NIA demands security check on foreign poll observers


NIAThe National Intelligence Agency on Thursday provoked a fresh discourse on the accreditation of foreign observers for elections by the Nigerian government saying it should be reviewed in national interest and for security reasons.

The NIA said it had become necessary for the Federal Government to put foreign election observers on its watchlist for national security.

According to the NIA, Nigeria must not grant foreign election observers unfettered access to “certain things that are critical to our national security.”

The Director-General of NIA, Ahmed Abubakar, represented by the agency’s Head (General Operations), Hamza Mohammed, issued the warning during a symposium titled, ‘Elections monitoring and Observation: 2023 general election and way forward’, jointly organised by the African Union Development Agency – New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the National Institute of Security Studies, the training agency for senior officers of the Department of State Services and other security agencies.

At the event, the national coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of AUDA-NEPAD Nigeria, Gloria Akobundu, said the organisation had embarked on a nationwide awareness campaign on violence-free elections across the six geo-political zones and the FCT to ensure effective implementation of the National Programme of Action.

While stating that the organisation also set up a Situation Room to monitor and observe the 2023 general election, she said the report of the election was prepared with recommendations that could enhance best practices in future electoral processes, including the upcoming off-season elections in line with the Electoral Act.

The NIA DG said more attention should be paid to foreign observers, and stressed the need for reports made by these organisations on Nigeria elections to be scrutinised by the government.

He said, “Before the 2023 general elections, there were apprehensions even from our partners abroad on whether the elections will hold or not. We are happy that it was successful. We played our role as expected. However, there are two issues. One is that the election has the highest number of youth participation and usage of social media. There were attempts by groups to influence opinion. We should look at how to counter fake messages distributed on social media.

“Also, we have a large number of election monitoring organisations both local and foreign. Yes, we want our elections to be transparent; but we shouldn’t allow foreign organisations to have unfettered access to certain things that are critical to our national security. That is something we should pay attention to.

“Most importantly, a situation where these organisations just go to the public to say things does not augur well. There should be some kind of harmonisation, where things are shared with stakeholders before going public. We are not saying they shouldn’t publish their opinion but it should be done responsibly.”

The acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulkarim Chukkol, represented by its Deputy Head (General Investigative Section in Abuja Zonal Command), Adariku Micheal, canvassed for stringent punishment against acts of vote buying.

The commission said the presence of anti-graft agencies in polling units went a long way to check the menace during the last general elections.

Chukkol however, said it was important to sanitise the country’s electoral system to be devoid of malpractices, adding that the N100,000 penalty for perpetrators of vote buying and selling was not enough to combat the act.

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