Security expert, Dr. Ona Ekhomu has advised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide effective security countermeasures at its facilities that will protect the facilities and safeguard the people as well as the mission of the election umpire.
Ekhomu urged INEC to conduct robust vulnerability assessments of its facilities so that observable and exploitable loopholes could be identified and addressed with appropriate physical security systems including electronic, personnel and structural measures
In a statement issued in Lagos on Wednesday, Dr. Ekhomu who is President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON) condemned the vandalism and torching of INEC facilities and assets throughout the country.
He said that it was not in the interest of INEC to play “victim” or engage in “blame game”. He said that as a crucial institution in Nigeria’s nascent democratic practice, INEC should aggressively protect its mission, people, physical assets and information.
He said that the fact that about 42 offices of INEC have been attacked in 14 states shows that the election agency has a huge reputation problem. He said that INEC facilities have been attacked in the East, West and North.
“Boko Haram bombings of INEC facilities in Suleja, Niger State and in Maiduguri in 2011 were pre-cursor events to intentional targeting of INEC” he added.
He argued that protesters, insurgents and terrorists were borrowing from the “Boko Haram play book” to attack INEC facilities. He said: “clearly these insurgents are contesting the legitimacy of our governments — national and sub-national. So, in their minds, attacking INEC – a major symbol of Nigerian democracy and sovereignty will help them achieve their aims”.
Dr. Ekhomu who is the first chartered security professional in West Africa said that robust physical security measures were needed in each INEC facility with intrusion detection systems, video surveillance systems, fire alarm systems, fire suppression systems complete with on-site water storage, etc. Ekhomu said each INEC state headquarters office should have good structural security systems such as perimeter fencing with anti-personnel barrier atop; reinforced concrete walls; Class 350 Safes; Special vaults whose doors will be tool resistant and torch resistant (TRTL) and explosives resistant (TRTX) to safeguard important devices such as card readers.
Ekhomu advised INEC to appoint a national security director, charged with the design and implementation of a pro-active and cost-effective security program for the agency. He advised against the usual practice of appointing a retired military or police officer to such a position, as he/she might not have the requisite high-level skills. He said that Nigeria now has a crop of retired military/police officers who are credentialed and can render the required services.
He said: “I know of at least ten retired two-star generals from the Nigerian military who have received professional security certification such as CPP, CPO, PSP. We have reached a point in our national history where what you know should matter.”
Ekhomu advised INEC to utilize local vigilance personnel, private security operatives and others to protect their facilities. He appealed to aggrieved youths to stop burning INEC facilities, as any fire loss is a loss to the nation. He urged them to see INEC as the vehicle of societal change and development as the vote is the only true power of the people.
He urged INEC to competently protect its on-line data since it has opted for on-line voter registration. He said that without adequate security countermeasures, the online platform would be more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data manipulation.