The Director General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, on Thursday, said it had become necessary for the Federal Government to put foreign election observers on a watchlist to guarantee national security.
Abubakar argued that the country must not grant foreign election observers unfettered access to “certain things that are critical to national security”.
The NIA boss spoke in Abuja at a symposium on ‘Elections Monitoring and Observation: 2023 General Election and Way Forward’, organised by African Union Development Agency – New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD), in collaboration with National Institute of Security Studies (NISS).
Represented by NIA’s Head of General Operations, Hamza Muhammad, he also called for mechanisms to be put in place to combat fake news and disinformation.
Recall that for the 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had accredited 33 international organisations that deployed 2,113 observers.
After the exercise, however, the Presidency rejected a report by the European Union, which claimed that the election that produced President Bola Tinubu was flawed. The Presidency had described the report as a “poorly done desk job.”
Muhammad said: “Before the 2023 general elections, there was apprehension, even from our partners abroad, on whether the elections will be held 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.”
At the event, national coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of AUDA-NEPAD Nigeria, Gloria Akobundu, said the organisation embarked on nationwide awareness campaign on violence-free elections across the six geo-political zones and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to ensure effective implementation of the National Programme of Action (NPoA).
She added that the organisation also set up a situation room to monitor and observe the 2023 general elections, saying the report of the exercise was prepared with recommendations that could enhance best practices in future electoral processes, including upcoming off-season polls, in line with the Electoral Act.