Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has condemned the actions of some security agents during last weekend’s Presidential and National Assembly elections, promising to review their actions with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) at the level of the lnter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).
The condemnation was contained in the communiqué raised after several hours of meeting between the National Commissioners and the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) that went into the early hours of Thursday, which was signed and made available to newsmen by National Commissioner and chairman Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye.
Acknowledging the delays in the commencement of last weekend’s election in some polling units which necessitated the extension of the closing of polls in the affected areas, the Commission agreed to conduct supplementary elections in all areas elections did not either take place or returns was not made last weekend alongside the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
Although the Commission admitted delay in the deployment of electoral materials, it however condemned the subjugation of electoral officials to threats, harassment, intimidation, assault, abduction and even rape.
“INEC met on Thursday February 28, 2019 with its RECs to review the Presidential and National Assembly Elections of February 23, 2019 and assess preparations for the governorship, State Houses of Assembly and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Elections slated for Saturday, March 9, 2019.
“The meeting acknowledged the delays in the commencement of elections in a number of polling units which necessitated the extension of the closing of polls in the affected areas. The Commission is determined to rectify the identified challenges before the elections on March 9.
“The meeting noted a number of cancellations in certain areas due to violence, which prevented the Commission from deploying personnel and materials for the elections. In a number of locations, it could not conclude the elections due to disruptions and deliberate noncompliance with the use of the Smart Card Reader (SCR), contrary to the lNEC Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of elections.
“Consequently, the meeting decided that supplementary elections will be conducted in all areas where elections did not take place and/or where returns could not be made on Saturday, March 9, 2019 alongside the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections,” the communiqué read.
On the actions and inactions of the security agents, the communiqué noted: “The meeting also assessed the role of security agencies in the elections. While acknowledging their professionalism in the deployment of election personnel and materials in a safe and timely manner, the conduct of certain members of the security agencies in some states is a matter of serious concern to the Commission.
“This matter will be further discussed directly with the IGP within the ambit of the lnter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in preparation for the Governorship, State Houses of Assembly and PCT Area Council elections.”
“Although the elections were generally peaceful, the meeting observed and decried the high level of violence in a few places, which regrettably led to fatalities in some States, In addition to the subjugation of some of our electoral officials to threats, harassment, intimidation, assault, abduction and even rape.
“The Commission condoles with the families of its ad-hoc staff who lost their lives while on this national assignment, as well as other Nigerians who died in the course of the elections. It also expresses its deep regrets to and sympathy for all victims of this mindless violence. We stand with them in these difficult times. The RECs were directed to submit comprehensive reports of these incidents to the Commission for appropriate action,” it read.
While expressing readiness for next weekend’s poll, the commission said: “The meeting also considered and received updates on preparations for the elections slated for Saturday, March 9, 2019. It expressed satisfaction with the level of preparedness and the deployments of sensitive and non-sensitive materials scheduled for delivery to the Registration Area Centres (RACS) on Friday, March 8, 2019 and noted that this was on course,” it read.
It further warned that; “going forward, RECs were further directed to engage with and provide regular updates to stakeholders on the state of preparations for the elections.”