December 9, 2022
Amid repeated assurances from President Muhammadu Buhari and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) towards a credible and hitch-free 2023 general elections, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor, yesterday, in a startling revelation, disclosed that security agencies are under intense pressure from all corners to compromise the elections.
He, however, allayed fears of a truncated process, while calling on Nigerians to put their trust in the security forces as they remain wholly committed to remaining neutral before, during and after the exercise.
Irabor, who appeared on the Ministerial Media Briefing anchored by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, revealed that security personnel, specifically, come under pressure through sundry inducements, noting, however, that measures are being put in place by the hierarchy to ensure that the men obey the directive to remain neutral, notwithstanding.
He said personnel are being trained to be more professional in their dealings while Standard Operations Practice (SOP) before, during and after the elections have been codified and distributed to them.
Answering a question on how prepared the military is to ward off pressure to compromise elections given the President’s directive for neutrality, he said: “I’m glad that you reiterated the Commander-in-Chief’s directive to the armed forces.
“I’m afraid you say you have a worry. Rather than worry, I would rather think that trust should be the anchor. Why?
“Of course, there will always be pressure from all quarters, wanting to induce security forces, not just the military. And that’s what criminal enterprise is all about.
“But what makes the difference is the professional approach to dealing with those issues. And that’s what as the military, we are committed to doing.
“So, please cease from worrying. Rather, trust and also engage others to trust that we will keep faith to these desires.”
Continuing, the Defence Chief noted that the armed forces have added fillip to their engagement across the country to tackle contemporary and emerging threats, putting in place contingent plans to facilitate the smooth conduct of the elections to support INEC in conjunction with other security agencies.
He said efforts were also in place to safeguard critical national infrastructure, assuring that the military is committed to meeting its constitutional requirement, which is to ensure a safe and secure Nigeria for citizens.
Irabor also spoke on key achievements of the military in the effort to keep the country safe, including more recruitment into all branches of the security services, routing of insurgency and banditry as well as the action to curtail oil theft.
He added that over 300,000 people have been freed from the hands of abductors since 2014, while refugees, who fled the Northeast due to insurgency, have started to return.
The CDS informed that former insurgents now being trained would graduate in February next year before their eventual reintegration into the society.
Despite the defence chief’s assurances, the major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has urged the military to operate strictly within the confines of its rules and regulations to avoid being compromised by politicians.
The party, which spoke through its Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) in reaction to an open disclosure by the CDS, urged the military hierarchy to ensure that the rank and file operate within the confines of the rules of carrying out the responsibility of internal security.
Spokesperson of the Atiku-Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation, Kola Ologbondiyan, in an interview with journalists in Abuja, said: “What is important is for the military to guarantee a credible military for our nation. They have the duty of protecting the territorial integrity of our nation and a duty of ensuring conformity with the laws.”
Ologbondiyan charged politicians who are putting pressure on the military to go and engage the people who will vote.
He said: “They should go and sell their promises if they will be bought by the people. They should stop mounting pressure on the military, they should face the electorate.
“If you look at the political climate of our nation today, you will agree with me that the presidential candidate of our party, Atiku Abubakar, who is campaigning and also talking to Nigerians, is marketing policies, promises that he plans for his government when he is sworn in as president on May 29. As such, we counsel other politicians to stop mounting pressure on the military,” Ologbondiyan added.
However, stakeholders within the technology and academic spaces have called for a synergy among INEC, Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), Galaxy Backbone, NigComSat and other private Internet broadband providers in the country to boost the general elections.
This advice formed part of the communiqué issued at the just concluded three-day national workshop election infrastructure organised by the Centre for Cyberspace Studies, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, held in Abuja.
In the communiqué signed by the Chairman of the forum, Chris Uwaje, and Associate Professor and Executive Director, Centre for Cyberspace, NSUK, Uche M. Mbanaso, yesterday, stakeholders stressed that the partnership would ensure improved broadband connectivity and protect robust seamless network infrastructure across the country, especially in remote areas.
The workshop which has the theme: Enriching the Values of Free, Fair, Inclusive, Credible and Transparent Elections was declared open by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami.
In his speech, the Minister, who was the special guest of honour, commended the organisers for providing a strategic platform that will enhance stakeholder engagement to ensure that the digital provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 deliver the expected credible, free, fair, inclusive and transparent election in 2023.
The central objective of the workshop was to avail stakeholders in the Nigerian electoral process an opportunity to brainstorm on the concerns, challenges, and desirable interventions needed to enhance effective preparations and delivery of successful 2023 National elections.
As such, it was pointed out that the NCC and NITDA should facilitate full implementation of IPv6 and ensure timely synchronisation with IPv4 to enhance interoperability of digital infrastructure elements.
In terms of security, the stakeholders said the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) currently in charge of cyber-security should designate some tertiary institutions as Centres of Excellence (CoE) in cyber-security to advance capacity building, research and development (R&D) as coordinated and measurable standards to improve national cyber-security posture. This buttresses the urgent need for a pipeline of cyber-security workforce that is very knowledgeable and skilled to enhance the protection of national cyberspace.
In his welcome address, the convener and Vice-Chancellor of the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Prof. Suleiman Bala Mohammed, thanked President Buhari for the boldness to reform the nation’s electoral process to include the use of digital resources like BVAS and IReV for the first time.
Also, the West African Elders’ Forum (WAEF) has said the successful conduct of the election in Nigeria will set a good example for other countries.
Ernest Bai Koroma, head of the WAEF pre-election mediation mission, said this at a news conference while presenting the forum’s post-mission statement in Abuja, yesterday.
Koroma said the 2023 election is of great significance for West Africa and the entire African continent. He said the successful conduct of the election will show the rest of the region that democracy has come to stay.
“We call on all Nigerians to exercise their right to civic participation both before and during the coming elections without fear while also respecting the rights of others to do the same,” he said.
“Our region, West Africa, of late, has experienced some reversal in democratic practice with unconstitutional changes of government in some countries. At the heart of the instability within the sub-region are the issue of disputed elections and citizen disaffection.
“The 2023 general elections in Nigeria is crucial not just for Nigeria alone but for West Africa and the African continent. They are the first of three to be held in the region next year. The successful conduct of peaceful, credible, inclusive, free and fair elections here will set a good example for others.
“This will not only send a message that democracy is here to stay in West Africa, but will also resuscitate hope at a time when the sub-region is plagued with various challenges.”
Koroma said although some stakeholders have reservations, relevant authorities have assured that all concerns will be addressed ahead of the election.
“We are optimistic that a secure and free environment and a level playing field will be guaranteed for all citizens and political actors, irrespective of political affiliations,” he said.