A justice sector and anti-corruption civil society organization, Global Integrity Crusade Network, GICN, has warned the President Muhammadu Buhari government against deploying soldiers for the forthcoming elections, insisting that the duty of maintaining law and order during election should rest with the Police, Immigration and Civil Defence in line with international best practices.
This was as it stated that the task of achieving electoral integrity in Nigeria is placed squarely on the shoulders of critical stakeholders in the electioneering process namely; the Independent National Electoral Commission, security agencies, the electorates and political parties.
The group, in a statement issued in Abuja and signed by its secretary, Barr. Obor John expressed worry over allegations that the actions of INEC in the most recent elections are tainted with some forms of electoral corruption and partiality to one political party.
“Our independent assessment of the gubernatorial election conducted in Ekiti and Osun States respectively, shows that INEC was indeed seen to have stepped into the arena of contest by acting partially in favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
“We observe that INEC used the newly invented act of declaring elections inconclusive as a rigging mechanism, once it is discovered that a particular candidate is losing in order to cook victory for another candidate in a bye-election. This is probably the most trending form of electoral manipulation and fraud.
“Also, illegal cancellation of votes in some areas to favour a particular candidate is another manipulating tool used by INEC to rubbish elections. We advocate that for the 2019 General Elections to be free, fair and credible INEC must exhibit a high level of restraint from the arena of contest and shun all forms of manipulative tendencies, thereby living up to their statutory mandate to conduct elections which will paint Nigeria as a truly democratic nation.”
While stressing that the idea of militarizing voting centres should be completely jettisoned by the government in power, GICN warned that soldiers should not be seen patrolling the town during elections with sophisticated weapons as if Nigeria is in a state of war.
“The deployment of soldiers to places that are relatively peaceful in the name of Operation Python Dance or howsoever called during this election season is not only terrifying but tantamount to intimidating the electorates and causing them to vote against their conscience. Our candid advice to the Nigerian Army is to suspend their operations in places where there are no actual threats of violence or breach of the peace during the elections.”
The group however charged the Nigeria Police, whose core duty is to maintain law and order during elections, to put national interest over and above personal or political interest, urging them to apply high level professionalism by creating a conducive atmosphere for the electorates to express their will freely in voting candidates of their choice.
GICN lamented that the government in power often see security agencies as the armed wing of the ruling party to be used to do their bidding during elections, noting that security operatives carry out the unholy assignment by intimidating voters before, during and after election, preventing persons from accessing their polling units on election days, arresting, persecution and clamping down of opposition leaders, aiding of vote trading and militarization of voting centres to scare away election observers.
Obor ended by charging the electorates and political parties to see themselves as the fulcrum around which electoral integrity revolves in Nigeria, adding that “The electorates being the bride to whom all the political parties who are like suitors go to solicit for votes at this time are required to exercise their voting rights based on conscience and not because of monetary or other pecuniary gains”.
“Electorates should not sell their votes, thereby trading developmental opportunities for a mere peanut. They are expected to support INEC in the conduct of free, fair and credible election by ensuring that it is one man one vote and to peacefully resist all forms of rigging. On the side of political parties being the “suitors” in the forthcoming elections, it is pertinent to state that they should strive to realize their aspirations within the stipulated ethical codes and not turn election into a do or die affair. The contestants must remember that leaders can only be adjudged as legitimate if only the process that enthroned them is clothed with integrity,” GICN said.