The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said on Thursday that police officers and other security personnel that would be deployed for duty in the 2023 general elections would swear to an oath of loyalty and neutrality in compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022.
The commission disclosed that such security officials would also, under oath, swear not to collect bribes or gratification and that they would carry out their electoral functions in the interest of Nigeria.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of INEC in Bayelsa State, Emmanuel Hart, stated this while presenting a paper titled, “The Electoral Act and the Role of Police on Election Duty” at a training workshop on the management of elections in Yenagoa.
The sensitisation forum with the theme, “Empowering Police Officers for Effective Management of Elections”, was organised by the Bayelsa State Police Command in collaboration with the Bosinde Araikpe Global Peace Initiative.
Hart, who was represented by the head of legal services at the state INEC office, Ayi Obaseki, that any officer who contravened the oath as contained in Sections 26 and 120 of the Electoral Act would be slammed with a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisoned for 12 months or both, upon conviction.
He said, “It is mandatory for security officials taking part in the conduct of an election to affirm or swear to an oath of Loyalty and Neutrality that they will not accept bribe or gratification and that they will perform their functions and duties as well as discharge same in the interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without fear or favour.
“Any officer who violates the provision of Section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act commits an offence of Dereliction of Duty and liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment of 12 months or both.”
According to the REC, the advent of the Electoral Act 2023 introduced some novel provisions that had strengthened Nigeria’s electoral process and the statutory role of the police before, during and after the conduct of elections.
He said the role of the police as the leading security agency in the electoral process was beyond voting and other activities that would take place on election day, including protection of the electoral umpire’s materials and personnel.
Hart, while addressing the officers, said: “The most crucial and fundamental element in the duty of the Police Force is the protection of life and property of the citizens.
“As we move towards the 2023 general elections, it is important that you use your good offices to prevent electoral violence caused by political thugs in voting centres. Where there is widespread violence in the state, the Commission may not go ahead with the conduct of the election,”he said.
In his remarks, the Commissioner of Police, Ben Okolo, said the workshop was necessary to sensitise officers and stakeholders on the need to ensure violence-free and transparent polls and refresh their minds on ways to conduct themselves and manage electoral activities.
He said, “This is a very important process. We are going to do this and other activities to ensure that our officers will stick to the promise that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, has made, that this election will be free, fair and credible; and the process will be transparent.
“In order to ensure that that happens, we want to begin to sensitise the people and other stakeholders.”