The National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, has tasked heads of security and law enforcement agencies to step up close monitoring and profiling of political actors who exhibit tendencies to subvert the electoral process.
Monguno disclosed this at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) second quarterly meeting of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in Abuja on Friday.
The NSA, who is also the co-chairman of ICCES, said that the political thugs and their sponsors would equally be under discreet surveillance for possible arrest and prosecution.
Monguno, represented by Mr Sanusi Galadima, said that he had noted with utmost concern, the growing uncertainty heralding the conduct of party primaries for the 2023 general elections.
“This is in addition to the unabated spate of violence that threatened the upcoming off cycle gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun States, arising from internal party wranglings, increasing acrimony and bickering amongst political actors.
“Also the inability of various contending political blocs to amicably resolves differences in line with democratic tenants.
“Consequently, the above disturbing development has already culminated in intense power play capable of heightening unnecessary political tension across the country.
“More worrisome is the unguarded utterances of some highly respected individuals and groups which more often than not amplify divisive narratives to the detriment of national security and stability.
“ Accordingly, heads of security and law enforcement agencies have been task to step up close monitoring and profiling of political actors no matter highly placed who exhibit tendencies to subvert the electoral process, even as thugs and their sponsors would equally be trailed for possible arrest and prosecution,” Yakubu said.
The NSA emphasised the need for INEC to impress it on political parties to consistently abide by prescribed rules as outlined in their respective constitutions.
“This is to significantly reduce areas of conflict and ensure a peaceful atmosphere for a hitch free off-cycle and general election,” Monguno said.
Earlier in his remarks, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said that the general security situation in the country and its impact on the electoral process was a source of concern to the commission.
Yakubu said that the commission would continue to work with the security agencies to ensure the success of all forthcoming elections and electoral activities.
He said that as INEC prepared for the 2023 General Election, it was also preparing for two off-cycle governorship elections in Ekiti State on June 18 and in Osun State on July 16.
He said that INEC also had pending by-elections in 18 constituencies across the country involving three senatorial districts, one federal constituency and 14 state constituencies.
Yakubu said that political parties were expected to end their primaries latest by June 3 and for their candidates to emerge for public campaigns nationwide.
He said that immediately after this, INEC and the security agencies had their work clearly cut out ahead of the elections.
“The general security situation in the country and its impact on the electoral process is a source of concern to the commission.
“However, we are confident that with nine months to the 2023 General Election, there is enough time to respond to the security challenges and secure the nation for elections to take place nationwide. The timetable for the election has also been released.
“Let us not wait until a few weeks to the election before we realise that time is not on our side and begin to seek for extension of timelines. The time to act is now.
“We wish to reassure the security agencies that we will continue to work cooperatively with you to ensure the success of all forthcoming elections and electoral activities,” Yakubu said.
He said that INEC had directed Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) to provide basic data on areas of security challenges in their states, including information on citizens living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.
He said that the idea was to harvest the data as a basis for further engagement with the security agencies as well as devising the best way to provide electoral services to all Nigerians under all circumstances.
“As you are all aware, a number of developments have taken place since our last meeting.
“For instance, with the coming into force of the Electoral Act 2022, there are roles and responsibilities required of all involved in elections, especially in the areas of voter accreditation and result management in particular and election administration in general. All these have bearing on election security.
“We therefore need a clear understanding of some of these responsibilities under the new law,’’ the INEC chairman said.
Yakubu said that one of the agenda of the meeting was to agree on the Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Personnel on Election Duty.
He said that a further review was necessary in view of the new Electoral Act and current security challenges.
“The commission will continue to appreciate the cooperation and support of all members of ICCES in our determination to conduct peaceful and credible elections.
“Your support in providing security for the deployment of election materials, the protection of INEC officials, party agents, election observers, journalists and voters make democratic elections and related activities such as the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) possible,” Yakubu said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting was attended by representatives of security and law enforcement agencies in the country.