Juliana Francis

The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Alkali Usman Baba, Commissioners of Police and other senior police officers today 22nd of September 2022, had a brainstorming conference at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, discussing how to ensure security at political gatherings and further ensure the safety of lives and property during elections.

The IGP, in his welcoming speech, said the conference was to provide a unique opportunity to dissect current law enforcement realities and engage an all-inclusive approach to re-evaluate policing strategies against the backdrop of the dynamics of crime in the country. This, he said, was with the overall goal of re-energising the Force in sustaining a stable internal security order.

He also 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 an increase in politically related offences may become heightened across the country. As the lead security agency in the election security process, the political campaigns security governance is, primarily, the statutory obligation of the Nigeria Police Force.”

The IGP further stated: “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 the performance of this strategic responsibility, the Electoral Act 2022 and the Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Personnel on Electoral Duty which was issued in 2020 by the Inter-Agency. The consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) must remain our guide.  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 and 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.”

He noted that in the performance of these roles, the personnel were expected to maintain an oath of neutrality in accordance with the Electoral Act, be always alert during electoral security deployments, and exhibit a high degree of professionalism and fairness in 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 machinery 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. The 2023 general election and the processes leading to it will certainly put us to the test in this regard. 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,” said Baba.

According to him to aid this process and as the ban on public campaigns by political parties is lifted by INEC, the personnel must note the following, “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.  Accordingly, as you return to your Commands to prepare for the electioneering campaigns, the Commissioners of Police across the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT are directed as follows, 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.”

They are also, “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. At this juncture, I wish to firmly advise 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. 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 of Mr. President’s desire to bequeath a legacy of entrenched democratic values to our beloved nation.”

Baba, while stating and assuring Nigerians of the Force’s also noted that preparedness 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, added that the police cannot achieve the success alone, thus urged all Nigerians to be supportive.

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