The European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) to Nigeria has enjoined the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police and other security agencies to be neutral in the conduct of the forthcoming general election. The Chief Observer of the EUEOM, Ms. Maria Arena, who gave the advice at the launching of the mission’s programme in Abuja, explained that transparency and accountability of all institutions involved in the elections are essential for public confidence in the process.
Her advice came on the heels of doubts expressed by opposition parties, civil society organisations and other stakeholders over the transparency and credibility of the elections. Despite repeated assurances by President Muhammadu Buhari and the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, that the election will be free and fair, the doubts still persist. Interestingly, INEC chairman has promised to handle the presidential election results collation as well as allow local and international observers and the media access to situation room as a way of ensuring the transparency of the poll. About 84 million voters will participate in the forthcoming polls.
In order to ensure the conduct of a credible election, INEC says, it requires not less than 500,000 security personnel, 850,000 electoral officers and ad hoc staff for the presidential election, national assembly, governorship and state assembly elections. Therefore, the charge from EUEOM is apposite and underscores the need for INEC and security agencies to ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible.
The EUEOM is known for observing and assessing electoral procedures before, during and after the election. The observer mission also provides the country’s government, civil society and political parties with concrete suggestions for improving the process in the future. Its roles in previous elections in Nigeria had been used to correct some of the lapses in our electoral process.
Therefore, no effort should be spared to ensure that the electoral body and the security agencies conduct a credible and transparent election. The security agencies must provide adequate security before, during and after the polls as well as ensure the safety of the voters, the politicians and their supporters. It is also their duty to protect the ballot and ensure that the wishes of Nigerians are respected. Any partisan conduct on the part of the security agencies or the electoral umpire can mar the elections. We recall that such partisan conduct in past elections led to avoidable violence and loss of lives. The counsel from the EUEOM is timely. It is in tandem with the expectations of many Nigerians. Election observers all over the world are necessary watchdogs. Their presence can make a difference in the conduct of an election. The neutrality of agencies saddled with the conduct of elections will instill public confidence in the electoral process.
Although the 2015 general election was generally adjudged to be credible and less controversial than others before it, the electoral umpire should strive to raise the standard during this year’s exercise. The forthcoming election, therefore, presents an opportunity to realise this dream. Commitments to this exercise must go beyond rhetoric. The government in power and the concerned agencies should muster enough political will to conduct an election that all Nigerians should be proud of.
We call on INEC to ensure that it is adequately prepared for the polls which many Nigerians believe will determine the future of the country. We also charge the police, the lead agency in the election security management, to live above board in their duties during and after the elections. In all things, they must maintain professionalism and remain apolitical in the maintenance of law and order. If INEC, police and other security agencies can discharge their duties as expected, the elections will be free, fair and credible. Above all, let INEC discharge its duties without let or hindrance.