Security agents have a responsibility in ensuring free, fair, credible and non-violent election. They are required to guarantee the safety of the electorate
The role of security agents in the electoral process has become an issue after the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states. The two dominant political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), have continued to trade blames and counter accusations over the use of security agents to rig the elections in addition to other malpractices. Security agents have been generally accused of being used by politicians to intimidate opponents, rig the elections and falsify results.
The role of the security agencies, particularly the police, as critical stakeholder during elections, is to ensure and maintain law and order for social environment that is germane for peace and conducive for electoral activities to take place. The allegiance and loyalty of the police and other security agencies must be seen to display the highest level of neutrality and treat all political parties with equality. Security men must be prepared to provide security cover for Independent National Electoral Commission officials, the ad hoc staff and the public at large.
Apart from providing security at the polling station to ensure that accreditation, counting and collation of results are done smoothly, security men must also ensure maintenance of peace in the polling areas. The security agents have power to arrest anyone accused of impeding the peaceable conduct of the election in accordance with the electoral law.
During elections, security agents must not be a law unto themselves. In spite of strong pressures and temptations to the contrary, they are not to act in an explicitly political fashion, nor to serve the partisan interest of the party in power, or the party they will like to see in power. Their purpose must not be to enforce political conformity. Security agents, therefore, have responsibility to operate within the law and protect the rights of everybody during and after elections.
Security agents in a nutshell have a responsibility in ensuring free, fair, credible and non-violent election. They are required to guarantee the safety and security of the electorate, and to secure a neutral political environment free of intimidation, cohesion, or violence for all stakeholders. Their conduct in discharging these functions, as well as ability to display such impartiality, is critical to the outcome of any election.
If security agents are found wanting in any of the above, the citizens may not have confidence in the electoral process and they are likely to question the credibility or legitimacy of any government that comes out of the process. The lack of a credible election creates instability in the polity.
While we cannot ignore the glaring imperfections experienced in the past, the security agencies, particularly the police, should be more poised to take up the challenges of electoral violence ever than before. But they must also be assisted by government and other stakeholders in ensuring a hitch-free election in 2019. The training of large retinue of policemen for electoral duties is also imperatives to enable them effectively and efficiently
discharge their professional duties during elections. The Federal Government should equally strive to ensure the provision of adequate logistics, equipment and personnel welfare for effective discharge of police duties in maintaining law and order and protecting of lives and property, particularly during the election. Adequate funding and enhanced welfare of men and officers of the Nigeria Police is important.
History has shown that transition from one democratically elected government to another in Nigeria has never been an easy ride. It is the wish of every Nigerian that the 2019 general election should be violence-free and successful. Whatever it will take, the Nigeria Police should endeavour to play their constitutional and statutory role by ensuring a smooth and hitch-free election. The Police must be seen to be performing its duty very diligently. They must guarantee the rule of law, promote and maintain democratic public order and enforce the laws that are required for the consolidation of democratic governance and socio-economic well-being of the citizens.
As part of efforts to ensure free, fair and violence-free election in the country, the National Orientation Agency is complementing the efforts of the security by embarking on grassroots campaign to sensitize Nigerians to maintain peace and security during elections. The political parties, media and civil society groups also have a tremendous role to play as well.
Dr. Aminu is Director of Documentation, Translation and Publication, NOA, Abuja