21 February 2019

Nigeria: Keep Military Out of Election, Group Tells Buhari

Security operatives, especially the military, should not take part in elections except in states battling with insurgency, the Election Analysis Centre (EAC) of the Centre of Democracy and Development (CDD) says.

The centre said this on Thursday in Abuja at a press briefing on the preparedness of the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the rescheduled elections.

It was in reaction to the statement by President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday that the military would deal ruthlessly with those who try to snatch ballot boxes.

The CDD director, Idayat Hassan, who spoke for the group, said "capital punishment" does not apply to electoral offences.

"The laws are quite clear, electoral offenders are either liable to two years imprisonment or N500,000 fine, nothing suggests shooting on sight as mentioned earlier by the President," she said.

Mrs. Hassan also expressed concern about voters' apathy.

She said: "Voters turnout since 1999 has been on a progressive decline, such that if we get a 45 per cent turnout in these elections, we would have really improved on what was obtainable during the 2015 elections."

The EAC was set up on February 11 as a one-stop shop for rigorous analysis and countering fake news during the elections.

The centre advised the police to stop redeploying their personnel to avoid sending the wrong signals, with voting just a few days away.

"In spite of these issues, our assessment based on Prof. Yakubu's briefings as well as verified information from thousands of our observers on the field, we believe that the Electoral Commission is ready for Saturday's vote," she said.

"Nonetheless, there is a great deal of work to be done, including ensuring that issues concerning every aspect of logistics as well as the movement of materials and personnel from local government areas are completed without any further delay."

The centre also expressed worry over the retrieval and proper dissemination of electoral materials sent to wrong states.

In order to filter information, the CDD and its EAC said they had deployed observers and experts to the field and also conducted focus group discussions and interviewed stakeholders

They said reports of Boko Haram attacks in Yobe State and Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, they got from observers and experts on the field were troubling.

Also through its assessment, the centre said ongoing armed banditry in Zamfara and reports of kidnappings in Shiroro and Raffi LGAs of Niger State could affect deployment of officials for both observer groups and INEC.

"It is important and necessary to review security plans for volatile states such as Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Zamfara states," it said.

However, it warned that while it matters to provide security during elections, "it equally behooves the authorities responsible are careful and do not unduly deploy excessive security during polls that might frighten votes and depress voting numbers."

After its assessment of the readiness of the commission for the elections, the group made some recommendations.

It said: "INEC must address the status of last week payment of ad-hoc staff to avoid staff shortage

"It is essential and necessary to review security plans for volatile states such as Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Zamfara states

"While it matters that security is provided during the election, it is equally important that the authorities responsible are careful and do not unduly deploy excessive security during polls that might frighten votes and depress voting numbers.

"Police should refrain from re-deploying their personnel a few days into the elections

"INEC and all relevant stakeholders must engage in voter mobilization to stave off apathy

"INEC should increase its confidence-building measures particularly at the state levels."

The CDD urged civil society organizations and the media to remain vigilant "and without partisanship observe all deployment processes, monitor all aspects of the polling from opening to the collation phases."

It called on the political stakeholders to "not just talk peace but make and walk peace."

It implored young people to shun violence in the coming days.

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