A research just released by the Centre for Law Enforcement and Education, CLEEN, a nongovernmental agency, has identified fear of the conduct of security operatives as what might likely cause voter apathy during the November 18 Anambra governorship election, and not the activities of the banned Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB,
Officials of CLEEN Foundation organized the workshop to present the report produced by researchers drawn from security agencies, INEC, Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, universities, the media, among others, as part of its efforts to ensure free and credible governorship poll in Anambra State.
According to the report, most IPOB members do not have voters card, adding that if the security agents on Election Day patrol could adopt ‘operation show your voters card’ in a non-coercion manner, it would go a long way to eliminate infiltration and possible miscreants.
The report said: “This study found that the November 18, 2017 governorship election will likely experience low voter turnout neither as result of history of voter apathy in the state, nor because the people are afraid of IPOB, but because the people are afraid of the conduct of the security agencies, especially the police and the military.
“Stakeholders during the validation of the research report contend that IPOB threat level has significantly gone down especially after the operation python dance II and government proscription of the group and its activities.
“In as much as the IPOB open activities have dwindled, the group’s underground activities could still lead to voters’ apathy whilst at the same time create an opportunity for political parties to further intensify mobilization of the people that could lead to massive voters turn-out.
“Beyond the IPOB ‘no election campaign’, there are other security threats like the possible use of vigilantes and informal police groups by the politicians for violent activities.
“The study further notes that if INEC fails to fully use the digital card reader for the voting process, it may trigger post-election violence arising from lack of trust in the voting process, while the expectation that government at the national level would deploy national security apparatus to support a particular candidate is also worrisome.
“This has created a general sense that ‘the fear of federal government militarizing the state is more than the fear of IPOB’ – this is however a major factor that could engender voters’ apathy during the November 18, 2017 gubernatorial election in Anambra.
“The federal Government must employ dialogue above raw force in engaging dissension. As a result, there is need to provide alternative narratives (peace messages) by government institutions like National Orientation Agency (NOA), Ministry of Information, etc, to counter ‘no election’ campaign by IPOB.
“INEC must conduct itself as an independent umpire by ensuring that the card reader machines work properly during the election. Any suspect of bias or foul play on the part of INEC, could trigger revolt from the people. Election materials must also arrive timely and other voting processes commenced as at when due. After voting activities like counting, collation and announcement of results must be done in transparent manner that will not endanger peaceful conduct of the election.
“The security agencies must conduct themselves in professional manner all through the election circle. In the event of peaceful demonstration, the security agents must recognise the right of people to peaceful demonstration while well trained anti-riot security agents should be used to disperse rioters in the event of violence.
“The police should intensify its effort in ensuring security of lives and property during this period and there should be periodic security assessment meeting with owners of hotels. This is because illicit and clandestine activities of suspected parties’ thugs happen there.”
“Political parties should carry out their political campaigns and rallies within the ambit of the laws. Party agents must be well trained to understand proper conducts on Election Day so as to avoid undue interference with INEC officials.
“The social contract and peace accord that will be agreed and signed by candidates should be strictly adhered to, and supporters of the candidates must be educated on the need and import of such social contract and peace accord. Accredited political parties agents must be available at the appropriate time and venue to inspect sensitive electoral materials to avoid any suspicion that could lead to violence.
“There is need to teach the public what they should know about election security agents and their conducts and other security issues.”
The report also identified some security flash points, mainly in parts of Anambra South and Central senatorial zones on the day of the election, advising that security operatives should be deployed in those areas.
However, INEC head in charge of election quality control and monitoring, Mr. Ibeh U Ibe said the threat to the poll might not be as bad as the report painted it, adding that contrary to the fear being expressed in some quarters, there would be high turnout of voters during the election.
According ti him INEC had done everything humanly possible to ensure that the card readers work on the day of the election, explaining that over 1000 card readers would also be on standby ready to be deployed in case of any failure.
Similarly, the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of operations in Anambra State, Mr. Maiyaki Baba assured that security would not pose any threat to the election, adding that soldiers would not be part of the election duty, but would be deployed at the borders to control movement into the state.
He also warned that no vigilante group would be allowed to carry gun on the day of the election, even as he explained that all policemen attached to private individuals would be withdrawn two days to the elections.