By Chimezie Godfrey
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has urged all security agencies to prevent breaches of fundamental human right, protect public orders as well as maintain sanity in the country’s electoral process and its democracy at large.
The Executive Director (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani made this call Thursday in Abuja during the launch of a research titled, “Involvement of Nigeria Security Services in the Electoral Process: Guardian or Threat to Democracy”, organized in collaboration with Transparency International Defence and Security Programme (T.I-DSP).
He pointed out that the increasing temptation and pressure to coerce the security agents and the desperation to hold on to power by various previous administrations at all layers of governance in Nigeria’s democratic life had exacerbated varying degree of insecurity, which continues to frustrate efforts at achieving peaceful and secured electoral process.
Rafsanjani expressed worry over the unhealthy role security agencies played in the recent and other past general elections since the return to democracy in 1999.
“While the complexity, dynamism and sensitivity associating with political differences and religious affiliation in the country is understood, going forward, I call on various security agencies and political parties as well as electorates to tread carefully and shun unguarded statements that could result in unwary response or verbal attacks during future elections.
“I encourage all relevant security authorities to prevent breaches of fundamental human rights, to protect public orders and maintain sanity in our electoral process particularly and our democracy at large,” his said.
He also advised that they should ensure adequate protection of citizens and safety anywhere in the country before, during and after electoral exercises in Nigeria.
The National Electoral Commissioner, Festus Okoye acknowledged that the country had experienced and continues to experience serious cases of intimidation, murder, ballot box snatching, organize mayhem, vote buying and other forms of electoral malfeasance.
He said these electoral challenges threaten the very foundation of its unity as a nation and leads to displacement of communities leading to the involvement of security agencies in the election and electoral process.
Okoye said that constitutionally and legally, the Nigerian Police Force is the lead agency in electoral security but due to paucity of numbers and equipment, other security agencies assist the Nigerian Police Force in maintaining law and order during elections.
He pointed out that section 29 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) accords the Commission the right to request for the assistance of the Armed Forces in the movement of election materials and protection of election officials especially in difficult terrains.
He advised that it is important for the Political Parties and the candidates in the election to act with civility and refrain from engaging in acts that compromises the integrity of the electoral process.
“Political Parties should refrain from training, arming and drugging young men and women and using them as skull crackers during elections.
“The Political Parties and candidates must refrain from attacking election duty officials, setting critical assets of the Commission ablaze, kidnapping election officials and putting others in harms way.
“They must refrain from compromising the integrity of the electoral process through unwholesome criminal behavior,” he said.
He gave the assurance that the Commission will propose constitutional and statutory reforms that will strengthen the regime of the electoral process.
He urged all the stakeholders in the electoral process to imbibe the democratic spirit of shared roles and responsibilities in the delivery of credible elections in Nigeria.