Monday, 11 August 2014

Preliminary Statement by CLEEN Foundation on the Conduct of Security Officials during the Osun State Gubernatorial Election



Introduction
In line with its commitment to contributing to effective election security management, the CLEEN Foundation, with support from the Justice for All (J4A) Program of DFID, observed the conduct of security officials during the Osun state gubernatorial election held on Saturday 9 August 2014. As done in previous elections across the country since 2011, CLEEN Foundation implemented a number of integrated activities aimed at contributing to public safety and security during the election in Osun State. First, it conducted a pre-election security threat assessment to identify 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 Osun state police command. The workshop was also attended by representatives of the Osun State Resident Electoral Commissioner and the leadership of other law enforcement agencies. It provided a forum to share useful ideas on how to effectively police the election and generally ensure safety throughout the exercise. Third, 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, widely read in the State. The publications also contained the 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, CLEEN obtained accreditation from INEC, recruited, trained and deployed observers in all 30 local government areas (LGAs) in Osun state to observe the conduct of security operatives on election duty. This statement sums up the preliminary findings of that observation exercise.

Background
The gubernatorial election conducted in Osun State on 9 August 2014 was contested by candidates of 20 political parties. However, it was essentially seen as a race between the candidates of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC). Coming on the heels of the Ekiti loss by APC to the PDP and the history of fierce electoral contestation in Osun state, the stakes were very high going into the election with both parties seeking to establish dominance. A number of likely threats to security during the election were therefore identified and these included unguarded statements, inflammatory and inciting comments by political gladiators in the state, perceived acts of prejudice or bias by security agents in favor or against any of the contestants, late arrival of election personnel and inadequate polling materials, inadequate security personnel at polling units and biased media reportage of events around the election. As was done in the Ekiti election, various law enforcement agencies deployed significant number of personnel across the state for the election.

Observations                          
1.      Security Presence in the State: As has become the pattern, there was very heavy deployment of security personnel across the state for the election. They mounted road blocks, conducted stop and search and patrolled various polling areas. However, their presence did not hinder the electoral process and there was no major security breach.

2.      Deployment of Security Personnel: Security officials were deployed in significant numbers to various polling units across the state. A majority of polling units had three or more security officials. However, there were isolated reports of late arrival of security officials (Unit 007, Ward 011, Ede north LGA) and crowd control challenges, especially where there were just one or two security officials (Unit 011, Ward 006 and Unit 007, Ward 011 Ede North; Unit 005, Ward 002, Ife East; Unit 002, Ward 002, Isokan LGA).

3.      Conduct of Security Personnel during the Election: Reports from across the areas observed indicated that most security officials on election duty carried out their duties in a very professional and commendable manner. They were alert, impartial, approachable and coordinated.  In places were crowd management became a challenge, they were able to call for back up from the armed roving patrol teams who intervened to restore order. However, a few incidents were reported such as the harassment of observers (Unit 003, Ward 004, Ife East LGA; Unit 001, Ward 009, Irewole LGA), and a minor scuffle between the police and soldiers at a check point close to Unit 001, Ward 002 in Idi-ore, Ayedire LGA. The presence of masked security personnel was also noted as a worrisome trend during the elections.

4.      Welfare of Security Personnel: The provision of adequate welfare for security officials on election duty remains a pressing challenge. Most of the officers, especially those deployed from other state commands, complained of poor accommodation and feeding arrangements. For instance, some officials deployed to the state on Sunday 3 August 2014 slept in empty primary school buildings on their own mats and only received a token amount on Friday 8 August 2014. This makes them increasingly vulnerable to compromise and should be addressed urgently.

5.      Deployment of Election Logistics: Across the state, election materials and personnel were reported to have arrived on time. INEC’s ad hoc personnel also demonstrated a better understanding of the process and were able to manage it effectively. Thus accreditation, voting and counting all went on schedule, with little or no challenges in most places.

6.      Activities of Party Agents: The unlawful activities of some party agents and loyalists remain worrisome. For instance, vote buying by party agents was noted at Unit 018, Ward 011, Ife Central LGA; Unit 001 and 002, Ward 003, Iwo LGA while impersonation was recorded in some places like Unit 002, Ward 004, Oriade LGA.

Recommendations
1.      The improvements in training and effectively deployment of INEC ad hoc staff and materials are commendable but much work still needs to be done to improve the quality of the voters’ register and minimize incidents of voters’ exclusion because of missing or inaccurate data.
2.      Security agencies are urged to plan ahead of each election and ensure adequate logistics provision for personnel it will be deploying to cater for their welfare while on electoral duty and minimize their vulnerability to compromise;
3.      The deployment strategy for security agencies on electoral duty should be revised and improved upon to ensure adequate coverage of polling units and flashpoint areas;
4.      Security agencies should work towards better coordination and synergy amongst their personnel on election duty and identifiable tags should be given to those deployed to facilitate accountability for their conduct;
5.      INEC and law enforcement agencies should take steps to hold political parties and their agents accountable for their conduct during elections put an end to impunity for electoral offences by arresting and prosecuting offenders.

We commend the efforts of INEC, the Police and other security agencies towards ensuring that the Osun gubernatorial election was peaceful and successful. We also congratulate the people of Osun State for their peaceful conduct during the election and after the release of the results. We 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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