BY Abubakar Y. Ojima Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Center for Development and Democracy (CDD) have called for improved security, especially in volatile and violence-prone parts of Nigeria, as preparations intensify for the 2023 general elections.
The call was made in Abuja today by the Commission and the civic organisation during an Expert Meeting on conducting Nigeria’s 2023 general election in a volatile security environment.
CDD and INEC also urged stakeholders in the electoral process, especially the security agencies to ensure a safe and secure environment ahead of the general election. In his welcome remarks at the meeting, INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu said it was important for all actors involved in the elections to have a robust conversation on election security, which he noted remains relevant because of the volatile security situation in some parts of the country and its implications on the forthcoming polls.
He said: “It is timely because the election is fast approaching but there is still time to address the security concerns ahead of the election and I believe that arising from the shared experience of participants at this meeting, specific recommendations will be made to further enrich our understanding of the security issues in the forthcoming election”.
Yakubu therefore commended CDD for providing a platform by bringing together experts, senior security officials and the INEC leadership to share experience and discuss security concerns ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“Recently the office of the Inspector General of Police organised a nationwide capacity-building for police personnel on election security. The Police was not only motivated by the same concern of ensuring a secure environment for the election but also enhancing the professionalism of police personnel on election duty. Once again, I appreciate the CDD for organizing this meeting and thank the security agencies and other stakeholders for supporting this initiative,” he said.
On her part, Director of the CDD, Idayat Hassan said the meeting was convened against the background of the different manifestations of insecurity plaguing the country. These she said ranged from the separatist agitations in the Southeast, the banditry in the northwest and Boko Haram insurgency that is still raging in the North East.
“We have to start talking about how to de-escalate the tension and to how secure the environment, such that the Independent National Electoral Commission will be able to access all areas of the country to conduct a peaceful and legitimate elections come 2023.
“In this election, the security of election materials, personnel, voters, those actually in contest and the ability to access all areas matters. There are actually problems in these areas. Without addressing them the elections will prove difficult for everyone. But we should also note that this security challenge is not just an INEC problem, this is a stakeholder’s problem.
“The challenge we are having is how do we conduct elections against the background of this prevailing insecurity, and it will be important for the Federal Government and other stakeholders to come in.
“Of course, the security forces are already doing some work in terms of reducing tension and bringing sanity to this parts of the country. This need to be hastened up such that elections can be held peacefully and voters can actually exercise their franchise during this elections,” she said.
In his goodwill message, the Development Director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, Mr. Chris Pycroft stressed that security is a top priority for the UK partnership with Nigeria and it will become of increased importance over the coming six months.
“Strengthening delivery of peace and security is one of a number of initiatives we are part of with Nigerian and other international stakeholders and partners. Nigeria is facing more challenges than ever before to deliver a peaceful and secure election. But at the same time the demand for democracy and change especially among Nigerians rapidly expanding youth population and women across the country continues to grow,” he said.