The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has issued guidelines for security operatives deployed for the conduct of elections.
The guidelines, issued in conjunction with the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), contain the code of conduct and rules of engagement on how security agents will operate while on election duty.
The ICCES, which is made up of various security agencies and stakeholders, is responsible for ensuring the safety of all persons involved in the electoral process, enforcement of relevant laws and monitoring electoral activities such as campaigns and congresses.
According to the document, a copy of which was obtained by TheCable, security officials must ensure protection of lives and electoral materials, and respect for human rights in all their dealings.
Some of the directives include the prohibition of firearms in polling units, use of force only when necessary, arresting with caution, shooting a suspect only when ordered to do so or when a life is in danger as well as obedience to all COVID-19 prevention protocol.
Below is a breakdown of the various provisions of the guidelines.
Dress and accoutrements rules:
* Except for personnel deployed on covert operations, all personnel on electoral assignment will ensure a neat turn-out in their prescribed uniform and name tags, which must be identifiable to the public.
* Personnel on covert operations will ensure they turn out in clean outfits, having strict regard for the authorised identification card.
* Officers engaged in traffic control will ensure that white gloves and arm bands are worn.
* No unauthorised item of accoutrements/kit, like cudgel, horsewhip, etc. shall carried by any personnel on election duty.
* At no time will personnel deployed to polling units be allowed to carry firearms.
* Clearly marked vehicles are to be used for every election exercise and/or operation. The use of personal vehicles to convey personnel for duty is highly discouraged.
* Pocket notebooks shall be carried where important incidents encountered during tours of duty can be noted, in view of the fact that all security personnel can be personally summoned to account for their actions/inactions while on election duty.
* Procedures/rules on management of political parties’ conventions, rallies, campaigns and crowd control on voting day:
* At venues of all electoral activities, designated officers will identify areas to be classified inner and outer rings respectively to serve as a guide in deployment.
* On no account should personnel deployed to the inner ring of the venue of political events or voting centres/polling units be assigned any lethal weapon except baton.
* Officers shall at all-time exercise maximum restraint while covering political gatherings or deployed at voting/collation centres.
* Be cautious, polite and firm at all times.
* Where reasonable suspicion is established that any person at a political gathering or election venue possesses weapons or any dangerous object on his/her person, such individual will be isolated, and a body frisk/pat-down search shall be conducted on him/her. Such searches should be conducted by at least two (2) officers, one to perform the search while the other provides protective cover. Where the suspect is a female, a female officer shall conduct the search.
* In any instance where an arrest should be made, no violence or unnecessary force shall be used and the person to be arrested shall not be subjected to any greater restraint than what is necessary under the circumstances.
* Where a political gathering is becoming confrontational or the likelihood of an otherwise peaceful gathering becoming violent, the officer is to initiate and encourage dialogue as well as adopt alternate dispute resolution (ADR) amongst leaders/organisers to prevent the situation turning to a full-blown breach of the peace.
Rules on use of force/lethal weapon:
* Personnel armed with lethal weapons shall not at any time be deployed to the inner ring of any crowd control operation, such as political parties’ conventions, rallies/campaigns and manning of polling units/voting and
* voter registration centres.
* Excessive use of force is strictly prohibited.
* Every use of lethal weapons must be authorised by designated commander.
* Personnel deployed (men/women) at outer rings shall ensure that only such necessary and reasonable force is applied when armed or violent confrontation ensues during election exercise.
*Rules for escorting/protecting of electoral materials:
* An officer must be designated escort commander for every escort duty for ease of coordination as this is a multi-agency activity.
* Full information regarding the terrain, contact persons, and other information about the destination where the materials are being escorted shall be obtained by the escort team.
* List of all persons and vehicles involved in the escort as well as inventory must be made by the escort commander and shared with designated INEC and superior officers.
* If an escort will last more than a day, resting points shall be determined by the escort commander with due authorisation from his parent unit in consultation with INEC.