By Augustine Ehikioya
With the release of political programmes by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2023 general elections and planned commencement of political campaigns next week, the Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police on Thursday convened a meeting of Strategic Police Managers in the country.
The meeting, among other goals, is to brainstorm on ways of evolving clear pathways that will ensure a smooth electoral process next year.
This was disclosed by the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba in his opening remarks at the meeting. It was monitored by Security Watch Africa (SWA).
He said “Beyond these broad agendas, the main purpose of this Conference is to review the evolving political programmes as laid out by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and chart clear pathways to ensure a smooth electoral process in the countdown to the 2023 general elections.
“As you are aware, in compliance with Sec. 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, INEC has confirmed that electioneering campaigns by all political parties would officially commence on 28th September, 2022.
“The import of this is that the national political space will soon become active and the possibility of increase in politically related offences may become heightened across the country,” he added.
As the lead security agency in the election security process, the IGP noted that the political campaigns security governance is the primary and statutory obligation of the Nigeria Police Force.
“In this regard, I must remind you that the provision of the requisite professional leadership to achieve our election security mandate rests squarely on the shoulders of all of you that are here seated.”
In carrying out the strategic responsibility, he said, the Electoral Act 2022 and the Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Personnel on Electoral Duty issued in 2020 by the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), must remain the guide of the NPF.
He went on “These two election security instruments grouped the mandate of the Police into four key fields as follows:
“Ensuring the safety and security of all persons and properties that will be involved in the entire electoral process without bias;
“Strict enforcement of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Criminal/Penal Code as well as the Electoral Laws without fear or favour;
“Security, traffic, and crowd management at venues of Political Parties’ campaigns, rallies and other activities relating to the elections.
“The Security of the public space towards guaranteeing a crime-free and enabling environment for the political campaigns and other components of the electoral process to thrive.”
Besides maintaining an oath of neutrality in accordance with the Electoral Act; he urged the strategic managers to be at alert always during electoral security deployments and exhibit a high degree of professionalism and fairness in their dealings with all parties.
“We are also expected to adopt a professional orientation that emphasises democratic values, and respect for human rights and dignity, while being mindful of the duty imposed on us by the law to protect all electorates against illegal acts and dispense our duties without discrimination.
“As critical actors in the electoral process, the outcome of the credibility of the 2023 general election will be measured by the extent to which we abide by these professional and legal standards as well as the nature of our decisions and actions as we interface with political parties in emplacing appropriate machineries to guarantee a peaceful electioneering campaign process.
“We must leave no citizen in doubt of our commitment to national peace and security, as well as our unwavering determination to advance the democratic and national security interests of our beloved nation.”
In this regard, he said that the 2023 general election and the processes leading to it will certainly put the NPF to test.
“Drawing on our widely commended performances in recent elections, however, I am very confident, and I trust that you shall not fail both the Police institution and the country in the upcoming electoral engagements,” he said.
The IGP urged the Strategic Police Managers to take note of the following factors as the ban on public campaigns by political parties is lifted by INEC:
“Familiarize yourself fully with the Electoral Act and the Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Personnel on Electoral Duty and situate all your decisions and actions within them as well as your legal obligations under the Constitution, Nigeria Police Act, and other extant laws.
“Note and be strictly guided by the fact that all quasi-security outfits that were established by the various State governments and local communities and which are operating under different nomenclatures, structures, and orientations have no legal roles under the Electoral Act 2020 and within the electoral process.
“Hence, you are charged to ensure that they are not in any way or manner utilised by any political or community actor for any role during the electioneering campaign and other electoral processes in the countdown to the 2023 general elections.
“Such will amount to acts in illegality, and a potent threat to national security which could be inimical to our nation’s democratic interest,” he added.
The IGP also gave the following direct orders to the Commissioners of Police across the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT as they return to their Commands in preparation for the electioneering campaigns.
“Liaise with the Resident Electoral Commissioners and the leaderships of all the political parties in your Commands towards mutually coming up with a campaign timetable that will address possible conflicts both in date, time, and venues.
“The Political Campaign Timetable for each State should be forwarded to the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Department of Operations who will collate and forward the comprehensive layout to my Office not later than 27th September, 2022
“Submit an Election Security Action Plan that will detail your deployment plans for the security of all the venues of the political campaigns as they affect your Commands.
“This should also be submitted to my Office through the DIG (Operations) not later than 27th September, 2022.
“Convey the decision banning all quasi-security outfits in the various States and local communities from electioneering campaigns and other politically related activities to your State Governors, Local Government Chairmen, Community Leaders, and leaderships of all political parties in your Commands for their guidance.
“In so doing, it should be clearly emphasised to them that any unauthorised quasi-security agent found to be engaging in any election or political activities stands the risk of being arrested and prosecuted along with their collaborators.
“Redirect your intelligence activities to monitor possible elements that might be attempting to threaten the electioneering campaign process, promptly isolate them, and frustrate their illegal and undemocratic intentions.
“Ensure that you upscale your deployments to dominate the public space to ensure that criminal elements do not take advantage of the active political space to manifest their criminal intents,” he said.
The Police Boss also advised all political actors to subsume their campaigns within extant legal frameworks, avoid actions or speeches that could inflame the political order and “above all, cooperate with the Police in our drive to guarantee a peaceful electioneering process.”
He also warned troublemakers to desist from causing violence in the country as the electioneering campaigns begin.
“I also wish to sternly warn elements whose perception of democracy is the application of violence to have a rethink as the Nigeria Police under my watch is committed to dealing firmly with such characters within the dictates of the law and in furtherance to Mr. President’s desire to bequeath a legacy of entrenched democratic values to our beloved nation,” he said.
He also assured all citizens and the international community of the optimal preparedness of the Nigeria Police Force to support the Independent National Electoral Commission in ensuring a peaceful electoral process that will manifest in a credible outcome of the 2023 general elections.
He added “I, however, recognise that the Police cannot achieve this all alone. The understanding and support of all citizens, strategic political actors and the international community remain vital.”
The meeting on Thursday comprising all strategic leaders of the Force from the rank of Commissioners of Police and above, he said, is also to engage them towards getting feedbacks on policing and internal security developments.
The Conference, he said, also provides a unique opportunity to dissect current law enforcement realities and engage an all-inclusive approach to re-evaluate the NPF policing strategies against the backdrop of the dynamics of crime in the country.
“This is with the overall goal of re-energising the Force in sustaining a stable internal security order,” he said.