…as NSA reviews security for governorship, state assembly elections on Saturday March 18
By Gloria Ikibah
Ahead of the governorship and State Houses of Assembly polls rescheduled to hold on March 18, 2023, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called on political parties and their candidates to speak to their agents and supporters to see the elections as a contest and not war.
INEC also called on parties faithful
to refrain from acts of violence that may mar the elections or compromise the security of its personnel, observers, the media and service providers.
The Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, made the appeal at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCESS) in Abuja on Tuesday.
The meeting is to review the security preparations for the governorship election in 28 states and 993 State Assembly Constituency at the weekend.
Yakubu said: “Today, we are reviewing our preparations for the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections holding on Saturday 18th March 2023.
“The Governorship and State Assembly elections this weekend involves more constituencies than the national elections held about three weeks ago. Unlike the last elections involving 470 constituencies (1 Presidential, 109 Senatorial Districts and 360 House of Representatives seats), the State elections will involve 1,021 constituencies (28 Governorship and 993 State Assembly seats).
“There will also be more candidates involved and more collation centres to protect. They are also local elections involving keen contests. It is therefore important for parties and candidates to speak to their agents and supporters to see the elections as a contest and not war.
“They should refrain from acts of violence that may mar the elections or compromise the security of our personnel, observers, the media and service providers”.
He commended the Inspector General of Police on the directive to State Commands to handle all cases of electoral offences expeditiously.
The INEC chairman said the Commission was looking forward to receiving the case files and it will immediately set up a legal team to handle such cases in earnest.
“Our State offices have made available to the Nigeria Police Force, being the lead agency in election security, the delimitation details for both the Governorship and State Assembly elections, including locations of Polling Units and Collation Centres.
“On that basis, we expect a coordinated deployment plan in synergy with other security, intelligence, law enforcement and safety agencies.
“Only yesterday, the Commission held a virtual meeting with all the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in which we reviewed preparations for the State elections. In addition to election technology, logistics and a host of other issues, security was also discussed.
“We will present some of the issues at this meeting for further discussion and, most importantly, appropriate action,” Yakubu added.
Also speaking, the National Security Adviser (NSA) and co-chairman of ICCES, Babagana- Mohammed Monguno, cautioned those who intend to disrupt the process to have a rethink or have themselves to be blamed.
The retired Nigerian Army Major General said security agencies will continue to work round the clock to guarantee hitch-free polls and ensure no one takes laws into his or her own hands.
“The elections we are going into on Saturday is going to be much more complicated, contextually they are going to be different. First of all, we're going to have 1,021 constituencies meaning more people. Obviously, the dynamics would be much more different than the elections that were just concluded.
“While commending the efforts of the various political parties and the individuals that participated in the last election, especially those of them that call for peace, I want to also urge individuals, especially at the state level, to demonstrate the same level of maturity, the same level of discipline by calling their supporters to conduct themselves in a manner that is congruent with citizens of the larger Nigerian society.
“Of course there are channels for laying complaints and addressing these complaints for the security agencies. I have been talking with Inspector General of Police, who is the head of the lead agency in the security of elections.
“So far, so good we do not envisage anything that is going to be terrible or apocalyptic, in terms of the next few days. But that does not mean that we should all do away with our state of readiness.
“We must comply with the rules. We must also allow everyone to exercise their fundamental rights as citizens of this country. What we do not want to happen is for anybody to take the law into his or her own hands. I want to be very, very clear on this. We are going to give the maximum support to all entities involved in this process,” he Monguno said.