By Gabriel Olawale

In an effort to ensure a hitch-free, fair and credible elections in 2023, the Nigeria Police Force has begun the training of over 400 officers on election security management.

The officers, drawn from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), will undergo a comprehensive training workshop under a train-the-trainer model in which they are empowered to cascade the lessons through the organizational chain by offering the same to other officers.

While declaring the training open in Abuja last week Thursday, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, disclosed that the election security management module will be introduced in the curriculum of police training schools.

Explaining the rationale behind the training, with the theme – ‘The 2023 General Elections: Enhancing National Security Capacity for a Secure and Credible Electoral Process in Nigeria,’ the IGP said: “Mindful of its critical role in the election security value chain, and conscious of the need to continually broaden its professional knowledge and operational capacity with a view to closing the knowledge gap that could inhibit the optimal delivery of our election security mandate, the leadership of the Nigeria Police found it expedient to expose personnel to tailor-made training ahead of the 2023 General Elections. This informed the concept of this Workshop.”

Slots for the training were allocated to some Ministries, Departments, and Agencies that play complementary roles in the election security process in order to ensure necessary inclusivity, the IGP added.

Some of the MDAs include the Office of the National Security Adviser, Military, DSS, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Correctional Service, Federal Road Safety Corps, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, and many others.

The IGP commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his support to the Nigeria Police Force over the years and disclosed the plans of the NPF to sustain the gains of the initiative with the development of reference materials on the subject.

He said: “As part of efforts to ensure the sustainability of the gains of this initiative, we plan to develop all the Workshop Presentations into a publication which will be launched in due course. When published, it will serve as a credible, professional, and academic reference book on election security in Nigeria.”

“We have also resolved to incorporate Election Security Management modules into the Training Curriculum of the Nigeria Police Force for purpose of entrenching it into our professional training structure. In addition, we are in discussion with some Civil Society Organisations and Development Partners, particularly the Embassy of the United States of America towards partnering with them in supporting the knowledge transfer phase of this Workshop at State Command level.”

Speaking as the Special Guest of Honour, the National Security Adviser to the President, Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd) offered assurances that the 2023 general elections will be the freest and fairest in the annals of the nation’s political history.

According to him, the conduct of the national elections in Nigeria rests squarely with the Police Force being the lead internal security agency in election management across the globe. He announced the President’s directive to all security agencies to collaborate on protecting the integrity and credibility of the elections, adding that his assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2022 on February 25, 2022, was a demonstration of his commitment to free, fair and credible elections.

The NSA further stated that the Act had given the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the financial autonomy to conduct credible polls, as was witnessed in the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections recently.

He said: “the President is committed to delivering an election that is free, fair and credible. It will be devoid of any form of wuru wuru as used in the Nigerian parlance.”

He however appealed to the heads of all the security agencies in the country to collaborate and work in synergy towards providing adequate security during the electoral process.

In a similar vein, the Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Muhammed Dingyadi, reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to peaceful and credible electoral process in 2023.

He also appealed to the nation’s security agencies to showcase professional conduct and play their crucial role with a sense of duty and patriotism.

In his own remark, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, lauded the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Usman Baba, for the initiative.

He said the precursor to the conduct of election was security, adding that: “The aspiration of every Nigerian and friends of Nigeria is to have free, fair and secure elections in 2023.

“As members of the Armed Forces, we will continue to give support to the civil authority and the police, being the lead in internal security positioning. The entire leadership hierarchy of the Armed Forces is here to give their support and beyond that, we also have a covenant with the democratic process. The growth and stability of Nigeria’s democracy is so pivotal to our existence.”

“So, we are here not only to reecho that covenant, but also to assure Nigerians that the military is prepared to give support throughout the entire process and beyond,” he said.

Other top members of Nigeria’s Armed Forces and stakeholders present at the event at the ICC in Abuja include the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Auwal Gambo, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao, representatives of political parties, Non Governmental Organizations, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Manhood Yakubu among other delegates.

The eight retired IGPs also present at the summit include Alh. Aliyu Attah, Musliu Smith, Sunday Ehindero, MD Abubakar, Suleiman Abba, Mike Okiro, Ibrahim Idris, Ogbonna Onovo and Solomon Arase.

The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was also present.

Meanwhile, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in his address gave a projection of a voter population of about 95 million for the 2023 General Election in the country. He noted that the figure was 20 million higher than the combined voter population of the 14 other West African countries in the sub-region.

He said that the election preparations, deployment and implementation constituted the most extensive mobilization that could happen in a country, whether in peacetime or wartime.

His words, “In Nigeria, it involves the recruitment and training of staff and managing the logistics for their deployment to 176,846 polling units spread across 8,809 electoral wards, 774 local areas and 37 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“It also involves a projected voter population of about 95 million for the 2023 general election, which is over 20 million more than the combined voter population of the other 14 countries in West Africa.

“Voters will also elect candidates for 1,491 constituencies (1 presidential constituency, 28 governorship elections, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal Constituencies and 993 state assembly seats),” Yakubu said.

The INEC chairman said that ensuring the safety and security of voters, election personnel and materials, candidates, party agents, observers, the media and transporters was paramount.

He said that the responsibility had become more challenging in the context of the current security situation in the country.

He expressed satisfaction that the Police as the lead agency in election security had once again demonstrated its leadership role by convening the workshop.

Yakubu said that with about seven months to the general election, there was time for proactive measures to ensure that the entire country was secured for the election to hold nationwide.

He expressed confidence that the workshop would also focus on deepening the capacity of the security personnel to imbibe the global standard of election security management.

“Already, the commission, under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), has produced and periodically revised the code of conduct and rules of engagement for security personnel on electoral duty.

“In the next few weeks, the code of conduct, as well as our training manuals, will be revised to align them with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022. And to consolidate on the professionalism displayed by the security agencies in the recent off-cycle elections.

“We will also intensify our cascade training for security personnel ahead of the 2023 General Election,” he said.

Yakubu assured the inspector-general of police, heads of other security agencies and all members of ICCES that INEC would continue to work in synergy with them to ensure a safe and secured environment for the 2023 general election.

“It is a critical election and we must all continue to work together to protect the will of the Nigerian people,” he said.

On his part, the keynote Speaker, Professor Etanebe Elemika, a hihgly-sought-after academic and resource person whose area of competence, resource and teaching include policing, organised crime, security sector reforms and governance, human rights and democracy, conflict studies and criminal justice policy and reforms spoke on the need for quality elections, democracy and the symbolism of elections.

According to Professor Elemika, “the quality of an election is equally determined by the quality of your election. The more democratic your elections, the more the democratic culture is entrenched in the country – it’s the defining characteristics of democracy”.

He said, “election in itself does not constitute a democracy; you can have elections without democracy. Election symbolises equality of citizens to cast their votes each and also symbolises the idea that the citizens are the source of the power for those who govern because they are elected as representatives to participate in government as stewards. The third is that election affords citizens the opportunity to reward or punish a government that fails to do well”, said Professor Elemika.

Before the closing of the opening ceremony, the 18th indigenous Inspector General of Police, Dr. Solomon Arase (rtd) appreciated the dignitaries. Dr. Arase who has earned his reputation over the years for his capacity to deliver on premium workshops and capacity for enhancement for men and officers was the brain behind the organisation of the workshop.

Specially, he thanked the NSA for gracing the occasion and spoke on how he pioneered a similar workshop in 2019 when he approached him (Arase) to help deliver some training workshops. He said, “it’s nice that you’re the Special Guest of Honour for this workshop which means you’re trying to deepen what you actually started; we can’t thank you enough”.

In appreciating the INEC Chairman, Dr. Arase said, “when I met you to invite you for this workshop, you looked at the program and you advised if you can put together your directors so that there can be a cross-fertilisation of ideas on the choice of the topics and I was very glad. We met with your directors and the final outcome of the time table we are going to deliver would be attributable to your input”.

Arase also took time to appreciate former Inspector General of Police, Alh. Aliyu. Attah who led other retired IGPs to the event. He said, “our respected Baba from whose fountain of knowledge and operational capacity we drank from, Alhaji Attah and all our former colleagues, we thank you for coming to support the IGP”.

While appreciating the present IGP, Usman Alkali Baba, Dr. Arase said, “when you have an Inspector General of Police who is not allergic to knowledge, this is the type of thing that you have – a police force that is not knowledgeable is prone to a lot of tendencies. Building capacities this way is one of the ways we can use to cure some of the inadequacies that we have.

“To our participants, you’re going to be confronted with a lot of training ideas – we have been able to assemble about 62 facilitators from all sectors – they are experiential, intellectuals and academics. What you can do is to make sure that this training is not a jamboree; you must internalise everything that would be given to you during the training program.

“Thank you so much Mr. IGP for agreeing that it is not only every four years that we have to come and do things like this – we should start putting together, the whole idea that would be generated in this workshop into a training manual which would be incorporated with that of INEC and now serve as manual for training our officers starting from the tactical level.

“Most of the officers who are going to benefit from this are from the strategic and operational level. But then, we need to give our training institution, at least, the bookish acquaintance with ideas of elections so that the practical expression of it will be very easy’, Dr. Arase said.

To commemorate the opening ceremony was the presentation of a souvenir to the special guest of honour, Maj. Gen. Babagana Mungunu by the Chief Host, the incumbent Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba.

There were encouraging goodwill messages from the Ambassador of the United States of America, H.E. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard, the representative of the DG, NYSC, the representative of the Sultan of Sokoto, IGP Aliyu Attah, GCON, NPM (rtd), among others.

After the opening ceremony, the IGP visited the participants at the venue of the workshop for an interactive session where he also delivered a paper titled: The Current State of Security and Police Preparedness for the 2023 General Elections.

In his lecture, he spoke on the constitutional role of the Nigeria police force on election security, the expected challenges and approaches in election security management.

Also at the workshop as a facilitator was the representative of the chairman of INEC, Professor Abdullahi Abdul Zuru who spoke on a paper titled: An Overview of INEC Preparedness and Potential security Challenges while the representative of the Director General DSS who did an assessment of election threats in Nigeria; the best practices in election security, protection of national voters, security of voters, security of election officials and materials.

On the need for inter-agency collaboration in election security management, Maj. Gen. G.A Wahab was on hand to do justice to the lecture where he harped on the mandate of inter-agency consultative committee on election security and concretizing inter-agency synergy on election security operations while Professor Edoba Omoregie’s lecture focused on the legal framework of elections in Nigeria.

The major expected outcomes of the training include robust inter-agency collaboration towards effective security governance during the 2023 General Elections and in other future joint electoral security operations; enhanced knowledge of security agents on election security management, drawing on global best practices and development of an ‘Election Security Management Protocol’ that will act as the standard security management template for future elections at all levels in Nigeria. It is anticipated that the document will act as a credible reference document for all security agencies and other strategic stakeholders within the electoral system in Nigeria.

Other expected outcomes include appreciation of peculiar election security threats and specific approaches towards managing them at various stages of the electoral process and knowledge of current pattern and trend of crimes and internal security threats, and pathways to mitigating them and stabilizing the security order ahead of the 2023 General Elections.

The Election Security Management Workshop organized by the Nigeria Police Force in collaboration with Solar Security and Consult Company Limited has moved to Kano Centre, the Northwest geopolitical zone of the country.

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