Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Preliminary Statement by CLEEN Foundation on the Conduct of Security Officials during the Cross River State Gubernatorial Election held on Saturday, 25 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 Cross Rivers State on 25th of February 2012. The observation exercise was the culmination of a number of activities targeted at contributing towards effective election security management. Prior to 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 proposed ways of addressing the identified threats; organized a one day train the trainers training workshop on policing elections for all the Divisional Police Officers under the state command. As part of efforts to promote public awareness and oversight over police conduct on electoral duty, 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 18 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 Cross River State are presented in this statement.

Background
The Cross River State gubernatorial election was organized after the Supreme Court decision declared that the tenure of Governor Imoke, along with four other state governors, expired on May 29, 2011. Although the Cross River State does not have a history of electoral violence, the election was conducted amidst developments that appear to be overheating the political temperature of the state. This stems largely from disapproval by opposition candidates of the decision of INEC to change the date of the election from the earlier scheduled April to February 25, 2012 and uncertainties arising from the unceremonious and sudden removal of Senator Liyel Imoke from office as governor by the Supreme Court. The localization of the candidates from the zone and contiguous communities was also identified as a possible threat to security as electioneering issues could aggravate existing local political and conflict issues. Our assessment also found out that “peace tourism” is a potential source of threat to election security. The government is said to have succeeded in ensuring that activities of gangs and criminal groups are not reported in the media. Some of the riverine areas like Akpabuyo and Bakassi LGAs reportedly experience continuous raids by gangsters and militants that are not reported. Hence it could not be ruled out that some of the gangs may be mobilised to play a role in the elections. Also 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, vulnerable to manipulation by the political class for selfish aims. This was the background against which the Cross River 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.      It was general noticed that police officers accompanied INEC official to the polling stations and where at their respective polling station before 8:00 am in most cases.
3.      There was a commensurate and equitable deployment of security officials to various polling units within and outside the metropolis unlike in previous elections where the number of police in polling stations in the metropolis was considerably higher than in the rural areas.
4.      It was noticed that where security presence was absent in some polling stations in the early hours of the elections, the police command hastily made provision before long. This was noticed in Utanga 002 unit, Bessenga Customary Court, ward 10 in Obanliku local government areas; No 1 , 009 area 06 in Calabar South LGA, and in COE Garage, 009 Awi O2 in Akampa LGA.
5.      Our observers reported that police officers generally conducted them selves well with great foresight and professionalism. In Ikang Market Square/ 014, Ikang central Bakassi LGA, the police officers on duty were able to calm a group of young men who came in to disrupt the process.
6.      However, some police officers compromised their integrity by collaborating with party agents and presiding officers to allow election mal practices. This was the case with polling station No 0010 in Itigidi in Abi LGA, 002 Itigidi Abi LGA and in 009 Itigidi Abi LGA where police officers were visibly negligent at duty.
7.      Unlike in the Sokoto State gubernatorial elections where the activities of political thugs, popularly known as “area boys” posed serious challenges for security at the various polling units, as they were found smoking Indian hemp around the polling units and in other cases, they interfering with the voting process, in Cross River state the youths and other party supports generally were peaceful, thus facilitating the job of security officials.
8.      On the whole, security agents were observed to have conducted themselves professionally, applied proportional force only when necessary, acted impartially, were approachable, alert and also wore easily identifiable tags.

Recommendations

1.      INEC should continue to review its logistics deployment strategy and ensure that its staff and materials arrive at all designated polling units on time.
2.       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.
3.      Security officials should be better remunerated in other to dissociate them from receiving money and other gifts from political parties during elections.
4.      Deserving officers should be remunerated while those that compromised should be heavily punished.
We congratulate INEC, the Nigeria Police Force, other security agencies and the good people of Cross River 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
  
        Dr Eban Ebai
 Deputy Director Programmes
         CLEEN Foundation

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