Some police officers deployed to Ondo State for last Saturday’s governorship election accepted money from party agents and chieftains at polling units, a post-election report by CLEEN Foundation has said.
CLEEN was one of the organisations that monitored the election, after which the report was produced.
The Foundation observed the November 26 governorship election with specific focus on the security dimensions of the poll.
The non-governmental organisation was established in 1998 to promote public safety, security and accessible justice.
It had prior to the election carried out a Security Threat Assessment where it highlighted areas of possible security breaches and advised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies to be proactive.
The post-election report noted that there was timely and adequate deployment of security at polling units, while the security agents conducted themselves well in most of the units monitored.
It commended the agencies for provision of aerial surveillance for the election, coupled with professional and courteous attitude of police officers at most of the polling units visited.
It however, observed that there were few unprofessional conducts on the part of the security officials deployed for the election.
“There were also some unhelpful trends in the deployment and conduct of security agents,” the report stated.
“A few cases of professional misconduct were reported by our observers. These include collection of ‘brown envelope’ from party agents and/or chieftains, drunkenness and inappropriate dressing.”
The report also highlighted the welfare concern which featured prominently during the election, as many security officials complained about their deployment without attention to their feeding, accommodation, and related allowances.
“Many of them resorted to begging for money to eat,” the reported stated.
The report also observed poor security responses to some cases, particularly vote buying by party agents on the day of the election.
The foundation said its observers witnessed “attempts at vote buying by party agents and/or chieftains who were seen distributing money in order to influence the direction of voting.”
It also recorded pockets of electoral violence, including snatching of electoral materials such as Smart Card Readers, SCR, and ballot papers, in addition to low level of voters turnout in most of the polling units.
A GOOD ELECTION
However, in its general observation, the report noted that the Ondo State 2016 governorship election “will go down as one of the most effective in recent times.”
It reported that “overall peacefulness, good organization, including timely deployment of electoral materials and officers, adequate electoral security management, timely collation and release of results, among others,” were the defining elements of the election.
“Despite these advances, however, our observers also reported some negative dimensions of the election, namely: malfunctioning of Smart Card Readers (SCRs) in some PUs, which made accreditation difficult, slow and/or impossible in some Pus,” it stated.
CLEEN Foundation said it was generally pleased with the high level of professionalism, competence and general capacity demonstrated by INEC, political parties, security agencies, civil society organisations, the electorate and related stakeholders in the administration of the 2016 Ondo election.
It recommended the need to pay more attention to the welfare of security agents so as to get them fully motivated and committed to the tasks of electoral security.
It urged that all security agents deployed for election duties should be made to sign an oath of allegiance to some ethical codes of conduct, the violation of which should attract severe penalty.
It also recommended “more professional and periodic training for security agents on the theory and practice of election security.”
Some police officers who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES had lamented the poor treatment meted out to them by their superiors in not paying their allowances on time.
Four days after the election, a lot of the 26,000 operatives are yet to be paid, although the payments had started.
The Police Public Relations Officer for Ondo State, Femi Joseph, described the allegation that police officers received money from party officials during the election as “total falsehood.”
He accused CLEEN Foundation of not having any evidence to back its claims.
“If they say that policemen were collecting money, do they have any proof or did they call anybody to draw attention to what was going on?” he asked.
“It is disappointing that the foundation is raising this allegation when foreign observers have come to commend the police for the manner its men conducted themselves during the election.”
On the non-payment of allowances for the officers, the Force Public Relations Officer, Don Awunah, said the delay in the payment of the police officers was not the fault of police authorities.
“The problem is not from the force headquarters, but as a result of problems with bank transactions,” he said.
“You know how difficult it is to transfer money even to one person, how much more thousands of policemen.”
He urged the officers to be patient, saying they would eventually receive their allowances.