• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Violent campaigns: Let’s tackle the smoke before it becomes fire – INEC

Honour your words to upload Imo, Kogi, Bayelsa results – PDP to Yakubu

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that the attacks amongst political parties at campaigns and denial of access to public facilities for electioneering activities were prelude to violence on election day and beyond.

Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman who raised the concern, also called on security agencies and other stakeholders to “tackle the smoke before it snowballs into a major inferno.’

Yakubu spoke at the third quarterly meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in Abuja on Friday.

He said beyond vote buying, there must also be decisive action against negative mobilisation, incitement and violence during the campaigns.

“It is exactly a month since the commencement of campaign by political parties on 28th September 2022, yet the incidents of physical attacks on supporters and destruction of campaign materials across the country is worrisome.

“At our consultative meeting two days ago, leaders of political parties in Nigeria also complained about the denial of access to public facilities and exorbitant charges in some states for the use of such facilities for the dissemination of their campaign materials, messages and rallies.

“These attacks and denials are a violation of the Electoral Act 2022 and ominous signs of what will follow as the campaigns enter critical stages. They may also be a prelude to violence on Election Day and beyond. We should tackle the smoke before it snowballs into a major inferno,” Yakubu said.

The INEC chairman said the effective enforcement of the electoral law was the best way to deal with the menace and called for collaborative effort to ensure the arrest and prosecution of violators of the provisions, of especially sections 92 -93 of the Electoral Act 2022.

He said as the 2023 general election approaches, the commission will continue to appraise the security situation in the country and its possible impact on the conduct of elections.

Read also: 2023: INEC tasks media on accurate information

Yakubu disclosed that INEC is currently working to harmonise its Election Risk Management (ERM) and Election Violence Mitigation and Advocacy Tool (EVMAT) for a more effective risk assessment and mitigation measures ahead of the general election.

The professor of history and international relations said the commission will continue to share information with the security agencies and most importantly, work together to ensure that elections hold peacefully nationwide as scheduled.

He noted that there were important lessons from the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections that will help INEC’s planning for the 2023 general election.

“Synergy among the security agencies facilitated the timely deployment of election materials, the coordinated escort of personnel to various locations before the elections and the effective security at the polling units and collation centres.

“As a result, polling units opened on time, collation of results started promptly and declarations made in good time. Going forward, Nigerians expect an even better performance during the 2023 general election. Therefore, a lot of work lies ahead but I am confident that we will do it effectively and professionally,” Yakubu stated.

The chairman also said one of the worrisome practices perpetrated during elections by desperate individuals is vote buying and selling at polling units on election day which ICCES has severally deliberated on.

Yakubu said: “In our determination to curb the menace, the membership of ICCES was expanded to include the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The two agencies have been deploying their operatives during elections and this effort is paying off.

“For instance, following arrests made during the recent Osun State Governorship election held on 16th July this year, the EFCC made arrests and after investigation found evidence to charge the suspects to court in Osogbo. We are right now working with the EFCC to ensure their prosecution.”

On his part, Mohammed Babagana-Monguno, the National Security Adviser (NSA) and co-chairman of ICCES, said security agencies were strategising new measures to counter the rising wave of violence in the polity.

Represented by Sanusi Galadima,
the NSA expressed hope that the second phase of the signing of “Peace Accord”, by the National Peace Committee (NPC) scheduled for January, 2023, will be fruitful in deescalating the violent trend.

“The NSA has observed the violent dimensions of electioneering campaigns which characterizes attacks on campaign rallies, political campaign offices as well as passing of uncomplimentary remarks and uncouth utterances among politicians which recently witnessed in some States signal potential threats to the smooth conduct of the forthcoming elections in February, 2023.

“The NSA appreciates INEC for steps taken to instill discipline amongst its staff who attempted to circumvent voters registration process during the last voters registration exercise.

“The decision by the Commission to sanction the defaulting staff will ensure discipline and professionalism and ultimately enhance the integrity of voters register,” he said.