support during the process of observing the conduct of security personnel during the elections. We shall be meeting you again to give our final report on the election security observation project for the 2011 general elections within the next one month.

Tony Ojukwu Esq.                                                                  Innocent Chukwuma
Project Coordinator, NHRC/UNDP                                      Executive Director
Election Security Project                                                      CLEEN Foundation
National Human Rights Commission

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Total Pageviews

Followers

Amazon Contextual Product Ads