Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the 2019 general elections will test the professionalism of Nigeria’s security agencies.
Yakubu disclosed this on Friday, at the opening of a two-day workshop organised by INEC, in collaboration with the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), for security personnel in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the workshop, which had representatives of various security outfits in attendance, was tagged ” Election Security Personnel Training of Trainers for 2019 General Elections “.At the workshop were representatives of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, Police, Nigeria Customs Service, (NCS) Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Others from the Department of State Service (DSS), the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were also in attendance.
Yakubu, who was represented by Mr Sam Olumekun, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC, Lagos State, said without security, there would not be free and fair elections, especially in Nigeria.
“This workshop is clearly an indication of the determination of the commission to conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2019.
“The commission in its efforts to meet international best practices, has consistently demonstrated its commitment to develop and sustain structures that support its deepening of democratic practices, including security.
” INEC is responsible for conducting elections, while the security agencies are responsible for protecting the entire process — from INEC officials, to observers, the media, civil society organisations, and the voters.
“Your professionalism will definitely be put to test in the 2019 general elections, putting into consideration the fact that we have the highest number of political parties ever contesting in the elections.
” Also, with a voter roll of 6, 570, 291 in Lagos, we have the largest; it is going to be an arduous task in Lagos State,” Yakubu said.
According to him, as elections draw closer, at the front burner is the issue of security.
He said that INEC had taken a number of measures and initiatives to improve electoral security in Nigeria through the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) set up in 2011.
The chairman said that he had no doubt that the security agencies would pass the test, putting their track record into consideration.
The INEC boss said that the workshop would equip the security personnel for effective policing during the elections and enable them to acquire broad knowledge of the electoral process.
“2019 general elections is another opportunity to prove to the world that the Nigerian democracy is on course and the bar of success achieved in 2015 can be raised if we get it right security-wise,” he said.
The chairman, who commended ECES for its support and funding, said INEC and security agencies are two bodies that the citizens look up to for credible and acceptable elections, hence the need to be neutral.
Mr Richard Awolola, the Director of Security, INEC, said that the workshop was to equip participants with requisite skills and knowledge to effectively cascade Elections Security Personnel (ESP) training, in order to bring out the best and enhance professionalism in security personnel deployed for elections.
The Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, CP Imohimi Edgal, who noted that the period was another very crucial one in the history of the nation, said without security agents, elections could not hold.
Edgal, who was represented by ACP Olatunde Disu, the RRS Commander, urged the security agents, as critical stakeholders, to be responsible in discharging their duties as required by law.
In his message, Mr Rudolf Elbling, Project Director, ECES said that the conduct of hitch-free and credible elections required a peaceful environment devoid of threats to lives and property.
Elbling, who was represented by Mr Dominic Wheerts, said: “Election officials can only discharge their responsibilities of organising elections, including the deployment and retrieval of materials in a secured environment.” Voters also require a peaceful environment to be able to come out during elections without fear of intimidation and harassment.
“Security agencies therefore have critical roles to play in securing the electoral process, a role that has become more challenging in view of reported cases of security breaches in certain parts of the country.
“The issue of security is indeed very complex in a vast country like Nigeria where election personnel and materials have to be deployed across land expanse and sometimes difficulty terrains,” he said.