—President Buhari’s Order On Ballot Snatching and The Need For Caution
YBTC News—Since 18th of February , 2019 where the Nigerian President made a statement on the need for ruthlessness against Snatchers of Ballot boxes , there has been many comments.
Many persons have faulted his position while some others have hailed his statement which they say will curb insecurity during elections or reduce the spate of thuggery to the barest minimum.
The leading opposition party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have come out to condemn the statement raising concerns that it may lead to violence or human rights abuse.
Those who have condemned the Position of President Buhari have based it on the constitution which states in the Sections 129 (1) and (2) Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2010 list
129 (1) No person shall on the date on which an election is held do any of the following acts or things in a polling unit or within a distance of 300 metres of a polling unit-
(a) canvass for votes;
(b) solicit for the vote of any voter;
(c) persuade any voter not to vote for any particular candidate;
(d) persuade any voter not to vote at the election;
(e) shout slogans concerning the election;
(f) be in possession of any offensive weapon or wear any dress or have any facial or other decoration which in any event is calculated to intimidate voters;
(g) exhibit, wear or tender any notice, symbol, photograph or party card referring to the election;
(h) use any vehicle bearing the colour or symbol of a political party by any means whatsoever;
(i) loiter without lawful excuse after voting or after being refused to vote;
(j) snatch or destroy any election materials; and
(k) blare siren.
(2) No person shall within the vicinity of a polling unit or collation centre on the day of which an election is held-
(a) convene, hold or attend any public meeting during the hours of poll as may be prescribed by the Commission;
(b) unless appointed under this Act to make official announcements, operate any megaphone, amplifier or public address apparatus;
(c) wear or carry any badge, poster, banner, flag or symbol relating to a political party or to the election.
“A person who contravenes any of the provisions of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or imprisonment for a term of 6 months for every such offence,” Section 129 Subsection 3 states.
“Any person who snatches or destroys any election material commits an offence and is liable on conviction to 24 months imprisonment” the constitution States.
Section 128 of the act adds that “any person who at an election acts or incites others to act in a disorderly manner commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine ofN500,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.”
Section 131 of the same act further states that anyone who uses force, threats, violence or restraint is liable on conviction to a fine of N1 million or imprisonment for a term of 3 year.
Clearly, the law doesn’t support death sentence against electoral offenders but many have argued that beyond the law, isnt such ruthlessness what Nigeria needs?.
Many who have justified the statements of the President have based them on morality and societal incidences especially with ballot boxes snatching recorded in the past and this has become a reoccuring decimal.
However, if one were to consider morality, would there be any need for the courts in any sense or the law?
It is very admissible that only the court can convict of criminal accusations.
While the need for elimination of political thuggery cannot be disputed, we must not forget that the beauty of democracy is for cases like this where human life is valued and the importance of respect for all humanity is considered.
Some quarters have argued that people who snatch ballot boxes are usually armed, so losing their lives isn’t a bad deal. I should point that at this rate we are opening up the larger society to risk of death as we can record cases of stray bullet in a bid to escape leaving no one safe. While there has been several attempts to state that the President did not mean to say people should be summarily killed, the weighthyness of six statement coming from the number one citizen is something worrying.
We cannot afford to return to full blown
military regime and ignore the provisions of the law while stating that sanity is the basis of such actions, the truth remains that the law is meant to ensure sanity.
Except there is a review of the constitution and the statement of the President is backed up, it opens up people to fear, gives uncontrollable powers to security personnels and lead to nationwide jittery nature.
While I am forced to believe that the President only wanted to create fear and civility, I must also note that there is fear in the country already and any more statement can lead to more fear.
We cannot afford to give orders that may lead to people sitting inside of their houses on the day of the election , the aim of the election would have been defeated .
The President should order that security should be tightened at Polling units, he should order that security officials must not compromise the process, he should order that anyone caught should face the full wrath of the law, he should encourage Nigerians towards reporting incidences of voting buying but not encouraging complete ruthlessness.
While I join forces with the Nigerian stakeholders to advice all youth and Nigerians to remain peaceful and not snatch boxes , I also love to seek that security forces show restraint and respect for the law at all times because that is the basis for our existence as a Country.
Aroghalu Chidozie Law
Writes From Abuja
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