Why security personnel couldn’t stop violence in Bayelsa, Kogi elections – CLEEN Foundation

11:55a.m: Voting is ongoing at Unit 19, Ward 5, Yenagoa, Bayelsa. Like in most parts of Yenagoa, voting started late here. Voters' turnout is large here.
Voting Process in Yenagoa, Bayelsa

The conduct of security personnel allowed thuggery, violence, and disruptions recorded in Saturday’s elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states, a non-governmental organisation, CLEEN Foundation, has said.

The Executive Director of the foundation, Benson Olugbuo, stated this in a report on the conduct of security personnel deployed for election duty in the states.

The group, which deployed 61 observers to both states for the elections, in its report said the poor conduct of security personnel explains why there was no resistance to political thugs who were shooting and snatching ballot boxes in both states.

”CLEEN Foundation accredited observers noted that most of the security personnel did not use force at anyone in the polling units observed. This explains the situation of no resistance by political thugs in shooting and snatching ballot boxes in Bayelsa and Kogi states respectively.

”The security personnel were unable to manage/prevent thugs and men in security uniforms in Kogi State especially from disrupting elections and carting away voting materials.”

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted both elections on Saturday, with the ruling APC candidates emerging winners in both states.

The media and election observers reported widespread violence and electoral fraud in the exercises in both states. At least two prominent observer groups, YIAGA and Situation Room, have called for outright cancellation of the Kogi elections.

YIAGA Africa in its report on the Bayelsa election, also said the announced results were tampered with and did not reflect the wishes of the voters.

Similarly, CDD, a pro-democracy think tank, on Monday, said 10 deaths and 129 cases of violence and electoral crimes were recorded. The group called on President Muhammadu Buhari to provide leadership to save Nigeria’s electoral process from collapsing.

Commendable Acts

However, despite criticisms on the conduct of the security personnel, the group also found some commendable steps by the police.

CLEEN Foundation said the majority of the security personnel at the polling units were approachable.

The observer group noted that the majority of the voters at the polling units felt safe and secure.

Also in the report, it added that most of the security personnel did not use force at anyone in the polling units

The Nigerian police said deployed about 66,241 to provide security during the governorship election.

More on CLEEN Foundation Findings on the conduct of security personnel deployed for election duty:

1. The arrival of Security Personnel at the Polling Units: CLEEN Foundation observers recorded 58% early arrival before 8:00 am and 42% late arrival after 8:00 am at the polling units by the security personnel on election duty. The late arrivals were recorded in both states respectively.

2. Presence of Security Personnel at the Polling Unit and Possession of Fire Arm: CLEEN observers observed the presence of three or more security personnel in 92% of the polling units covered with the majority of them unarmed at the polling units. Some of the armed personnel were seen on the road and some meters away from the polling units. The observers recorded two or less number of security personnel in 8% of the polling units covered during the election across all the LGAs in Kogi and Bayelsa states respectively.

3. Adequacy of the Number of Security Personnel at the Polling unit: CLEEN Foundation observed 77% adequacy of the number of security personnel in all the polling units observed and 23% inadequacy of the number of the security personnel in the polling units.

4. Wearing of Name Tags by Security Personnel: CLEEN Foundation observers noted that most of the security personnel were wearing easily identifiable name tags at the polling units while few were not wearing name tags/covering their name tags. This was observed in both Bayelsa and Kogi states respectively.

5. Approachability of Security Personnel: The accredited observers deployed by CLEEN Foundation noted that the majority of the security personnel at the polling units were approachable and few of the security personnel somewhat approachable during the elections.

6. Maintenance of Impartiality: The CLEEN observers noted that most of the security personnel at the polling unit were impartial and few were not impartial at all during the elections across the polling units observed in all the LGA areas in Bayelsa and Kogi state respectively.

7. Feeling of Safety at the Polling Units: The observers noted that the majority of the voters at the polling units felt safe and secure. Generally, CLEEN observers noted that voters in the Bayelsa state felt safe and secure more than voters in Kogi state.

8. Incidents of Threat to Security at the Polling unit: A total of 30% of CLEEN Foundation observers reported that there were threats to security at the polling units in both Kogi and Bayelsa States. In some instances, heavily armed political thugs invaded polling units and destroyed or carted away voting materials without a response from the security agencies deployed for election duty.

9. Use of Force: CLEEN Foundation accredited observers noted that most of the security personnel did not use force at anyone in the polling units observed. This explains the situation of no resistance by political thugs in shooting and snatching ballot boxes in Bayelsa and Kogi states respectively.

10. Professional Conduct of Security Personnel at the Polling Unit: Generally, CLEEN Foundation recorded poor conduct of the security personnel in the face of violence and insecurity during the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states. The security personnel were unable to manage/prevent thugs and men on security uniforms in Kogi state especially from disrupting elections and carting away voting materials.

General observation and incident reports during the election

i. Killings/Deaths Recorded: Two persons were reportedly killed in Kogi State on the day of the election in Lokoja LGA of Kogi State. Prior to the elections, there were various reports of killings in the two states.

ii. Ballot Box Snatching: Several incidents of ballot box snatching were recorded in Bayelsa and Kogi States respectively. For instance, in PU 20, Etegwe Primary School, Ward 5 in Yenegoa LGA of Bayelsa State, the ballot box was snatched at the end of voting with no resistance from the security personnel at the polling unit.

iii. Vote Trading: CLEEN Foundation observed massive and well-coordinated vote-buying and selling in Bayelsa and Kogi states respectively. The security personnel on election duty appeared indifferent while the vote-trading lasted.

iv. Missing Names on Voters Register: CLEEN Foundation observed a situation where the names of voters were missing from the voters register although the voters had their Permanent Voters Card. This was observed at Polling Unit 009, Ward 9 at Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

v. Late Arrival of Election Materials: There were incidents of the late arrival of voting materials across the two states. For instance, in PU 012, Ward 6 in Brass LGA of Bayelsa State INEC personnel arrived late.

vi. Late Court Judgments: Judicial pronouncement close to the election day in Bayelsa State heightened tension and caused a lot of confusion among the electorate.

Conclusion and Recommendations:

The 2019 Bayelsa and Kogi States governorship elections have been conducted with various developments that call for serious concern. The outcome of the elections has implications for election security management and the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria.

CLEEN Foundation is worried and concerned that key stakeholders such as Politicians, INEC and security agencies have not taken lessons from previous elections in preparation for the just concluded gubernatorial elections.

This explains the reoccurrence of past issues/lapses and problems associated with the management of elections in Nigeria on the part of INEC and security agencies. It appears that we are retrogressing rather than building on the electoral gains made in the past.

In light of the developments from the recently concluded elections, we make the following recommendations to enhance the integrity of the electoral process and in deepening democracy in Nigeria:

1. Security agencies deployed for election duty should investigate and arrest all those responsible for the electoral violence unleashed on voters by political thugs in Bayelsa and Kogi States.

2. INEC should prioritize the prosecution of all electoral offenders in line with section 150 of the Electoral Act to serve as a deterrent in future elections.

3. Federal government should commence the process of amending the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) in preparation for off-cycle elections and the 2023 general elections. Key provisions should include the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission and criminalization of vote trading.

4. INEC should consider and implement electronic voting to reduce physical contact with election materials for future elections to reduce electoral violence.

5. Electoral reforms should prioritise holding accountable politicians that have remained the greatest security threat to democracy in Nigeria.

6. INEC and stakeholders should harmonize and standardize training modules on Election Security Management to be used to train security personnel ahead of elections.

7. The Police Service Commission and other oversight agencies should ensure that security agents deployed for election duty are duly debriefed and those found wanting should be held accountable for their actions or inactions during the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi elections.

8. The Federal Government of Nigeria should provide an enabling environment that enables citizens to exercise their franchise without fear of bodily harm. It is unacceptable that citizens will go to polling units without assurance of their safety or security.

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