CLEEN Foundation Situation Analysis of Election Security Management and the 2023 Gubernatorial and State Assembly Elections
The Governorship and State House of Assembly Elections held on the 18th of March 2023 mark the conclusion of the 2023 general elections. Although on a general level, the elections showed improvements compared to the Presidential and National Assembly elections of 25th February, several challenges have arisen from the conduct of the elections. CLEEN Foundation Election Security Support Center (ESSC) deployed roving observers to the 108 senatorial districts in the country except for the FCT.
The ESSC observed improvements in the deployment of security officers to the various polling units, distribution of election materials, and timely opening of the polls. Despite these improvements, it is sad to note that there were reports of violence in some states.
The CLEEN Foundation Election Security Support Centre (ESSC) deployed 109 trained INEC-accredited observers with other credible sources across the country for security related developments. The roving observers were equipped with the CLEEN Mobile App that enabled the transmission of real-time data to the Election Security Support Centre. In addition, CLEEN Foundation set up real-time multi-communication platforms (WhatsApp and Zoom) to receive real-time incidents across the states of the federation where the Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections took place. These were complemented with secondary information from credible media sources. The ESSC received calls and messages from citizens in different states and issues of unprofessional conduct were escalated accordingly to relevant agencies for appropriate action.
Observations from CLEEN Election Security Support Centre
Sequel to the findings presented in the interim statement of CLEEN Foundation Election Security Support Centre on the conduct of security personnel and the general atmosphere during the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections, the ESSC makes additional findings with particular emphasis on the conduct of law enforcement officers on election duty. It must be reiterated that CLEEN’s area of focus on the election is the monitoring of security personnel’s conduct during the electoral process in the country.
While commending the effort of all the security agencies which have participated in this process, it is imperative notwithstanding, to mention that the last Gubernatorial election had recorded cases of political violence. It can be recalled that CLEEN Foundation in its public statement on the Election Security Threat Assessment alluded to politicians being an unfortunate trigger to violence during the Presidential and Gubernatorial elections. Findings from the CLEEN Election Security Support Center show that widespread violence, ballot box snatching, assaults, fatalities, etc marred the elections.
Further findings by the CLEEN ESSC on the Gubernatorial and House of Assembly Elections are highlighted below:
- Logistics: The ESSC noted the great improvements in the logistical arrangements of INEC compared to the February 25 Presidential Elections as Security personnel and electoral materials were reported to have arrived early. The ESSC Report showed that at the polling units visited, over 85% of security personnel were at their various assignment posts between 6:30 am and 8:00 am.
- Electoral killings: CLEEN Foundation ESSC tracked the killings of people in Benue, Kano, Ebonyi, Cross Rivers, Gombe, and Rivers state, Some of the fatalities recorded were a response from security personnel to the act of violence and ballot box snatching by political thugs. For instance, it was reported that an attempt by a political thug to snatch a ballot box in Benue was resisted by security personnel leading to his death.
- Performance of Law Enforcement Agencies on Election Duty. The ESSC is particularly impressed by the improvement in the conduct of law enforcement agencies on election duty. At the time of this report, the ESSC noted that Security agencies in Lagos rescued an alleged ballot box snatcher from a mob action while in Imo, law enforcement agencies rescued kidnapped INEC staff. Also in states like Rivers, Enugu, Plateau, Anambra, and Kwara Security personnel managed to maintain orderliness in the polls.
- Security Deployment for the Election: The Election Security Support Centre observed that there was adequate security personnel deployment at both the polling units and surroundings for the conduct of the 2023 governorship and States House of Assembly elections held on 18th March 2023. However, while the majority of the polling units had two 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 patrolling the major roads and kept their distance from the polling units across the country.
- Conduct of Security Personnel: We commend the conduct of the security personnel deployed on duty. The ESSC observed that most security personnel discharged their duty professionally. Similarly, over 90% of observers deployed by the CLEEN Foundation reported that security personnel did not use force on voters during the process.
4. Voter Intimidation/Thuggery
CLEEN Foundation ESSC is however saddened by the level of thuggery, violence and voter suppression by non-state elements which was observed in Lagos, Gombe, Edo, Kano, Enugu, Imo, Bayelsa, and Rivers where incidences of voter suppression/intimidation and thuggery were recorded. CLEEN wants to use this medium to call responsible agencies like the Nigeria Police Force to act decisively and bring violent perpetrators to book.
5. Vote Trading
The ESSC observed vote buying in some of the polling units visited across the states. In some of the polling units, party agents were visibly seen asking voters to show who they voted for. There are also reports of voter inducement through sharing of money and food items as well as the collection of bank account details of voters.
- 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 a need to sustain and continue to strengthen Inter-Agency cooperation during elections to ensure the security of voters, officials and electoral materials.
- The prevalence of election day violence has necessitated the need for security agencies especially the Nigeria Police Force to strategize and develop effective ways of mitigating election day violence.
- Due to the manpower inadequacy of security agencies in Nigeria, there is a need for an intentional deployment of technology to election security management to bridge the gap created by the number of personnel available for election duties in the country.
- The ICCES model should be sustained and strengthened.
- 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 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.
- 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 continue to engage INEC, political parties and intensify voter education and voter mobilization to deepen democracy
- Political parties need to desist from turning the political space to a combative, do-or-die practice where they resort to any means to retain or acquire power at the detriment of public peace and democratic stability in the country.
- 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 shortchanged by the process and;
- Political parties and candidates need to intensify enlightenment campaigns for their followers on democratic and election processes to enhance democratic practice in Nigeria
- The media should maintain balance in their electoral reportage by upholding the code of 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
CLEEN Foundation is disturbed by the continued resort of some desperate politicians to acts of violence in order to influence the outcome of elections in their favour. The elections have continued to show that politicians are ready to compromise the process and undermine the efforts of security officers in maintaining law and order.
CLEEN Foundation commends the security agencies for enhanced professional performance in the recently concluded general elections. It is necessary to call on the government to continue to intensify measures towards enhancing the capacity of the security agencies to respond to election security situations. In addition to continued training, the government should invest in logistics and technology to enhance the knowledge, skills and operational capacity of the security agencies.
God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria,