Strengthening security during elections through private guards
By Ruth Oketunde, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Security is fundamental to virtually all human activities, electoral processes inclusive. Any nation considering development must conceive and implement robust security arrangements, experts say.
A vibrant security structure is required to not only protect but also nurture nascent democracies such as Nigeria’s
It is the duty of the state to secure its citizens and institutions. It created the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps to augment the efforts of the Police.
However, government’s security agencies alone cannot do the job; somebody has to fill the gap.
During the just-concluded general election, security agencies did their best to protect politicians, INEC personnel, electoral materials, electorate, rallies and conventions.
However, the violence and skirmishes experienced in some parts of the country during the just-concluded general election underscores the need to bolster the nation’s security system
Some of the security challenges witnessed during the elections include violent demonstrations, theft of electoral supplies, targeted attacks on leaders and voters, among others.
Some observers attribute the violence to inadequate public security manpower deployed to the polling units.
Some political analyst say INEC should be held responsible for the violence in line with Section 27 (3) of Electoral Act 2022 Section 27 (3).
That section stipulates that INEC shall be responsible for requesting for the deployment of relevant security personnel necessary for elections or registrations of voters and shall assign them in a manner determined by the commission in consultation with the relevant security agencies.
They argue that the law did not set particular boundaries on the relevant security personnel except for the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The already enormous task of securing Nigeria with its vast land mass and huge population is usually compounded during election periods where special arrangements have to be made to meet security demands.
To overcome this challenge, Mr Okereke Chinwike, Chief Executive Officer, African Law Foundation (AFRILAW) said it was important to recognise the complementary roles of the private security providers in providing security during elections.
He said that private security companies should be harnessed by the Federal Government in ensuring adequate election security during future elections.
According to him, there is need for an increased cooperation between INEC, the private security operators as well as election policy makers to ensure that their resources are utilized in the future.
“The private security guards can play a critical role in monitoring and reporting incidences; provide security for election stakeholders’ office premises, politicians, political parties’ events, INEC and other support services that public security agencies carry out.
“Though they have been carrying out some of these services unofficially, right now, we want the policymakers to make it official so that they can complement the public security agencies.
“They should also be given a capacity building training so that they can offer quality and professional services in further elections.
“Some of the roles of private security in election include provision of security in government installations, political party premises and homes of political actors.
“They also complement formal security in crowd control during rallies and other political meetings,” he said.
Mr Oyesanya Sanya, Deputy Commandant, NSCDC, agrees that private security providers should be given the opportunity to complement the services the public security agencies during elections
“Private security came into being because of the gap in what United Nations recommended as the standard ratio for policing the citizens, which is one police officer to every 450 citizen.
“Government-funded security agencies cannot do all; these are the gaps the private security guards are filling, which they have been doing in everyday security.
“Using them for election security will assist us in having a well secured election process,” he said.
Dr David Vareba, Coordinator, Access Africa for Right and Development Initiative, said deliberate efforts should be made by all critical election stakeholders to ensure adequate use of private security guards during election.
Vareba, who served as an election observer in Rivers during the 2023 general election, also said that private security guards were not adequately involved in the electoral process.
He urged adequate compensation measures for private security guards deployed to high risk and volatile areas for election-related duties.
Similarly, Vice-President, Association of Licensed Private Security Practitioners of Nigeria (ALPSPN), Clement Anala, said there is need for private security guards to be incorporated into the mainstream security architecture for better synergy among security personnel in the country be they private or public.
“We have a whole lot of private security guards within the scope of the 36 states.
“What we need is capacity building for our personnel and to increase coordination with relevant security stakeholders, including the government, civil society and media to ensure our full participation in future elections,” he said.