Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Preliminary Statement by CLEEN Foundation on the Conduct of Security Officials during the Sokoto State Gubernatorial Election held on Saturday, 18 February 2012





Introduction

CLEEN Foundation, with support from DfID’s Justice for All (J4A) Programme, observed the conduct of security officials during the gubernatorial election held in Sokoto State on 18 February 2012. The observation exercise was the culmination of a number of activities targeted at contributing towards effective election security management. Before the election, CLEEN Foundation conducted a security threat assessment to identify the various factors and actors that might cause electoral violence before, during and after the election in the state and also proposed ways of addressing the identified threats. A week before the election, it also organized a one day training workshop on policing elections for all the Divisional Police Officers under the state command. As part of efforts to promote public awareness on what is required of security officials on electoral duty and encourage citizens to hold them accountable for their conduct, CLEEN Foundation published abridged versions of the Police Service Commission’s Guidelines for the Conduct of Police Officers on Electoral Duty in two national dailies before the election and also provided contact numbers for the call centre it had set up to collate complaints and incident reports from the public.  For the election, it recruited, trained and deployed observers in all 23 local government areas (LGAs) in the state to observe the conduct of security operatives on election duty. The preliminary findings of CLEEN Foundation’s observation of the conduct of security officials during the election in Sokoto State is presented in this statement.

Background

The Sokoto State gubernatorial election was organized following the Supreme Court decision which declared the tenure of Governor Aliyu Wamakko, along with four other state governors, as having expired on May 29, 2011. This election re-ignited internal divisions within the major political parties in the state. It also exposed the security challenge posed by the activities of political thugs, popularly known as ‘area boys’, whose presence across the state provide a ready tool for mischief-minded politicians to perpetrate electoral violence and fraud. More so, recent threats of alleged attack by the Islamic group, Boko Haram, also raised grave concerns for peace and security during the election. The high level of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and lack of political consciousness in the state caused substantial concern as it made a vast majority of voters, particularly the youth, susceptible to manipulation by the political class and predisposed them to offering their votes to the highest bidder and themselves as tools for capturing political power. This was the background against which the Sokoto state election was conducted.

Observations

1.      As noted in previous elections, there was commendable security presence around the state capital and along the major roads in the state. There were also many stop and search units that scrutinized vehicles, motorcycles and other road users.

2.      However, a commensurate deployment of security officials to various polling units outside the metropolis was lacking. There was generally poor security presence at polling units. While some polling station had at least 2 or more security officials posted there, some others had one, while some had none at all. Thus, there seemed to have been more security presence on the roads than at the polling units. For example, there was no security presence at Marafa 001 and Shiyari Barkiya 010 polling units both in Wurno LGA and at GDSS Gwadabawa 014 polling unit in Gwadabawa LGA.

3.      Crowd control remained a challenge for security operatives. In some polling units, there was just one security person posted there and the crowd was more than they could handle. This was the case at Sabon Gari filling Station ward 010 and Shiyar Rafi ward in Rabbah LGA, Shiyar Gawu polling unit 004 and Dogoh Fillin, Kwori area 001 both in Kwori LGA. At Bissalam model primary school, Fajaldu ward 04, Dange Shuni LGA, there was only one police officer and the Local government authority had to send two members of a vigilante group to assist him. Officials of the Nigeria Police Force were however seen roving around and tried to provide men in polling units where their attention was drawn to the lack of security presence.

4.      The presence and activities of political thugs, popularly known as “area boys” posed serious challenges for security at the various polling units. In several instances, they were found smoking Indian hemp around the polling units and in other cases, they interfered with the voting process and tried to disrupt it. For instance, at Binde Bakin Titi 002 polling unit in Dange Shuni LGA, there was only one security personnel when about 15 of these thugs arrived on 8 motorcycles and tried to disorganize the voting process by intimidating voters to support a particular political party. It took strong resistance by the voters, and no intervention by the security official, to drive them away and restore calm to the polling unit.

5.      We noted that most of the Youth Corp members serving as INEC ad hoc staff were apprehensive of the security situation around the polling units. A few of them did not have identification IDs while some refused to wear their complete Corper’s kit.

6.      More so, the language and cultural barrier hindered the effectiveness of some INEC ad hoc staff. Those who could not speak Hausa struggled to communicate with the voters. For example, at Shiyar Barade 008 polling unit, in Wamakko LGA, the ad hoc staff had to rely on the security official and party agents to communicate with the voters. At Leprosium 007 polling unit, Wamakko LGA the ad hoc staff were all male and the voters were predominantly women. The place remained rowdy and the ad hoc staff insisted that culture forbade them from controlling the women.

7.      One of the most worrisome observations was the presence of underage voters in several queues across the state. In most cases, both the INEC staff and the security officials did little or nothing about these children who all had voters cards. Also, the presence and threat of ‘area boys’ made it difficult to stop the under aged voters from voting. This was seen for example at Lambar Tureta-Asibiti 003 and Shiyar Rafi 001 polling units both in Tureta LGA and Tungar Magagi 006, in Wamakko LGA.

8.      There were still major logistics challenges in the field. In Arkilla Registration Area, Wamakko LGA, over 20 of the 37 wards did not have the original voters register (with pictures) and had to resort to manual registers. At Kware Road 007 polling unit, many people could not find their names in the manual register and they were allowed to write it manually and then vote. At Leprosium 007 polling unit, Wamakko LGA and several others, there were no cubicles and voting was done in a manner that compromised the secrecy of the ballot. The Mahotar Dantatumbi 003 polling unit in Sokoto North LGA was located in a small, open shop by the road. It had a total of 1198 registered voters and was chaotic throughout the election.

9.      Generally, security operatives were observed to have conducted themselves professionally, applied proportional force only when necessary, acted impartially, were approachable, alert and also wore easily identifiable tags. However, at Kilgori Model primary School 002 polling unit, Kilgori ward, Yabo LGA there was just one police officer posted there and he did not have an identifiable tag.

Recommendations
1.      INEC should thoroughly review its logistics deployment strategy and ensure that its staff and materials arrive at designated polling units on time.
2.      INEC should consider the cultural and linguistic peculiarities of the society when recruiting and deploying its ad hoc staff and should adequately train those recruited for election duties.
3.      INEC should also undertake a complete review of the voters register to reduce incidents of under aged registration and voting. It should also provide its staff with clear directives on how to handle issues of under aged voting and should deal with those found culpable.
4.      The deployment of Security officials should be better coordinated and priority should be given to security presence at polling units over and above highways and roads.
5.      Security officials should be given more training in crowd control and should be better equipped to manage conflict situations. Security personnel should be directed to arrest and prosecute political thugs irrespective of their sponsors.

We congratulate INEC, the Nigeria Police Force, other security agencies and the people of Sokoto 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. 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
Chinedu Yves Nwagu
Manager, Accountability and Justice

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Total Pageviews

Followers

Amazon Contextual Product Ads