By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The Center for Transparency and Advocacy (CTA) has slammed the Nigerian armed forces for the role they played in the last general elections, saying it left much to be desired, even as it accused the security agencies of intimidating voters and disrupting electoral processes in some polling units.
The Acting Executive Director for CTA , Faith Nwadishi, who stated this yesterday in Abuja while presenting the CTA’s report on the 2019 general election which it monitored, said security agencies should endeavor to respect the rights of citizens to vote the candidates of their choice.
“The role of security agencies during the 2019 General Elections is a cause for concern. The way and manner the Nigeria Armed Forces handled itself in the general election left much to be desired.
“There is need for respect for the rights of citizens to vote the candidate of their choice. Security personnel are supposed to be non-partisan and collaborate with the election umpire as well as citizens to deliver a free, fair and credible election”, according to her.
Speaking further, she said elections in Nigeria have been characterized by brazen and scandalously high level of vote buying and selling by agents of political parties and voters.
This, she pointed out, cast slur on the credibility of the elections, adding that politicians now buy votes because votes count. “The desperation of the political class in the last election resulted in the high incidence of violence across the country as never seen in the history of our elections”, she said.
Nwadishi said also that CTA haven observed the elections commends INEC for conducting the 2019 general elections, but calls on the other critical stakeholders such as the politicians and the security agencies to be guided by patriotism and the rule of law to ensure a sustained democratic process.
“We do ourselves and our nation great harm when we undermine institutions charged with delivering free and fair election. What we have seen with this past election is that it is not enough to have credible and committed people in charge of INEC. For them to deliver on their mandate, they must be helped by other critical stakeholders.
In the same vein, Okey Nwaguba, who is a security expert, while analyzing what the roles of security agencies should be in elections, said before the 2019 general election, insecurity was high, especially given the clash of interests by political actors in the government and opposition.
He said also that with reference to the Osun elections, there was high partisanship by the military, warning that the armed forces are expected to maintain neutrality in politics.
He said further that there was a partnership between CSOs and INEC to train security agents on what the should do in elections but that was not done.
He said the INEC chairman, Mahmud Yakubu, acknowledged receiving assurances from security chiefs on their nonpartisanship, but that was not the case during the elections.
He cited use of fake military agents and refusal of President Muhammadu Bujari to change security chiefs when their tenures had elapsed as factors that contributed to security issues in the build up to the elections.
He said while some polling units were under policed, others were over policed, hence there were cases of inaction and facilitating of electoral malpractices as seen in Kano and Nasarawa states.
“Military and security agents were over involved on the election against the constitution. They took over elections in some areas and disrupted it in some others. It is INEC that should invite them as necessary to intervene in crisis situation but that did not happen.
“INEC officials were intimidated at polling units and forced to announce election result by security agencies. In Rivers, soldiers also intervened and disrupted the process. Action must take action to know what happened that INEC offices were burnt, those involved must be prosecuted, officers identified in intimidating of voters should be personally punished.
“Those who brought in fake military uniform and those who wore them must be punished. Risk factor is the rascality and impunity by the political actors which contradicts the peace accord signed before the election. The electoral laws must be applied strictly and the National Assembly must hasten the passage of the electoral offenses commission Bill, international agencies must follow up to sanction those who contributed in the killing of Nigerians”, he enumerated.
Responding to the allegations, Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar, represented by David Aluko, said the role of the military is critical in democracy, adding that it is only the Nigerian Airforce that is efficient in delivering electoral materials to their various destinations.
He said that civil commercial flights cannot distribute electoral materials under some kind of weathers because the NCAA will sanction them but the Airforce will come in to deliver them.
He said the CSOs monitor elections for a short term, but the Airforce can only do a long term monitoring. According to him, the Federal Road Safety Corps and Civil Defence Corps, including the Nigerian police, all contribute immensely to the success of elections.