Monday, 27 February 2012

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT BY CLEEN FOUNDATION ON THE CONDUCT OF SECURITY OFFICIALS DURING THE AHIAZU-EZINIHITTE MBAISE FEDERAL CONSTITUENCY RE-RUN ELECTION HELD ON 25TH FEBRUARY, 2012



INTRODUCTION
In accordance with its traditional  practice under every election in Nigeria, CLEEN Foundation during the Ahiazu-Ezinihitte Mbaise Federal Constituency re-run election held on 25th February, 2012 focussed attention on election security with a view to enhancing the effectiveness and accountability of security personnel on election duty especially members of the Nigeria Police. Imo State is a very important State for CLEEN Foundation because it hosts the Southeast regional office of the organisation. A substantial number of police officers including the entire CID personnel working under the Imo State Police Command had benefited from trainings organised by CLEEN Foundation in its Owerri office on human rights, conflict management, and policing in a democratic society. The trainings also captured duties and acceptable standards of behaviour expected of security officials during elections as stipulated under the Electoral Act and the PSC Guidelines for Conduct of Security Officers on Electoral Duty.

Two programs staffs of CLEEN Foundation in the Owerri office were duly accredited by INEC to observe the re-run election.  They acted as roving observers and were able to visit 12 polling stations during the course of the election.

BACKGROUND

In November, 2011 the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri nullified the April 14, 2011 National Assembly election for Ahiazu-Ezinihitte Mbaise Federal Constituency, whereof Hon. Nnanna Raphael Igbokwe of the PDP was declared the winner. The Court of Appeal upturned the earlier ruling of the Election Tribunal, which threw out the petition challenging the said election. The decision of the appellate Court was predicated on grounds that the Labour Party candidate, Ken Agbakwuru, was validly nominated but unlawfully excluded from the election.  The Court therefore ordered INEC to conduct re-run election in that federal constituency within 90 days from the date of the decision.
On Monday, 20th of February, 2012 INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Imo State, Prof. Selina Omagha Oko, at a stakeholders’ meeting held at Ahiazu Mbaise Council headquarters announced that the re-run election would be conducted on February 25, 2012. Eleven candidates were set to contest in the election including the ousted candidate of PDP and the Labour Party candidate excluded from the original election.

OBSERVATIONS

1.      There was heavy presence of security personnel within the Ahiazu-Ezinihitte Mbaise Federal Constituency, with several road blocks at strategic locations restricting unauthorised vehicular movements while scrutinizing every authorised road user to prevent any threat to the security of the election.

2.      There was an impressive turnout of voters in most polling stations visited. This was surprising given the fact that there was no restriction of movement or business in other parts of the State hence one had expected that most registered voters would rather be about their businesses and other activities than spend the entire day waiting to cast their votes.

3.      Most of the polling stations observed had at least two security personnel. However, there were instance of uneven distribution of security officers to the polling units. For instance in Umunumo Hall I & II, Ward 002 in Ahiazu Mbaise there were 7 security personnel contending with a voter population of less than 500 at the two units, whereas in  Umuasechariano Mbara Unit 006 in Mpam ward 009, there was only one female traffic police officer contending with a rowdy voter population of over 300, the other policeman was elderly and powerless in the situation.

4.      Generally election materials arrived before 8:30am in most of the polling units, which ensured early commencement of accreditation of voters. However, disorderly behaviours by voters and party agents in a few polling units, which could not effectively be controlled by Presiding Officers and security agents, slowed down the process of accreditation, hence actual voting did not start early enough in such Units. One such polling unit was Community Secondary School, Mpam I, Unit 003, Ward 009 in Ahiazu-Mbaise.

5.      Security personnel still had transportation challenges; hence some could not arrive at their assigned polling units before the start of accreditation. CLEEN Foundation roving observers had to give three police officers a ride in their vehicle to various polling stations.

6.      Party Agents were observed to be the cause of disorder in some polling Units. IN Community Secondary School Mpam II, Unit 004, Ward 009 a female agent of a political party created a problem by allegedly collecting money from some individual. A man who identified himself as a chief severally attempted to force himself into the classroom where voting was going on but was prevented by security personnel. The Presiding Officer suspended voting until the situation was brought under control.

7.      Security officials posted to polling centres were generally unarmed. Minimal use of force was also recorded across the local governments. At Okrika Ama Hall I & II Unit 004, Ward 05, Okrika Nwenkwo a policeman was seen with a gun in the midst of voters.

8.      In Community Secondary school, Nnemere, Unit 001, Ward 009 a policeman exhibited a high sense of maturity and professionalism in the way he handled a delicate crisis arising from the arrangement of the queue of voters by his colleague. He gently and politely explained to disgruntled voters that the arrangement would ultimately speed up the process. His gentle and polite explanation disarmed the angry voters and restored order in the polling station.

9.      Generally, in most cases, security operatives were observed to have conducted themselves professionally, applied minimal force when absolutely necessary, acted impartially, were approachable, alert and also wore easily identifiable tags.



RECOMMENDATIONS

1.      Training of security officers for electoral duty should be intensified to ensure that they are sufficiently at home with their duties during elections and internalise the Guidelines on the Conduct of Security Personnel on Electoral Duties.

2.      INEC should properly train and brief ad-hoc staff to avoid procedural hiccups that often lead to confusions with potentials for creating tension and possible break down of law and order.

3.      Adequate logistics should always be made available for the movement of security officers to their polling stations especially those deployed to polling units far from their places residence.

4.      Authorities of the Nigeria Police and other security agencies should work closely with INEC to understand the number of registered voters in various stations – the number of registered voters and the security antecedent of polling units should inform the decision on how many security agents should be deployed to each polling station.

5.      Presiding Officers and security agents should be empowered to exclude any party agent that behaves in a disorderly manner or incites such behaviour. INEC should also enjoin Parties to ensure that they appoint only responsible individuals as their agents or be held accountable for irresponsible conducts of such agents.



6.      Civil society, the media and political parties should prior to every election embark strategic non-violence sensitization programmes especially targeting youths.

We congratulate INEC, the Nigeria Police, other security agencies and the people of Ahiazu-Ezinihitte Federal Constituency for the peaceful conduct of the elections.   

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


Francis Moneke, LLM (London)
Manager Owerri Officer, CLEEN Foundation


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