Elections are at the very core of democracy. Therefore, securing elections is not only essential to the functioning of democracy, but also to its development, deepening and consolidation. Establishing an optimal framework for election security in Nigeria has been a major challenge for many years. Such a framework would entail bringing together disparate security agencies, each with its own unique characteristics and idiosyncrasies, under a common umbrella with INEC. It was the overriding need to harmonize security operations during elections in a collaborative and efficient manner that informed the establishment of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). The 2019 general election marked the third electoral cycle of ICCES, having been established prior to the 2011 general election. In that time, the inter-agency committee has developed into an effective and widely accepted framework for managing electoral security. Under ICCES, inter-agency collaboration on election security has deepened, information flow among agencies and between them and the public has improved and peer learning on election security has expanded tremendously.
Yet, there is still a lot of work to do to further perfect the functioning of ICCES. One principal lesson from the last three electoral cycles is the need for even more harmonization of operations, without prejudice to agency nuances. Three areas stand out in this regard namely, training, deployment and common standards of behaviour of security men and women on electoral duty. Great strides have been made on the first two, as common election training modules have been developed and implemented, while vastly improved cooperation between the Police as the lead agency in election security and other agencies has been achieved. However, various agencies still formulated and implemented their separate codes of conduct for their personnel during electoral activities. Broadly, these various codes of conduct were essentially identical, yet each had various insights from which other agencies could benefit. It was in this context that the ICCES established a sub-Committee to provide a broad evaluation of the work of the Inter-agency Committee since its inception and to advice on several issue, including specifically the development of a harmonised code of conduct and rules of engagement for all security agencies in electoral duties. This document is the product of the assignment of this sub-Committee, which produced an initial draft for ICCES to consider. After deliberations on the draft, ICCES approved the document as a single, harmonised code of conduct and rules of engagement for all member-agencies during electoral deployment.
The document has two broad parts namely, a section on the code of conduct and another section on rules of engagement. With this, all security men and women on electoral duty now have a common standard of reference for their actions. The introduction of this harmonized Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security personnel on Electoral Duty is not only an expression of the strength of inter-agency cooperation within ICCES, but also a commitment to continue to improve the quality of elections in Nigeria, including the provision of first-class protection for all electoral activities. All officers and men in all the agencies of ICCES are implored to adhere strictly to the provisions of the code and rules of engagement.