Elections umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigeria Police Force have calmed the nerves of domestic and international observer groups assuring them of their safety in Nigeria during the general elections.
The INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and the Acting Inspector General of Police (I-G), Mr Mohammed Adamu stated this at a National briefing for Accredited Observers (Domestic and Foreign) for 2019 general election held on Tuesday in Abuja, where Yakubu said the commission was working with the police to ensure safety of election observers.
“It is very important that having accepted to serve as our guests, especially the international observers for us to give you guarantees. One on the security and the other on unhindered access to function as observers on election days.
“I wish to assure both foreign and domestic observers that the commission had liaised with the I-G for your protection and to guarantee you unhindered access to places you want to observe election,’’ Yakubu said.
On his part, Adamu assured that observer groups would be protected as adequate security would be deployed for election to secure INEC officers, election materials and personnel as well as those on election duty including observers.
He said at the polling units no security personnel is allowed to hinder accredited observers from observing the election process, but they had been directed not to grant interviews.
Adamu advised members of the observer groups to always wear their accredited tags. “We shall identify you with your tags.
“If you wear your tag you are free to move about but without your tag don’t come out to say you are observing. We will observe you.’’
He directed all security personnel deployed for the election to be at the polling units by 5 a.m., and keep watch on election materials and personnel as well as ensure proper conduct by stakeholders.
He said any security officer at the polling units without identifications would be arrested.
“Security personnel must wear their election identification tags with legible name tags on their uniforms for easy identification.
“Personnel deployed to polling unites will not carry fire arm but only handcuffs. Security personnel deployed to polling units must look for voter buyers and sellers. We will be watching political thugs and we shall make arrest.’’
Adamu warned that any Very Important Personality (VIP) moving from one polling unit to another with security men either in uniform or without uniform, such officers would be arrested and prosecuted.
“Any voter or party official or member dress with party logo dress in party logo or shouting party slogan or moving with his political party vehicle or with party inscriptions shall be arrested and handed over for investigation.’’
The IG also pledged that all the security agencies would be professional and neutral to ensure free, fair and credible election.
INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Antonia Okoosi-Simbine, who is the Chairperson, Election and Party Monitoring Committee, said as at Tuesday the commission had accredited 119 domestic and 35 foreign observer groups.
Okoosi-Simbine said the commission anticipated that it may get a few late additional requests, which would be made through its state offices and security agencies.
She advised observer groups to comply with INEC regulations and guidelines, as well submit their reports after the election.
“We will like you to collate and interpret the fact gathered against the legal and institutional framework and basic democratic standards to determine if the election meet the threshold of credibility as defined by law and accepted by international community.”
The Country Director, International Federation for Election Support (IFES), Mr Rushdi Nackerdien, said election observation has become ethical part of election and has contributed immensely to the growth of democracy around the world.
“It detect frauds, irregularities and also gives report to improve subsequent elections.’’
Commending the observers for their wiliness to observe the election, Nackerdien advised them to remember to adhere to the code of conduct, the guideline as provided by INEC and ensure that they carry out their work professionally.
The Project Coordinator, European Centre for Electoral Support(ECES), Mr Rudolf Elbling, said election observer has become integral part of electoral process and expressed hope that the presence of observer groups would increase the confidence in the election.
“It will be useful to improve the quality of Nigeria election and its democracy.’’
Speaking on behalf of foreign observers, Head of the Commonwealth Observer Group and former Tanzanian President, Dr Jakaya Kikwete, pledged that the observation would be interactive.
“I promise you that we will do our work diligently with integrity. We will come up with report that are independent in the way we have seen Nigeria conducted its elections.’’
While wishing Nigeria free, fair and credible elections, Kikwete said that at the end of the exercise the foreign observers would present their report to INEC and share it with members of the Commonwealth countries.
Speaking on behalf of the Civil Society Organizations, Mr Clement Nwankwo, who is the convener of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, said the CSOs would observe the forthcoming election diligently.
Nwankwo said the CSOs would do all their best to support credible and peaceful election in the country, saying “we will speak the truth as we observe on the field.’’