A security expert, Maj.-Gen. Lawrence Onoja, has called for the review of electoral laws to improve election security in the country.
Onoja, the former Military Administrator of Plateau and Katsina State, gave the advice on a sideline interview with our reporter in Abuja at a National Peace building Conference in Abuja.
The conference had the theme: “Electoral process, governance, democracy, security and conflict resolution in 2023 general elections.”
It was organised by the Institute for Crisis Resolution, Peacebuilding and Conciliation (ICRCP), in collaboration with the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Jabi, FCT.
Onoja called on INEC and the National Assembly to properly study the 2023 general elections, to review the Electoral Act and correct all flaws witnessed during the elections, especially in area of election security management.
“Each time we have election it doesn’t get down well with the public because of electoral security and management.”
“This has been going on for so long time. The 2023 election is not exceptional, it was marred by all sorts of violence.
“You also listen to the case study of Benue presented here by the former Electoral Commissioner. We need to really study 2023 general elections properly, so that next time you have an election, it will be better,” Onoja said.
He said there was need to review the law to bring armed security personnel closer to the polling units to avoid incessant attacks to polling units by hoodlums on election day.
“For instance, the inner cordon of election, which is the polling booth are being manned by security officers without weapons. Sometimes, thugs will come and snatch election materials.
“I think Federal Government needs to study to ensure that in future there will be an improvement on what has happened,” he said.
Onoja said that since no system was permanent or fully security proof, it had to undergo some reviews.
“Even the developed countries today still have elections that are marred with flaws. We will continue to transform our laws and processes,” Onoja said.
Prof. Nentawe Yelwatda, the APC 2023 Governorship Candidate in Plateau State, also suggested the review of electoral laws to bring armed security personnel closer to the polling units.
Yelwatda said that it was also necessary when the number of security personnel was compared to the number of polling units across Nigeria and the population of the country.
He added that sometimes most of the crisis on election day happened at the polling units because the law stated that security men at the polling units must be civil, operate without carrying arms.
“For us to address this problem, we must find a way of bringing the security closer to the people.
“Because the armed security officers are far away from the polling units that is why attacks are being done there.
“Before you make a call to the armed officers, the violence would have been carried out and everybody would start blaming INEC.
“The law says don’t bring armed men to polling units, take them to the coalition centre. That the armed security men should be in the outer cordon while unarmed one should be at the inner cordon,” Yelwatda said.
He suggested that the country must find a way of bringing armed security officers closer to the polling units.
“Why is it that you carry armed security men to the Churches and Mosques and we say armed men should not be at the polling units.
“Why do you bring in armed security to all functions except the election processes and we said it shouldn’t be in polling units.
“So I think we need to amend that aspect of Electoral Act to bring back security to the polls, to protect the process and give it more security and integrity,” Yelwatda said.
The former REC, who was also the Guest Speaker, advised the judiciary not to be partisan or biased in handling litigations on the 2023 general elections.
Yelwatda also urged Nigerians to always discharge their civil responsibilities and avoid forms of apathy during elections.
“Any time there is an election, we should always come out, get our voter cards and vote our conscience, believe in the future of Nigeria,” Yelwatda said.