Election remains a key component in the growth, development, sustenance and advancement of democratic process in Nigeria. Election security is critical in the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. The Osun State Governorship election is the last major off-cycle election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and is a test case for preparations towards the 2019 general elections.
The CLEEN Foundation in collaboration with the Police Service Commission monitored the conduct of security personnel deployed for election duty during the Osun State governorship election. As already noted in our preliminary statement, more than 90 election observers were deployed across the 30 LGAs to ensure a balanced reportage and adherence to good practices expected of security agencies on election duty.
This statement presents a detailed summary of our findings and recommendations on the conduct of security personnel deployed for election duty.
CLEEN Foundation recruited and trained her observers before the election and subsequently provided them with a customized checklist to observe the conduct of security personnel on election duty. Subsequently, CLEEN Foundation and Police Service Commission coordinated an Election Security Support Centre (ESSC) in Osogbo, complemented by call centers in Abuja, Owerri and Lagos States respectively. The ESSC received real-time information from our stationary and roving observers deployed across Osun State during the election. The ESSC received calls from the general public, media and observers for timely update and response from the field during the election.
Arrival of Security Personnel at the Polling Units
Reports from the field, indicates that security personnel deployed to the polling units arrived early. For example, 42% of the security personnel arrived the polling units before 7:00am and 58% arrived between 7:00am – 7:59am. This shows that 100% of the security personnel arrived the polling unit before 8:00am.
Deployment of Security Agents
CLEEN Foundation observed multi-agency deployment of security personnel such as the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Prison Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Department of Security Service, Nigeria Army among others. An average of three or more security personnel was observed at every polling unit. They provided safety and security for the entire election process. CLEEN observed that the security personnel were deployed directly to the LGAs for the election duty unlike previous elections. This strategy of deployment is quite commendable as it enhanced early arrival of the security personnel and INEC officials at the polling units.
In addition, CLEEN observed the presence of non-state actors such as the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) in Ilesha East LGA of Osun State.
Conduct of Security Personnel
Security personnel largely conducted themselves in a commendable manner. They exhibited professionalism in maintaining law and order and assisted the elderly and vulnerable to cast their votes. The available statistics from the field observation shows that 88.6% of security personnel were rated GOOD in their overall conduct by the observers. Specifically, 95% of the security personnel were observed to be approachable, 65.7% were observed to be impartial, 30% were observed to be somewhat partial while 5.3% were observed to be partial.
However, there were reports of complicity and over-zealousness of security personnel in a few polling units. Specifically, some security personnel prevented observers from using electronic devices at the polling units as observed in PU 003, ward 04, Ifelodun LGA contrary to INEC’s guideline that phones should not be used at the polling booths by accredited voters.
Feeling of Safety and Security: The observers noted that 51.3% of the voters felt very safe and secure while 48.7% of voters felt safe and secure at the polling units respectively. This implies that 100% of the voters generally felt safe and secure at the polling units across the state as result of the presence of security personnel during the election.
Inducement of Security Personnel: Incidents of inducement of security personnel on election duty were reported by the observers. For instance, at PU 002, Ward 08 in Irewole LGA, a police officer was alleged to have collected money wrapped in a handkerchief. Similarly, some police officers were observed to have left and returned to their duty post at various intervals while the election was still in progress in Iremo Ward 02 in Ife Central LGA.
Presence of the Military: The observers noted that there were military presence and patrol in strategic locations during the election in the state. Though there were no observed misconducts, the debate regarding the deployment of the military continues among electoral stakeholders on the need for military participation in election security management.
Security Agencies Operations: Apart from the unarmed security personnel stationed at the polling units, it was observed that armed security personnel patrolled the roads in the state during the election. They provided security for INEC offices, collation centres and the general public. It was also observed in PU 003, Ward 04, Ifelodun LGA that normalcy was restored by the security personnel on ground after a voter jumped the queue and was resisted by other voters. Observers equally reported that security personnel on ground made efforts to protect the secrecy of the ballot.
Welfare of Security Personnel: Significance improvement was recorded in the area of welfare of the security personnel on election duty. Some of the security personnel admitted to receiving their allowances before their deployment. This is commendable. However, efforts should be made to ensure that all security personnel receive their allowances before deployment in subsequent elections.
- The election was generally peaceful across the 30 LGAs in the state. This validates the findings of CLEEN Foundation Security Threat Assessment (STA) conducted ahead of the election which indicated that 74% of the people in Osun State agreed that the election would be peaceful.
- Smart Card Reader malfunctioning: CLEEN Foundation observers reported failure of Smart Card Readers leading to slow-down of the election in PU 006, Ward 04 in Ifelodun LGA. However, the faulty Smart Card Readers were replaced with back-ups.
- Missing names on the Voters’ Register: There were reported cases of missing names on the voters’ register. This was recorded at PU 003, Ward 03 Isaleoba Oke-Odo in Iwo LGA.
- Improvement of INEC logistics: CLEEN observers reported early arrival of INEC officials, security personnel and opening polling units before 8:00am across the state.
- CLEEN Foundation observers witnessed early turnout of voters across the 30 LGAs in the state. As early as 7:00am, a good number of eligible voters were already present to cast their votes.
- Participation of International & Domestic Observers: CLEEN observers noted that the international observers covered both urban and rural areas during the election.
- Incidents of Vote-Buying: There were alleged cases of vote buying at PU 001, Ward 03 in Atakunmosa West LGA, PU 002, ward 08 in Irewole LGA and PU 002, ward 02 in Egbedore LGA.
From the above observations and analysis, CLEEN Foundation makes the following recommendations:
- The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should carry out a maintenance and checks on the Smart Card Readers ahead of the 2019 general elections.
- INEC should validate the Voters’ Register across the country to avoid issues of missing names on the register.
- The security agencies should abide by the rules of engagement on the conduct of security personnel on election duty.
- Security agencies should train and retrain all security personnel deployed on election duty to fully understand their role in election security management. This is to avoid instances of security personnel requesting observers to produce their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) as means of identification during the election.
- Continuous voter education should be improved upon by INEC, Media, Civil Society Organizations and the political parties to avoid voters insisting to vote without Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC) or when their names are not on the voters register.
- INEC, security agencies and the government should ensure prosecution and punishment of persons arrested for vote buying and other electoral offences after thorough investigation to serve as deterrent to others in future elections.
- The Police Service Commission (PSC) should discipline police officers indicted for breach of the PSC code of conduct for police officers on election duty.
- CLEEN Foundation calls for sustained inter-agency collaboration among security agencies on election security management.
- Welfare of security personnel deployed on election duty should remain a priority for the government.
The CLEEN Foundation commends the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies for the level of professionalism and commitment demonstrated during the Osun State 2018 Governorship election. This should be improved upon during the 2019 general elections. We commend INEC for the general conduct of the election in Osun State. We appreciate the partnership with the PSC which enabled the deployment of their staff across the 30 LGAs during the election. We express gratitude to all our observers for their commitment and support to the ESSC. Finally, CLEEN Foundation is grateful to the European Union under the Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) for their assistance.
Benson Olugbuo, PhD