Election Security Management and the 2023 General Elections: A SWOT ANALYSIS
The Independent National Election Commission (INEC) has declared the results of the elections held on 25th February 2023 into the Offices of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the National Assembly, namely the Senate and House of Representatives. INEC declared the winner for the 2023 Presidential election on the 1st of March, 2023 after concluding the collation of election results from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. INEC offices in the States and FCT declared the winners of the various elected members into the Senate and House of Representatives following the conclusion of the collation of results.
CLEEN Foundation is convinced that the election security measures put in place are important and indispensable in the conduct of credible and violence free elections. The conduct of security personnel before, during and after the elections is important to the success of the election management institution, political parties, candidates, voters and election observer groups. Elections are significant in marking the transition from one regime to another after every four years. The 2023 General Election is the sixth transitional election in Nigeria. Beyond the role of the election management institution, the success and credibility of the elections are measured by the extent to which security is guaranteed and the conduct of security personnel in the elections.
CLEEN Foundation welcomes the introduction of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) Unified Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for all Security Agencies on Election Duties. It also welcomes the collaboration between the Offices of the National Security Adviser and the Inspector General of Police on election security management as exemplary.
The CLEEN Foundation Election Security Support Centre (ESSC) deployed 109 trained INEC accredited observers and is also liaising with a sizable number of citizen observers across the country covering the 109 senatorial zones in Nigeria. The roving observers were equipped with the CLEEN Mobile App that enabled the transmission of real-time data to the ESSC. In addition, CLEEN Foundation set up real-time multi-communication platforms (WhatsApp and Zoom) to receive real-time incidents across the 36 states and FCT. These were complemented with secondary information from credible media sources. The ESSC received calls and messages from citizens in different states which were escalated to INEC and Security agencies for appropriate action.
It is important to reiterate that the focus of CLEEN Foundation is on election security management/performance and thus we monitor the conduct of security personnel before, during and after the polls. This post-election statement builds on the interim statement by CLEEN Foundation during the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Although there was effective oversight on the agencies responsible for the provision of security and improved performance in the conduct of the security agencies deployed for election duty, there were a number of multidimensional security threats that have continued to undermine the stability and legitimacy of the electoral process.
One of the major security threats over the elections was the fear of cyber-attacks to disrupt the electoral process. This can include hacking into voter databases, manipulating voter registration systems, and spreading misinformation online. These attacks were meant to undermine the credibility of the election, create confusion and mistrust among voters.
Findings from ESSC Observations
In addition to the findings presented in the CLEEN Foundation interim statement on the conduct of security personnel during the 2023 general elections, the ESSC makes further findings with respect to the developments in the conduct of law enforcement officers on election duty:
Logistical Challenges and Delayed Voting
Late arrivals of INEC officials and voting materials caused delays in many polling stations. In some cases, ballots were cast and counted in the night with no incidents. This had the potential of causing security challenges where voters choose to protest or become violent. Fortunately, the voters conducted themselves in orderly manner
- Electoral killings: CLEEN Foundation ESSC tracked the killings of people in Kano state where a total of 15 persons were locked in a building and burnt to death. The security operatives commenced investigation leading to the arrest of the House of Representatives majority leader, Hon. Ado Doguwa. This incident adds to the earlier reported killings in Kogi State, at Ate-iji polling unit in Anyigba, Dekina LGA who was gunned down by men of the NPF on allegation of ballot box snatching. There was another reported killing at Yahaya Umaru Polling Unit at Jekadafari 07 Ward, PU No. 0010 Gombe an attempt to snatch-ballot box by a suspected thug was shot by security agents. Other alleged deaths were reported personnel of Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps involved in an accident.
- Performance of Law Enforcement Election Communication Mechanism: The communication channels for reportage of incidents to security agencies during the 2023 general elections were not quite effective as envisaged as calls placed were not attended to effectively. Actions were not taken on reported complaints though the lines were going through unlike that of INEC which did go through at all for unknown reasons. This is an area that needs improvement by law enforcement agencies on election security management.
- Security Deployment for the Election: The Election Security Support Centre observed that there were adequate security personnel deployment for the conduct of the 2023 Presidential elections held on 25th February 2023 however there were gaps in the deployment of the security personnel in terms of spread. While mmajority of the polling units recorded three or more security personnel, other polling units had one or two security personnel while very few had no security personnel. Armed security personnel were observed to be patrolling the major roads and kept their distances from the polling units across the country.
- Conduct of Security Personnel: We commend the conduct of the security personnel deployed on duty for the Presidential and National Assembly Elections across the country for their professionalism during the polling exercise. While we compliment the conduct of security personnel, we equally draw attention to some allegations of collusion levelled against some personnel. We thus call for decisive actions against such personnel after due and objective investigations. As stakeholders, security agencies must always hold themselves accountable as contributions to the deepening of democracy in Nigeria.
- The Commission should ensure sustained improvement in the distribution of election materials across all polling units in subsequent elections as this will contribute to instilling confidence in the electoral process;
- INEC should work with security agencies to ensure that all electoral offenders are investigated and prosecuted according to the law;
- Should ensure training and retraining of electoral officers to enable them to meet up with the challenging needs of the electorates in Nigeria, particularly in understanding the provisions of the newly amended Electoral Act (2022) and other INEC legal frameworks and guidelines;
- INEC should audit the number of accredited voters per-polling unit to provide for adequate materials such as BVAs, ballot papers and result sheets to aid the voting process.
- INEC needs to sustain voter education across the country long before the electioneering period commences.
- Continuous training and sensitisation of security personnel need to be encouraged as the laws and processes of elections will continue to be revised and improved upon which requires that actors in the security sector remain conversant with the laws and processes of conducting elections.
- There is the need to sustain and continue to strengthen Inter-Agency cooperation during elections to ensure the security of voters, officials and electoral materials
- The ICCES model should be sustained and the example set by the Offices of the National Security Adviser and Inspector-General of Police is recommended to all heads of security agencies
- The Civil Society Organizations should synergize more to develop and own a trusted citizen-driven electoral accountability platform that can hold INEC accountable in the election process (registration of political parties, designation of polling units, voter register, voting, collation and declaration of results with adequate evidence;
- INEC accredited CSOs should ensure a balanced report of the election observation is submitted to INEC for improvement of the electoral process;
- CSOs should sustain the culture of objective observation of the elections and continue to demand observance of the rule of law in the elections process and to deepen democracy in Nigeria.
- CSOS should continue to engage INEC, political parties and intensify voter education and voter mobilization to deepen democracy
- Political parties and politicians should be magnanimous in victory and avoid the winner takes it all syndrome by working with Nigerians to make the country a better place for all;
- Politicians should shun all forms of hate and insightful comments and also eschew every form of violence by approaching the constitutional means of airing grievances where they feel unjust by the process;
- Political parties and candidates need to intensify enlightening their followers on democratic and election processes to enhance democratic practice in Nigeria
- The media should maintain balance in their electoral reportage by abiding to the code and ethics of the media profession;
- The media need to sustain public enlightenment and educational programmes and explanations on democracy and electoral processes to help build a critical mass for sustaining democracy in Nigeria
- The media need to continue to position themselves as the trusted and credible sources of news and information on election issues and the democratic process to combat fake news, hate speeches and inciting utterances capable of creating security challenges
We want to commend the general public for the doggedness and commitment shown during the presidential election on the 25th of February, 2023. Subsequently, CLEEN Foundation applauds the security and law enforcement agencies, led by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) for the good conduct of its personnel, which has contributed to peaceful electoral outcomes in the country. We are not unaware of issues emanating from several polling units across the country but more importantly, we commend the astute professional conduct of security personnel deployed for election duties. CLEEN Foundation urges the electorates to continue to conduct themselves according to the law and exercise their rights to hold elected officials to account to ensure that electoral promises are met and kept.
God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria,