From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has admitted that the current security situation in the country will pose a serious threat to next year’s general elections.
INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu made the confession in his remarks at the opening ceremony of election security management training organised by the Nigeria Police Force in Abuja on Thursday.
He specifically expressed concerns that the responsibility of ensuring the safety and security of voters, election personnel and materials, candidates, party agents, and observers, among others, is becoming challenging.
Yakubu further noted that though the general elections remain about seven months away, there is a need for proactive measures to ensure that the entire country is secure for elections to hold nationwide.
He however promised to continue to work in synergy with security agencies and all members of the 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 mobilization 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 (1 Presidential constituency, 28 governorship elections, 109 Senatorial Districts, 360 Federal Constituencies and 993 State Assembly seats).
“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.
“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 noted.
Speaking further, the electoral umpire boss, revealed that a revised code of conduct and training manuals that will be aligned with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 will be released in a few weeks’ time.
His words: “In addition to physical security, I am glad to note that this Workshop will also focus on deepening the capacity of the security personnel to imbibe and comply with the global standard of election security management.
“Already, the Commission, under the auspices of 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.
“I wish to reassure the Inspector General of Police, heads of other security agencies and all members of ICCES that the commission will continue to work in synergy with you to ensure a safe and secure 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 assured.
On the workshop, Yakubu said: “On behalf of INEC, I wish to thank the Inspector General of Police for convening this very important Workshop on security management training for Police and other security personnel ahead of the 2023 General Election.
“I am also glad that the initiative does not begin and end here in Abuja but extended to the six geo-political zones. The commission supports this laudable initiative and will fully participate in the training workshops nationwide,” he promised.