The Election Security Support Centre (ESSC) of CLEEN Foundation acknowledges that election remains a key requirement for social, political and economic development in Nigeria. Since the return to civil rule in Nigeria, elections have been keenly contested. More importantly, the build up and preparedness towards the elections held on Saturday 23rdFebruary 2019 have taken place in an atmosphere of widespread security concernsin most states of the Federation.
Prior to the election, CLEEN Foundation conducted Election Security Threat Assessments (ESTA) as input towards enhancing public safety and security. It is sad to note that the areas identified by CLEEN Foundation actually experienced violence. These include Rivers, Kogi, Akwa-Ibom and Lagos States amongst others.The findings of the ESTA were disseminated widely between August 2018 and January 2019.
We must however, commend the resilience and commitment of Nigerians who exhibited commitment and patience, despite difficulties experienced before and during the voting process. Majority of the electorates demonstrated commitment to orderly and peaceful elections in Nigeria which is highly commended. The resilience showed by voters despite glaring challenges is a positive development in our quest to consolidate democracy in Nigeria. This statement is the outcome of the reports from our observers across the country during the election.
CLEEN Foundation recruited, trained and deployed 1,600 stationary and 40 roving observers across the 36 states of Nigeria and Federal Capital Territory. CLEEN Foundation equally set up the ESSC in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Imo states respectively. CLEEN Foundation collaborated with the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in observing the conduct of security agencies on election duty.
The ESSC received real-time information from our stationary and roving observers deployed across the country. The ESSC received calls from the general public, media and observers for timely update and response from the field during the election. CLEEN Foundation also received various feedbacks from our observers and citizens across the nation. These include issues relating to late arrival of security officers and voting materials at the polling units and a few distressed calls. Such issues which also posed security threat to the conduct of free, fair and secured election were escalated to INEC and security agencies for prompt action from our ESSCs located in Abuja, Lagos and Owerri.
Notably, CLEEN Foundation equipped the observers with a standardized checklist containing specific questions to measure the conduct of security personnel on election duty and overall election security.
These questions covered time of arrival of security personnel to the polling unit, partiality/impartiality of the security personnel, response to incidents at the polling unit in relation to the use of force, overall conduct of the security personnel at the polling units and others. The information on the checklist was retrieved electronically through Tellaa data gathering and analysis mobile application, which saves time and minimizes error due to data entry.
The quantitative information and empirical data were complemented with information from the state coordinators across the states that provided periodic feedback to ESSC through phone calls and dedicated social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.
This statement highlights our findings and recommendations on the conduct of security personnel deployed for election duty.
3. Arrival of Security Personnel at the Polling Units
Reports from our observers across the nation, indicates that security personnel deployed to the polling units arrived early. For example, 21% of the security personnel arrived the polling units before 7:00am and 44% arrived between 7:00am – 7:59am. However, about of 31% of the security officers arrived between 8.00am – 9.00am or later.
4. Deployment and Adequacy 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 and the Armed Forces amongst others. They provided safety and security for the entire election process. The CLEEN Foundation noted that 39% of the polling units had three or more security personnel to provide safety and security of voters and voting materials and maintenance of law and order within the voting areas. Furthermore, 31% of the polling units had just two security officers deployed to provide security to voters, observers and electoral materials as well as maintenance of law and order within the voting area. Our observers also noted that some poling units were grossly under-policed. This is evident from our observers who observed that 27% of the polling units had just one police officer. Despite the perceived lopsidedness that characterized the deployment of security officers, 66% of the observers adjudged that the number of security officials present in the polling units were adequate or very adequate at all times.
5. Conduct of Security Personnel
Security personnel largely conducted themselves in a commendable manner. They exhibited professionalism in maintaining law and order and assisted in coordinating the electoral process where necessary in most polling units. Available report notes that 83% of the observers rated the conduct of security personnel attached to the polling units across the nation as good and very good.
Specifically, 92% of the security personnel attached to the polling unit were observed to be approachable to the voters, 81% of the security officers were observed to be impartial on election duty across the polling units. However, about 12% of the security officers deployed to the poling units were observed to be somewhat partial and partial. This gives credence to incidents of complicity of security personnel on election duty in some polling units.
6. Feeling of Safety and Security at the polling units
The observers noted that 88% of the voters felt safe at the polling units respectively. This implies that majority of voters generally felt safe at the polling units across the country as result of the presence of security personnel during the election.
7. Threats at the Polling Units
The 2019 general election in Nigeria recorded incidents of threat at 8% of the polling units across the country. Out of the 8%, incidents of threat recorded, 6% were well handled while 2% were not well handled at all.
8. Presence of Armed Forces
CLEEN observed the deployment of the Armed Forces during the 2019 general elections and setting up of Situation Room by the military. Generally, their presence did not interfere with the conduct of the election in most states of the federation. However, CLEEN Foundation received reports of incidents involving the military and political thugs in Rivers State. In another report, a detachment of military personnel obstructed passage of electorates into their polling units. These incidents continue to raise the debate on the deployment of the military during election.
9. 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, there was no further payment after the postponement.
10. General Observations
· Incidents of Security Breaches
Our observers reported security challenges in some states. For example, on the eve of the election, there was Boko Haram attack on Zabarmari village, Jere LGA, close to Maiduguri in Borno State which was repelled by security agents. In addition, on election day, there were reports of bomb explosions and sounds of heavy armoury in the early hours before the commencement of the elections. Despite the security challenges occasioned by these incidents, residents turned out to vote en masse. In Rivers State, Ward 4 PU 007, 008 and 009, political thugs chased away voters with gun shots and carted away electoral materials while National Youth Corps members were held hostage but later released. In Lagos State, it was alleged that political thugs disrupted elections in deferent voting locations.
· Cases of Loss of Life
There were reported cases of deaths in some states in the country including Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Kogi and Zamfara States. For example, two persons were killed and three injured in Amagu Community in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State in a clash between rival political thugs. A prominent politician was shot dead at his hometown in Andoni LGA of Rivers State. Also, suspected thugs killed a voter at PU 006 at Ayingba, Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State. There were also unconfirmed reports of killing of voters and others sustaining various injuries in Rivers State.
· Destruction of election materials
Our assessment from the field indicates that there were some cases of destruction of electoral materials and attack on security personnel on electoral duty. For example, at PU 006, Ward 09 at Bayo Oyewole Street by Wilson Avenue, Ago-Palace Way, Okota in Oshodi Isolo LGA of Lagos State suspected thugs set some ballot papers ablaze after attacking security personnel posted to the polling unit. The security officers attached to the polling unit later called for reinforcement. In addition, in Ward 3, PU 5, Esan South East LGA, Edo State, thugs snatched ballot boxes after the conclusion of voting. There was also burning of ballot boxes in PU 17, Ward 009 (Okhoro Police Post) in Egor LGA of Edo State. In addition, Ward 10, PU5, Etsako East LGA, in Edo State there was reported destruction of ballot boxes and no presence of security agents at the polling unit at the time of the incident.
· Safety and Security of Observers
Some of observers reported that they were harassed by security agents and political thugs while performing their civic duty. For example, in Nembe Ward 1, PU 005, in Rivers State, a field observer was molested by a notable politician accompanied by political thugs for taking pictures at the polling unit. They seized her phone and deleted all the pictures on the device. It is gratifying to note that security agents deployed for election duty rescued her. In addition, one of the observers deployed by YIAGA Africa was arrested and detained by the Police at the Kafanchan Area Command, Kaduna State. The observer was later released.
· Failure of Card Readers
CLEEN Foundation observers reported failure of smartcard readers in some polling units leading to the slow-down of the election.
· Missing names on the Voters’ Register
There were reported cases of missing names on the voters’ register. This was recorded at Bwari Area Council in the Federal Capital Territory.
· Late arrival of materials
There were late arrival of INEC officials and polling materials in different parts of the country.
· Vote Buying
Incidents of vote-buying were reported in some states, including Akwa-Ibom and Kogi states.
11. Conclusion and recommendation
We urge INEC to do all within its powers to improve on the electoral process. Learning from the shortcomings of the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on Saturday 23rdFebruary 2019, INEC should ensure a better administration of the Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections slated for the 9thof March 2019. We also call upon the security agencies to ensure the safety of all citizens as the electoral process advances to the critical stages of collation and announcement of results. Finally, we appeal to all citizens and politicians to remain law abiding and orderly throughout the electoral process.
12. Thank you and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Benson Olugbuo, PhD