2015 Elections :INEC Chairman says no to hooded security

POLITICS
Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman.
Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman.

By Tunde OLowu.

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has said on Wednesday that the commission would not allow security operatives to be masked during the 2015 general elections.

Jega made the disclosure during an interactive session in Abuja with both local and international civil society organizations CSO’s involved in monitoring elections in the country.

Jega told the CSO representatives on Wednesday that the emerging trend of security operatives wearing mask during elections was worrisome,moreso when such practice is not in tandem with the principle of transparency guiding the conduct of an election.

He said, “In recent times, we have witnessed an increased presence of hooded security operatives during elections. This is an emerging trend which is highly worrisome and which needs to be addressed in good time.

“Security agents who are deployed on election duties should not be masked, the doctrine of transparency requires that they should be identifiable.

“We will not allow such persons during the 2015 elections. Any security personnel deployed for the election must be someone identifiable such that if anything happens we will be able to know who to hold responsible.

Jega also decried the over-zealousness of some security agents during the August 9 governorship election in Osun state,noting that security operatives had erroneously arrested some members of staff of the commission and nine Youth Corp members, engaged as INEC ad-hoc staff, were erroneously arrested and kept in detention for over 12 hours.

He said that they were arrested around 9pm on the eve of the election while on their way to the Registration Area Centers, RACs, which was provided for them by the Commission and were not released until about 6am the next day, a situation that almost disrupted the distribution of electoral materials in some areas.

“It was sheer luck that we still managed to open the polling units early, otherwise, there would have been disaster. We took a serious view of that and reported the matter to all the appropriate authorities because at a point we became worried that some persons wanted to undermine our effort.” he lamented

He however maintained that the perceived over militarization of the just concluded governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states, did not deter electorate from voting for their desired candidate.

He said, “In fact, the two elections proved that there was a high correlation between the massive deployment of security and the willingness of people to come out and vote.

“Apart from over-zealousness on the part of some of the security men on the field, we discovered that people actually felt more secured to exercise their franchise. The key lesson our politicians need to learn from the two elections is that the era has gone when they relied on corrupt electoral officers or security agents to manipulate elections.

“In this era, any politician that intend to win election must reach out and convince the voters, be it through ‘stomach-infrastructure’ or otherwise. The only guarantee to win election now is to let the voters come out to vote for you, which in turn means that you must first of all convince them on your credibility.

He also disclosed that prior to the Osun State election, some “unscrupulous elements” had attempted to use software to rig the poll.

He said, “We discovered that some people had invaded our system with software that was reducing age on the register. Thank God that we discovered it before it was too late and had to put aside the register and produced another one, even though it was at a very high cost.

“Security agents who are deployed on election duties should not be masked, the doctrine of transparency requires that they should be identifiable.

“We will not allow such persons during the 2015 elections. Any security personnel deployed for the election must be someone identifiable such that if anything happens we will be able to know who to hold responsible.

Jega also decried the over-zealousness of some security agents during the August 9 governorship election in Osun state,noting that security operatives had erroneously arrested some members of staff of the commission and nine Youth Corp members, engaged as INEC ad-hoc staff, were erroneously arrested and kept in detention for over 12 hours.

He said that they were arrested around 9pm on the eve of the election while on their way to the Registration Area Centers, RACs, which was provided for them by the Commission and were not released until about 6am the next day, a situation that almost disrupted the distribution of electoral materials in some areas.

“It was sheer luck that we still managed to open the polling units early, otherwise, there would have been disaster. We took a serious view of that and reported the matter to all the appropriate authorities because at a point we became worried that some persons wanted to undermine our effort.” he lamented.

“Apart from over-zealousness on the part of some of the security men on the field, we discovered that people actually felt more secured to exercise their franchise. The key lesson our politicians need to learn from the two elections is that the era has gone when they relied on corrupt electoral officers or security agents to manipulate elections.

Jega had earlier on Tuesday during the public hearing organised by the House of Representatives on the bill for the amendment of the Electoral Act 2010 backed a proposed amendment that would confer the exclusive power to manage and assign security men during elections on INEC.

The bill also sought to limit the role of the military during elections.

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