From Romanus Ugwu, Molly Kilete and Jude Idu, Abuja
National Security Adviser (NSA), Major Gen. Babagana Monguno, has assured that the 2023 general elections must hold and in an atmosphere devoid of violence and malpractices.
He spoke against the backdrop of fears raised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other stakeholders that rising insecurity across the country may mar peaceful conduct of polls next year. He assured of determination of President Muhamamdu Buhari to bequeath a legacy of strong democratic institutions and values.
“The president is committed to delivering an election that is completely transparent and which will command the general acceptance of the Nigerian population. This election, as far as the president is concerned, will be devoid of, to use the Nigerian parlance, any wuru-wuru.”
Mungono stated this at the opening of the workshop on election security management organised by the Nigerian Police Force.
He said President Buhari has charged the military, police, DSS and all other security agencies to synergize effectively, review operational strategies and optimally deploy all operational assets towards addressing current and revolving security threats ahead of the elections.
He called on security agencies to work as a team to provide a conducive environment for elections to hold even as he commended the police for organising the workshop.
He said the mandate of providing adequate security during elections rests on the shoulders of police as the lead security agency.
“It is in furtherance to this that President Mohammadu Buhari had always encouraged outcome of gathering of kind that will help foster national building. To this regards, the electoral mandate granted to the independent Electoral commission INEC, was witnessed in Anambra and and Osun states to be a step in right direction.”
Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor, assured of the readiness of the armed forces to support the police in providing the necessary security for free, fair and secured elections across the country.
“To every Nigerian and friends of Nigeria, there are two principe desires that we have and they are mainly security and a free fair and secured conduct for the 2023 general elections.”
Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba in his speech said: “Election security governance is critical to the advancement of democratic culture across the free world. In Nigeria, by virtue of the Electoral Act 2022 (As amended), the Nigeria Police Force is the lead agency in the election security process. The Force is, however, complemented by the Military, Intelligence community, and other security and safety agencies. The import of this is that the success of every election is determined not just by the strength of the legal framework regulating the course, but by a few other key variables.
“First is the depth of the professional knowledge and operational competence of the Police and other complementary security actors. Second, is the electoral space in terms of the security realities of the country, and third is the extent of the professional bond among the security agencies on the one hand, and between the security agencies, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and other strategic stakeholders in the electoral process on the other hand. Whichever way we look at these variables, the reality remains that the Nigeria Police is fundamental to the drive to guarantee an internal security space that will be free of threats that could expose our democratic heritage to risks, and conducive enough for the electoral cycle, which is a critical component of democracy, to be fulfilled.”
In spite of the assurances, INEC has maintained that insecurity would pose serious threat to the elections.
Its chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, specifically expressed concerns over the fresh challenge of ensuring safety and security of voters, election personnel and materials, candidates, party agents and observers, among others.
He said though the general elections is about seven months away, there was need for proactive measures to secure the entire country for it to hold peacefully.
“Ensuring the safety and security of voters, election personnel and materials, candidates, party agents, observers, the media and transporters are enormous. This responsibility has become more challenging in the context of the current security situation in the country,” he said.
Yakubu, however, promised to continue to work in synergy with security agencies and all members of Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), to ensure a safe and secure environment for the 2023 general election.
“Election preparations, deployment and implementation constitute the most extensive mobilisation that could happen in a country, whether in peacetime or in wartime. 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, presidential constituency, 28 governorship elections, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal constituencies and 993 state Assembly seats.
“I am glad that the Nigeria Police as the lead agency in election security has once again demonstrated its leadership role by convening this Workshop. With about seven months to the next general election, there is time for proactive measures to ensure that the entire country is secure for election to hold nationwide,” he said.
The electoral umpire boss further revealed that revised code of conduct and training manuals that would be aligned with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 will be released in few weeks time.