Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Preliminary Statement by CLEEN Foundation on the Conduct of Security Officials during the Edo State Gubernatorial Election held on Saturday, 14 July 2012

Introduction


As part of its commitment to promoting effective and accountable management of election security, the CLEEN Foundation, with support from DfID’s Justice for All (J4A) Programme, observed the conduct of security officials during the gubernatorial election held in Edo State on Saturday 14 July 2012. Prior to the election, CLEEN Foundation organized a number of activities in the state aimed at contributing to public safety and security during the elections. First, it conducted a pre-election security threat assessment to identify the risk factors that might threaten peace and security during the elections and also propose ways of mitigating the identified threats. The finding of this assessment was shared broadly with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies and civil society groups. Second, it organized a one day training workshop on elections security management for all 38 Divisional Police Officers under the state command. This workshop provided a forum to share useful ideas on how to effectively police the elections, deploy security personnel and ensure safety throughout the exercise. Third, it published abridged versions of the Police Service Commission’s Guidelines for the Conduct of Police Officers on Electoral Duty in a national daily and the State newspaper with contact numbers for the call centre it had set up to collate complaints and incident reports from the public on the conduct of security officials during the elections. Lastly, having obtained accreditation from INEC, 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. This statement presents the preliminary findings of CLEEN Foundation’s observation of the conduct of security officials during the election in Edo State.

Background
The gubernatorial election in Edo state was contested by candidates from seven political parties, but was mostly a straight fight between two parties: the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) whose candidate, Adams Oshiomhole, was the incumbent governor and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who were looking to reclaim the state having lost to ACN in the 2007 election. Going into the election, a few factors posed serious concern about peace and security during and after the election. These include the history of competitive elections and violence in the state, inflammatory remarks, allegations of plans to rig the election and threats to violence. The deployment of 3500 soldiers by the federal government to the state for the election without publicly known Rules of engagement also raised some concern.

Observations
1.        Security presence was adequately deployed across the state. In most parts, armed military personnel mounted stop and search units along major roads and also moved from around visiting various polling centers in the process. This appeared intimidating at first but ultimately helped in deterring and reducing incidents of violence and the threats to security.
2.       Deployment of security personnel was better coordinated and most polling units had at least 2 security agents. This was not limited to the urban areas as found in previous elections.  Security officials were also unarmed except for the soldiers. Most security personnel posted to various polling units arrived early, stayed for the duration of the election and escorted the INEC officials to collation centres after the election. The police generally conducted themselves very well and most observed noted that the polling units had adequate security. There were scant incidents of intimidation and use of force and in most places where these were recorded, it involved military personnel. However, the force was not excessive and did not disrupt the proceedings at the polling units. Security personnel also conducted themselves very well and were impartial in the discharge of their electoral functions.
3.       The conduct of some political party agents was however a major security challenge during the election. There were several reported incidents of party agents interfering with and disturbing the electoral process.  At the Uniben Staff School, Polling Unit 1, ward 6, Ovia North east, party agents refused the presiding officer from accrediting voters whose names were on the additional register. At Evbuotubu Town hall Poling unit 10, ward 1 in Egor LGA and Uromi Girls primary school, Ward 5, Esan North East LGA, party agents were distracting the presiding officers and this caused some disturbance which was a bit too much for the police officials to handle. Mobile police men and soldiers had to be invited to control the situation at the polling units.
4.      The deployment of logistics still posed security challenges during the election. In a number of polling areas, INEC officials and voting materials arrived late. For instance, at polling unit 23, Ward 1, Oredo LGA there was insufficient thumb printing paper and this caused some tension. Security agencies and army personnel had to step in to calm the situation since voting could not go on. Ballot papers arrived at about 12:32pm at Ogula College, polling unit 28, Ward 5, Ikpoba Okha. By this time people were beginning to shout that the process had been manipulated and the police were called upon to restore order. Voting started at about 1:30pm there. Two voters’ registers were deployed to Ogbe Uzebu polling unit 12, Ward 1, Oredo LGA. One was from the general registration and the other was an updated version. There were issues about missing pictures of voters and this caused a disagreement amongst the party agents until security officials intervened.
5.       Crowd control remains a challenge for security operatives. In several polling units, some with over five security personnel, the crowd was often too much for them to handle. The disorderliness in these polling units slowed down accreditation process and fights ensued in a few places as people jostled to be accredited. The soldiers had to be invited to restore calm in most instances. 
6.      There were incidents of arrest and harassment of observers accredited by INEC by military personnel. This should be discouraged and condemned in the strongest terms. Several incidents of use of force by soldiers were also reported. At the Polling Unit at Enikaro primary School, Ward 5, Ikpoba Okha LGA, a soldier beat up young man  for disturbing the voting process and at Ekibi primary school, polling unit 6, Ward 4, Ovia North east LGA, the soldiers punished a registered voter who tried to skip lines and disrupt the process. The rules of engagement of military personnel on election duty should be clearly spelt out and they should be encouraged to use minimal force where necessary.
7.       Election did not hold at polling units 27-30 in Ward 10, ologbo, Ikpoba Okha because of the death of the INEC official and 3 police men in the boat mishap. Better logistic arrangements and adherent to safety precautions like wearing of life jacket could have averted this unfortunate incident. We however commiserate with INEC, the Nigeria Police Force and the loved ones of the deceased.

Recommendations
  1. INEC’s Logistics deployment strategy can still be improved upon and would benefit from better understanding of the terrain where the election will be conducted.
  2. INEC should also undertake a complete review and harmonization of the voters register to reduce incidents of double registration, missing photos etc.
  3. The training and deployment of Security officials for elections should be harmonized and better coordinated to ensure synergy.
  4. Security officials should be given more training in crowd control and should be better equipped to manage conflict situations.
  5. The involvement of military personnel during elections should be minimized as it usurps police functions and undermines their ability to learn from previous experiences and build the capacity to secure elections.

We congratulate INEC, the Nigeria Police Force, other security agencies and the people of Edo 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.

Chinedu Yves Nwagu
Manager, Accountability and Justice

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