Monday, 22 October 2012

Preliminary Statement by CLEEN Foundation on the Conduct of Security Officials during the Ondo State Gubernatorial Election held on Saturday, 20 October 2012


In line with its commitment to promoting effective and accountable policing of elections in Nigeria, the CLEEN Foundation, with support from DfID’s Justice for All (J4A) Programme, observed the conduct of security officials during the Ondo state gubernatorial election held on Saturday 20 October 2012. Before the election, CLEEN Foundation organized a number of activities in the state aimed at contributing to public safety and security during the election. First, it conducted a pre-election security threat assessment to examine and highlight the potential security risks, flashpoints and mitigating factors to those threats. The finding of this assessment was shared broadly with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force, other security agencies and civil society groups. Second, it organized a one day training workshop on election security management for all the Divisional Police Officers and other senior officials under the Ondo state police command. This workshop provided a forum to share useful ideas on how to effectively police the election, 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 two local newspapers in Ondo State 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 election. 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 that observation exercise.

Background
The Ondo State gubernatorial election, though contested by candidates from 12 political parties, was largely a three horse race between Akeredolu Rotimi of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Olusegun Mimiko of Labour Party, the incumbent governor who is seeking re-election and Olusola Oke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Soldiers, State Security Service agents, police and other security officials were deployed in significant numbers across the state, perhaps, in response to perceived threats to peace during the election. The key threats include the activities of political gangs across the state, the presence of militants in the riverine area, the porosity of the border with neigbouring states, allegations of plans to rig the elections and the history of competitive elections and violence in the state.

Observations
1.       There was significant security presence across the state. Armed military personnel mounted stop and search units along major roads and though this was intimidating initially, it was perhaps helpful in deterring incidents of violence, movement of political thugs and other threats to peace and security as no major incident was recorded.
2.       Deployment of security personnel to polling stations was also well coordinated as most polling units had at least 2 security agents. However, the urban areas had more security presence at polling stations.  Security officials posted to polling station were unarmed. In most cases, they arrived early, escorted the INEC officials and materials to the various units, stayed for the duration of the election and escorted the INEC officials to collation centres after the election.
3.      Security officials at polling units conducted themselves professionally. They were approachable, impartial and alert. Most observers noted that the polling units had adequate security and in areas where security presence at the polling unit was inadequate, they called for back-up and this was promptly provided. There were a few incidents of use of force, but in most places where these were recorded, it also reportedly necessary and proportionate.
4.      The activities of some party loyalists, party agents and political thugs however posed some challenges during the election. For instance, accreditation started by 9am and was still on-going by past 1pm at Polling Unit 007, Ward 5, Owo LGA because area boys had caused disturbance and delays at the collection center. At Polling Unit 005, Ward 6, Akoko South West, party loyalists were distributing money and this almost caused chaos but for the intervention of security agents who arrested him and calmed the situation. At polling unit 4, Council Secretariat, Ilaje LGA, a party agent wore party uniform and others objected to this. He was forced to take it off by the security officials on duty at the Unit.
5.      The deployment of logistics still posed security challenges during the election. In a number of polling areas, INEC officials and voting materials arrived late. This was particularly prevalent in the polling units in ward 2, Akure South, where the voters had to wait until voting materials arrived at 2:30pm. This gave the security agents posted there a handful of issues to manage. In some other cases, for example in Polling unit 003, Ward 3, Ese Odo LGA, disagreements ensued when people could not find their names in the voters register and therefore could not be accredited to vote. Security agencies had to work hard to maintain order and peace.  
6.      Crowd control remains a challenge for security operatives. In several polling units, the number of registered voters was over one thousand (1,000) and where a significant number showed up for accreditation and voting, the security agents were simply overwhelmed. The ensuing chaos slowed down the accreditation process, resulted in pushing, and fighting in a few instances cases. In some of these places, calls had to be made for back up or intervention by armed officials to restore order. At Polling unit 003, Ojomo Ayeka, Okitipupa LGA, the 3 security operatives posted there could not manage the crowd until community elders and other security operatives intervened.

Recommendations
  1. INEC’s logistics deployment strategy requires urgent and immediate revision and should take advantage of the staggered elections to focus and better coordinate it’s resources to ensure that materials and persons arrive early at the various units.
  2. INEC should also undertake a complete review and harmonization of the voters register to reduce incidents of missing photos, names etc.
  3. The training and retraining and effectively deployment of INEC ad hoc staff and monitors should be given immediate attention.
  4. Security officials should be better trained in crowd control and should be better equipped to manage conflict situations. Synergy and coordination amongst them can also be improved upon.
  5. The heavy involvement of military personnel during elections remains a concern. Early detection of security threats helps in addressing them before the election, thus the heavy involvement of the military should be minimized as it usurps civil policing functions and undermines the capacity of the police to better secure elections.

We congratulate INEC, the Nigeria Police Force, other security agencies and the people of Ondo State for the peaceful conduct of the election. 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.

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