Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Preliminary Statement Issued by the CLEEN Foundation on the Conduct of Security Officials during the Kogi State Gubernatorial Election held on Saturday, 3 December, 2011



Introduction
In line with its commitment to promote accountability for the conduct of security and law enforcement personnel in the discharge of their electoral functions, the CLEEN Foundation observed the conduct of security officials during the Kogi state gubernatorial election held on Saturday 3 December 2011. For this purpose, it recruited, trained, mobilized and deployed roving observers in all the 21 local government areas in the state. To also promote public awareness on what is required of security officials deployed to secure the election, CLEEN Foundation published abridged versions of the Police Service Commission’s Guidelines for the Conduct of Police Officers on Electoral Duty in national dailies before the elections. The publication also had contact numbers for the call centre it had set up to collate reports from the public on emerging incidents from the election.  This statement presents the preliminary findings of CLEEN Foundation observers on the conduct of security officials during the Kogi State gubernatorial election.
 
Background
Kogi state is one of the five states where elections did not hold in April following a court judgment that elongated the tenure of the governors. However, INEC’s electoral timetable indicates that the tenure of the current governor, Ibrahim Idris expired on 3 December 2011, hence the election. As Kogi State prepared for the gubernatorial election, the political climate was, expectedly, heated up and a number of security concerns were expressed by various stakeholders, particularly given the history of political and electoral violence in the state and the prevailing political dynamics playing out in the state. Some of the security concerns arose from existing tensions and internal divisions within the ruling party and the volatile nature of certain parts of the state notorious for violence. The fact that the three major contenders to occupy Lugard house are from the Igala ethnic group might also heighten friction, competition and the likelihood of violence in the eastern part of Kogi, homeland of the Igalas.    

In a bid to address the security challenges anticipated during the elections, a number of steps were taken. The state government had on 29th November 2011, donated 53 Toyota Hilux vehicles to the Kogi State command of the Nigeria Police Force, which would boost the visibility and patrol capacity of the police in the identified violence hotspots and other parts of the state. More so, about 15,000 police officers were deployed to maintain peace and order in the state during the elections. Other security agencies such as Civil Defense, the Customs, Immigration and the NDLEA also deployed its personnel to help in ensuring electoral security. There was a heavy presence of the Nigerian Army. The heavy deployment of fierce looking military and mobile police officers, their several patrol vans and the numerous road blocks they mounted gave the initial impression that the state was under siege. This was the security situation under which the elections were conducted and that our observers went out to work.

Observations
1.       There was an overwhelming presence of security officials within the State capital Lokoja, with several check points erected along major roads. This created the impression of a possible militarization of the electoral process but eventually did not deter voters or hinder the election process.
2.       The rigorous scrutiny of vehicles and passengers at the various check points and road blocks served a useful purpose and resulted in the arrest of 2 men (one dressed as a youth corp member) at Federal Medical Centre Junction, Lokoja in a blue Peugeot 504 with a booth load of firearms and ammunition.
3.       As observed during the general elections, the deployment of security officers across the state was arbitrary. Thus while there was a concentration of security officials in Lokoja and other urban areas, with some polling stations having as much as 12 officials, security presence thinned out as one visited remote and sub urban areas.
4.      Across the state, most security personnel arrived the polling centres by 8am, in some cases long before INEC staff and the election materials. However, at Ega ward 03 in Idah LGA, security officials arrived after the INEC staff and ballot materials.
5.      There were evidently serious delays by INEC in getting materials and its ad hoc staff to some polling stations across the state. This created some security challenges as voters who had come out early became agitated and started suspecting foul play. And though this did not spill over into outright conflict, it however placed serious demands on security officials already at the polling stations to manage the crowds.
6.      In some polling units such as Obaiba ward 1, in Okehi LGA, and Ugwolawo ward I, in Ofu LGA, the accreditation process was very slow and were occasionally disrupted as voters complained about the competence of the INEC officials. Security agents at these units had to manage the situation carefully.
7.      Poor management of logistics by INEC created major security threats. There were no elections at Ansarudeen primary school, Ward A, Lokoja LGA, because the names of prospective voters were not in the voters register presented to them. Amidst mild protests, the explanations proffered for this situation were unclear and a lot of voters left angrily. But there was relative calm as the police and other security officials took charge of the situation.
8.      In some polling units, the presence of security officials did not guarantee adequate security as they were unable to manage the crowds effectively. For instance, Bagaji ward, Agojeju open place in Omala LGA, L.G.E.A. Agodo, Akubu II in Bassa LGA, Ibeke II polling station, Kuroko ward 1 in Adavi LGA, Ugwolawo Ward II in Ofu LGA and Barracks 2 polling station, Ankpa township ward, Ankpa LGA each had two police officials but they were overwhelmed by the huge voter turnout in those areas.
9.      In some other places, the security deployment was just inadequate. At the polling station located in Avede Amuro ward 10, Polling unit 3, in Mopa Amuro LGA there was only one female security official and she clearly could not handle the challenges there. There was general disorder and the secrecy of the ballots was compromised.
10.   In some other cases, there was no security presence and armed patrol officers had to step in to maintain order and secure the polling units. Examples of this occurred at Dispensary Unit 6, in Mopa Amuro LGA and at the Aliyu Nyamida’s compound, Kuroko ward II, in Adavi LGA.
11.    Security officials were generally alert, cordial and responded effectively to incidents that threatened peace at the various polling units. For example, at Irenolu Polling station in Kogi LGA, there were small protests by the voters after counting was concluded because the parties refused to show the people the remaining ballot papers. Security officials had to intervene to rescue the INEC staff. At Ward 2 of Ijalu 05 polling station, Yagba West LGA, there were two security officials and some arguments ensued after accreditation because some people were trying to monitor who people were voting for. The thumb printing box was almost carried away but the patrol team came in and helped restore calm and order to the station. Also, at Aiyewa ward 5, Aiyewa polling station, Kabba Bunnu LGA, there was a little disruption between PDP and ACN members because each wanted the other to vote for their candidate. There was only one police officer posted there and he was unable to handle the situation. The INEC official thereafter requested that soldiers should be posted to the station and they helped restore calm to the polling station.
12.    Security officials were also adjudged to have played impartial roles and used minimal force in dealing with conflict situations. For instance, arguments also arose between party agents during counting of votes but were contained by security officials in such places like L.G.E.A primary school, ward A, Lokoja LGA and Obaiba ward 1, in Okehi LGA. Also at Ganaja Township ward 014 in Ajaokuta LGA, protests broke out about unused ballot papers after counting. The voters insisted that they should be destroyed before the result was taken to the collation centre to avoid them being used or manipulated. Security agencies intervened to calm the situation.

Recommendations
1.       INEC should ensure that it provides adequate training for its staff deployed on elections duty. Public perception of incompetence of INEC staff undermines confidence in the institution, the credibility of the electoral process, increases security risks and makes the units where they are posted vulnerable to manipulation.
2.       INEC should review its logistics arrangement and should be able to understand the terrain of the state within which it would be operating and how best it can deliver its personnel and materials to where they are needed without delays.
3.      Security agencies should commend its staff for good conduct and should also investigate complaints of impropriety where they arise so as to strengthen their operations and public confidence in the integrity of their institutions.
4.      There is urgent need to review the strategies employed for deploying security officers in the various states where elections are conducted. Security in the remote areas could be improved by reducing the heavy concentration of security presence in state capitals.
5.      Security operatives should be given more training in crowd control and should be better equipped to manage conflict situations without brutal force.

We congratulate INEC, security agencies, observer groups, the media and the people of Kogi State for the peaceful conduct of the elections. We also thank the Justice for All (J4A) programme of the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DfID) for its generous support towards the observation of this election.

The CLEEN Foundation is a non-governmental organization established in 1998 and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), to promote public safety security and accessible justice in Nigeria through empirical research, legislative advocacy, demonstration programmes and publications in partnership with government and civil society.  CLEEN Foundation is a member of several networks across the world and also has observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Signed
Innocent Chukwuma
Executive Director

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