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2011: JEGA RAISES FEAR OF INSECURITY

By NBF News
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Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega yesterday raised the fear of electoral insecurity as the commission prepares for the crucial stage of voter registration next year. He stressed the need to take urgent steps to put saboteurs in check ahead of the elections.

In a swift follow-up. the National Security Adviser (NSA), Andrew Azazi promptly read the riot act to the security personnel across the agencies warning that the Presidency would not tolerate excuses for security lapses even from the build-up to the elections.

It was at the inauguration of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) comprising all security agencies and paramilitary personnel, held in Abuja.

Prior to the NSA's outburst, the INEC Chairman had while addressing the meeting lamented that his commission had within the short period experienced the stark reality of election insecurity, during which INEC officials were threatened with physical violence in an attempt to dissuade them from carrying out their legitimate responsibilities.

Jega recalled the ugly incidence during the recent by-elections and the theft of 20 Direct Data Capture, DDC machines at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, pointing out that although the theft would not affect the conduct of the voter registration, however, it must be a matter of concern to all that such sensitive equipment could be stolen from a location that should normally be well protected.

The INEC boss who noted that his Commission had promised free, fair and credible elections, however argued that security was central to fulfilling the promise and expressed the regret that 'INEC had to depend on security agencies that it does not control to provide security for the electoral process, hence the need to work closely with security agencies to achieve success.'

He added that the unfolding electoral activities of the next four months had shown huge security challenges confronting INEC. The Voter's Registration has been scheduled to hold between January 15 and 19, 2011.

The NSA in his response to Prof. Jega's concerns warned that the government was prepared to give all it takes to provide adequate security for the electoral process, because the next elections would be a defining moment for the nation.

Noting that the Presidency would not accept excuses for any inadequate logistics as being responsible for security breaches, the NSA who was represented at the meeting by Ambassador Lasehinde Clement Olayiwola said the security arrangement would go with sanctions against any erring security officer.

According to him, the present situation in the country demands that every stakeholder play his or her role well, hence the security personnel should be at the right places at the right time. To monitor who was where, the NSA explained that there would be special identity cards to identify where and who should be at any location at anytime during elections.

Said he: 2011 is a defining moment for Nigeria. It is either we get it right or we're confined to the third world status perpectually beause there is a link between credible election and good governance as well as political development and economic development. Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind.

'Ghana has done it. This is a historic moment for Nigeria to get it right. All security forces would be briefed adequately. Security personnel should not be a problem; they should be part of the solution.'

Ambassador Olayiwola promised that government would render all assistance to guarantee security before, during and after elections the in 2011. He added that attention would be focused on remote areas where it might be easy to perpetrate atrocities without hindrance. 'Those areas where thugs and security agents collude with ease,' he noted.

He therefore, appealed to security agencies to live up to the expectations of all Nigerians so that the country could once again rise to the occasion and be counted among politically matured countries.