By Zika Bobby
Poised to ensure a free, fair and credible elections in the country in 2023, the police recently flagged-off a workshop in Abuja to train its men and officers.
The force which commenced the training of over 400 officers in election security management said officers were drawn from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
While declaring the training open, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, said election security management module will be introduced in the curriculum of police training schools.
Explaining the rationale behind the training, with the theme: ‘The 2023 General Elections: Enhancing National Security Capacity for a Secure and Credible Electoral Process in Nigeria,’ the police boss said: “Mindful of its critical role in the election security value chain, and conscious of the need to continually broaden its professional knowledge and operational capacity with a view to closing the knowledge gap that could inhibit the optimal delivery of our election security mandate the leadership of the Nigeria Police found it expedient to expose personnel to tailor-made training ahead of the 2023 general elections. This informed the concept of this workshop.”
In order to engender an all-inclusive training, the IGP said, slots were allocated to some ministries, departments and agencies that play complimentary roles in the election security process to participate in the workshop.
They include the Office of the National Security Adviser, Military, DSS, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Correctional Service, Federal Road Safety Corps, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, and many others.
While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for his support to the police over the years, the IGP said: “As part of efforts to ensure the sustainability of the gains of this initiative, we plan to develop all the workshop presentations into a publication which will be launched in due course.
“When published, it will serve as a credible, professional, and academic reference book on election security in Nigeria.
“We have also resolved to incorporate election security management modules into the training curriculum of the police for purpose of entrenching it into our professional training structure. In addition, we are in discussion with some civil society organisations and development partners, particularly the Embassy of the United States of America towards partnering with them in supporting the knowledge transfer phase of this workshop at state command level.”
Speaking as the special guest of honour, National Security Adviser to the President, Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd), assured that the 2023 general elections would be the freest, credible and peaceful polls in the annals of the nation’s political history.
He said the conduct of the national elections in Nigeria rests squarely with the police being the lead internal security agency in election management the world over.
The NSA declared that “in fulfilment of this, President Buhari had given directives to all security agencies to work and collaborate together in making it possible.
He pointed out that the assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2022 on February 25, 2022, was a point to demonstrate the commitment of the Nigerian leader to free, fair and credible elections.
The NSA further stated that the Act had given the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the financial autonomy to conduct credible polls as was witnessed in the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections recently.
According to him, “the President is committed to delivering an election that is free, fair and credible. It will be devoid of any form of wuru wuru as used in the Nigerian parlance.”
He however appealed to the heads of all the security agencies in the country to collaborate and work in synergy towards providing adequate security to the electoral process.
Speaking in the same vain, Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Muhammed Dingyadi, declared that the Federal Government is determined to have a free fair and credible election in 2023.
He appealed to all the nation’s security agents to conduct themselves properly so that the nation’s dream to have a credible election can augur well.
In his remark, Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, lauded the Police boss for the initiative to organise the workshop.
He said the precursor to the conduct of election was security, adding: “The aspiration of every Nigerian and friends of Nigeria is to have free, fair and secured elections in 2023.
“As members of the armed forces, we will continue to give support to the civil authority and the police, being the lead in internal security positioning.
“The entire leadership hierarchy of the armed forces is here to give their support and beyond that, we also have a covenant with the democratic process.
“The growth and stability of Nigeria’s democracy is so pivotal to our existence.
“So, we are here not only to re-echo that covenant, but also to assure Nigerians that the military is prepared to give support throughout the entire process and beyond.”
The workshop which took place at the International Conference Center, Abuja, had top serving military and police officers, former IGPs, the paramilitary, media executives in attendance.
Also in attendance are the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno, Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, diplomats, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Auwal Gambo, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao, representatives of political parties, non governmental organizations and the chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Manhood Yakubu, among other delegates.
The eight retired IGPs in attendance at the security summit include Alh. Aliyu Attah, Musliu Smith, Sunday Ehindero, MD Abubakar, Suleiman Abba, Mike Okiro, Ibrahim Idris, Ogbonna Onovo and Solomon Arase.
Also present was the Minister of Information, Alh. Lai Mohammed.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) projected a voter population of about 95 million for the 2023 General Election in the country. Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the figure was 20 million higher than the combined voter population of the 14 other West African countries in the sub-region.
He said that the election preparations, deployment and implementation constituted the most extensive mobilisation that could happen in a country, whether in peacetime or wartime.
His words: “In Nigeria, it involves the recruitment and training of staff and managing the logistics for their deployment to 176,846 polling units spread across 8,809 electoral wards, 774 local areas and 37 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“It also involves a projected voter population of about 95 million for the 2023 general election, which is over 20 million more than the combined voter population of the other 14 countries in West Africa.
“Voters will also elect candidates for 1,491 constituencies (1 presidential constituency, 28 governorship elections, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal Constituencies and 993 state assembly seats),” Yakubu said.
The INEC chairman said that ensuring the safety and security of voters, election personnel and materials, candidates, party agents, observers, the media and transporters was paramount.
He said that the responsibility had become more challenging in the context of the current security situation in the country.
He expressed gladness that the police as the lead agency in election security had once again demonstrated its leadership role by convening the workshop.
Yakubu said that with about seven months to the general election, there was time for proactive measures to ensure that the entire country was secured for the election to hold nationwide.
He expressed confidence that the workshop would also focus on deepening the capacity of the security personnel to imbibe the global standard of election security management.
“Already, the commission, under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), has produced and periodically revised the code of conduct and rules of engagement for security personnel on electoral duty.
“In the next few weeks, the code of conduct, as well as our training manuals, will be revised to align them with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022. And to consolidate on the professionalism displayed by the security agencies in the recent off-cycle elections.
“We will also intensify our cascade training for security personnel ahead of the 2023 General Election,” he said.
Yakubu assured the inspector-general of police, heads of other security agencies and all members of ICCES that INEC would continue to work in synergy with them to ensure a safe and secured environment for the 2023 general election.
“It is a critical election and we must all continue to work together to protect the will of the Nigerian people,” he said.
The keynote speaker, Professor Etanebe Elemika, said election in itself does not constitute a democracy. “You can have elections without democracy. Election symbolises equality of citizens to cast their votes each and also symbolises the idea that the citizens are the source of the power for those who govern because they are elected as representatives to participate in government as stewards. The third is that election affords citizens the opportunity to reward or punish a government that fails to do well”, said Elemika.
To commemorate the opening ceremony was the presentation of a souvenir to the special guest of honour, Maj. Gen. Babagana Mungunu by the Chief Host, the incumbent Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba.
There were goodwill messages from the Ambassador of the United States of America, H.E. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard, the representative of the DG, NYSC, the representative of the Sultan of Sokoto, IGP Aliyu Attah, GCON, NPM (rtd), among others.
Also at the workshop as a facilitator was the representative of the chairman of INEC, Professor Abdullahi Abdul Zuru who spoke on a paper titled: An Overview of INEC Preparedness and Potential security Challenges while the representative of the Director General DSS who did an assessment of election threats in Nigeria; the best practices in election security, protection of national voters, security of voters, security of election officials and materials.
On the need for inter-agency collaboration in election security management, Maj. Gen. G.A Wahab was on hand to do justice to the lecture where he harped on the mandate of inter-agency consultative committee on election security and concretising inter-agency synergy on election security operations while Professor Edoba Omoregie’s lecture focussed on the legal framework of elections in Nigeria.
The major expected outcomes of the training include robust inter-agency collaboration towards effective security governance during the 2023 General Elections and in other future joint electoral security operations; enhanced knowledge of security agents on election security management, drawing on global best practices and development of an ‘election security management protocol’ that will act as the standard security management template for future elections at all levels in Nigeria. It is anticipated that the document will act as a credible reference document for all security agencies and other strategic stakeholders within the electoral system in Nigeria.