Monday, 20 November 2017

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT BY CLEEN FOUNDATION ON THE CONDUCT OF SECURITY AGENTS DURING THE NOVEMBER 18, 2017, GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION IN ANAMBRA STATE

PREAMBLE


Since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that the governorship election in Anambra state will hold on November 18, 2017, people within and outside of the state entertained fears about security before and during the election in the state. As the election drew closer, the apprehension became palpable against the backdrop of threat of election boycott by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), large number of political contestants, huge deployment of state security forces, and the history of godfather politics, among other factors. The governorship election held as scheduled by INEC on November 18.

SUPPORT FOR THE NOVEMBER ELECTION

Consistent with our commitment to promoting public safety, security and justice in Nigeria, the CLEEN Foundation has sustained active engagement with several critical stakeholders to ensure that the November 18 governorship election was conducted in a secure and peaceful atmosphere. CLEEN Foundation observed the November 18 governorship election in Anambra state, with specific focus on the security dimensions of the election. The mission was in furtherance of other interventions earlier made by the organization to enhance election security in the state. These include, among others, the deployment of CLEEN Foundation and INEC Electoral Institute Election Violence Mitigation Tool (EVMT), and the conduct and release of two field reports -  Situation Analysis of Security and Public Safety in Anambra State, Nigeria: Towards the November 18, 2017 Governorship Election and Security Threat Assessment for the 2017 Governorship Election in Anambra State. These interventions were geared towards making positive impact on the election landscape in general and electoral security management in particular.

FIELD OBSERVATION OF THE NOVEMBER 18 ELECTION

CLEEN Foundation trained and deployed a total of 83 persons to observe the deployment and conduct of security agents during the November 18 governorship election. Out of this number, 73 observers were deployed across the 21 LGAs of the state. They had a standardised checklist containing important questions about the deployment and conduct of security agents during the election. In addition, there were six other roving observers, whose activities covered the three Senatorial Districts. The field observers provided real-time updates and reports on the election-day in the form of voice calls, pictures and short message service (SMS) to a WhatsApp group, #CLEENSituationRoom#, from their locations. A team of four other observers operated the Call Centre, co-located with the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room. The information sharing among partner organisations in the Situation Room also enabled CLEEN Foundation to cross-check its field observations.

SECURITY DEPLOYMENT FOR THE ELECTION
Aware of the potential and real security threats to the election, the various security agencies deployed robust plans to ensure security, before, during and after the election. While the military and the Department of State Services (DSS) did not make public the number of their personnel deployed for the elections, the Police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) announced plans for huge deployment of their officers. The Police had announced that it will deploy 26,000 of its personnel for the governorship election. It will also deploy Police helicopters for surveillance and aerial patrol as well as three gunboats for patrol of the waterways throughout the period of the election. Also, the NSCDC claimed it deployed 14, 000 personnel to boost the number of personnel provided by other security agencies for the governorship election.

OBSERVATIONS ON SECURITY AGENTS AND ELECTION SECURITY
There were several observations regarding the poll in general and security interventions more specifically. However, below are some of the key observations that bordered on election security;

Military Operations: Observers reported that the military maintained outposts on major routes of entrance and exit from the state. There were also reports of proper conduct of the military stationed on the major roads and locations in the state during the election. There was a reported case of arrest of three persons suspected of carrying IPOB leaflets. The suspects were arrested by the military at DNGS Roundabout, off Oguta Road, Onitsha North LGA. Overall the conduct of the military during the election was commendable

Patrol by Security Agents: There were indications, and corroborated by observers, of sustained visibility policing through ground, aerial and waterways patrol by security agencies, especially the police. The Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) and the NSCDC also maintained visible level of ground patrol. We also noted that the Police had patrol teams that visited some polling units to ensure that voting was going on smoothly. These patrols provided the needed sense of safety and security during the election.

Deployment of Security Agents: Observers reported timely deployment of security agents to PUs, Wards, collation centres and INEC offices across most of the LGAs visited. In relation to the time security agents arrived at the polling units, the findings of the field observation showed that 18% of the security agents arrived the polling units before 7:00am, while 36% arrived between 7.00am - 7.59am. Those that arrived between 8.00am - 8.59am constituted 22% of the security agents deployed to the polling unit, while 24% of the security agents arrived their polling unit from 9:am and above. The late arrival of some of the security agents to the polling unit were partly as a result of logistics deficits and unfamiliarity with the language and terrain. In addition the field observation showed that 3 or more security agents were present at 80% of the polling units. This confirmed the large deployment of security agents for the election. The result of the field observation showed that more than half of the security agents arrived their polling units before the commencement of accreditation and voting. However, there was delayed deployment of over forty police personnel to their polling units in Nzam, Anambra West LGA, etc, due to inadequate vehicles.

Conduct of Security Agents: Observers reported sufficient demonstration of neutrality and impartiality by security agents across most polling units visited. The security agents conducted themselves in civil and  professional manner  in their dealings with the electorates. Regarding the conduct of security agents at the polling units, the findings of the field observation indicated that 38% rated the conduct as being 'very impartial' while 40% rated their conduct as 'impartial'. However, 6% rated their conduct 'somewhat impartial' and 16% rated it 'not impartial'.

Inter-Agency Collaboration: Our observers noted discernible improvement in the level of inter-agency collaboration among security agencies during the elections. The Police, Civil Defence, FRSC and others were seen working together harmoniously at the polling units, along the road and at the collation centres.

Security Incident Response: The timely identification and execution of proper response to acts or events that are capable of disrupting or undermining the peaceful conduct of polls is of crucial importance in elections security management. Observers noted that security agents were quick to respond and resolve cases of dragging of positions in voting queues, disagreements between party agents, and complaints by voters. There was prompt response to distress calls, as was the case in polling unit 005, Ward 3, Community Primary School, Amawbia in Awka South LGA, where a man was arrested by the DSS for trying to buy votes and was later released. A similar incident happened in polling unit 005, Ward 001, Ukpuwo, Nnewi South  LGA, where a woman with two voters cards was arrested by the Police for attempting to vote in another polling unit having voted with one of the cards in a nearby polling unit.

Protection of Election Integrity: Election security management is critical to the preservation of the integrity of the election. The actions or inactions of security agents do have consequences for the integrity of the election. Observers reported brazen cases of vote buying and voter inducement, involving the major political parties, in most of the polling units. These illegal acts took place often in the full glare of security agent who appeared unable or unwilling to deter such electoral offences. In most cases, security agents appeared uninterested in the act. In some cases, they made feeble attempt to drive the party agents behind the vote buying away from polling station. In few cases where they mustered courage to arrest the suspects, they usually let them go following interventions by community leaders or youth.

Welfare of Security Agents: Reports from our observers indicated that there was appreciable level of improvement in the welfare arrangement for the security agents. However there was equally isolated cases of complain by some security agents over the poor handling of their welfare, especially on their feeding, accommodation and the allowances.

INEC Logistics Setbacks: There were indications of logistics setbacks such as inadequate vehicles that contributed to delayed or late arrival of both electoral materials and personnel (permanent and adhoc staff - especially National Youth Service Corp Members). Observers equally reported cases of both temporary and complete failure of the Card Reader Machines (CRMs) in some polling units. It is noteworthy that in some cases, INEC technical team responded swiftly to rectify the problem. However at Community Primary School Ohita Ogbaru LGA, the CRM failed to work due to network failure, leading to protests by voters at the polling unit. Such incident could trigger electoral violence if poorly managed.
RECOMMENDATION
In view of the above, we recommend the following:
§         The security agencies should continue to evolve and fine-tune 'right-sized' deployment of its agents to improve elections security.
§         The Media and civil society organisations should deepen public enlightenment on the dangers of vote trading on the credibility of elections and prospect of good governance.
§         Security agents and presiding officers should show more commitment in curbing vote trading and voter inducement at the polling unit.
§         The level of inter-agency collaboration observed in the election should be sustained and improved upon in future elections.
§         The National Orientation Agency and civil society organisations should intensify the sensitisation of the citizens on the need to support security agents in the arrest and prosecution of electoral offenders.
§         The security agencies should make adequate logistics arrangements for the feeding and accommodation of the personnel on election duty, including ensuring prompt payment of their allowances.
§         The INEC should commit more technical resources to improving the functionality and reliability of the CRMs.

CONCLUSION

As widely anticipated, the governorship election in Anambra State held under tight-security with minimal security breaches. This was largely in line with the conclusion of CLEEN Foundation's Security Threat Assessment for the 2017. Overall, the conduct of security agents during the elections is commendable, especially in the discharge of their duties at the patrol bits, polling units, and collation centres. Overall, the findings of the field observation indicated that 56% rated the performance of security agents in the Anambra election 'very good' while 26% rated it 'good. However, 4% rated their performance 'fair' and another 4% rated it  'poor'. Notwithstanding, there were multiple reports of vote trading especially at the polling units, in the presence of security agents. There were also concerns about logistics and welfare of security agents which impacted on their ability to perform maximally in furtherance of the objective of election security.

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