The Presidency is standing by President Muhammadu Buhari’s outrageous and illegal order to the security forces that anyone who snatches ballot boxes during Saturday’s elections should be killed.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu in a chat with State House correspondents on Tuesday, confirmed that Buhari’s order to the military and police to deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers still stands.
The president had said on Monday, “I have given the military and police the order to be ruthless. I am going to warn anybody who thinks he would lead a body of thugs in his locality to snatch boxes or to disturb the voting system; he would do it at the expense of his/her own life.”
Mr. Buhari’s order had sparked outrage but Shehu claimed that his boss had the safety and security of Nigerians uppermost in mind when he made the comment, and should be praised rather than criticised.
According to him in some past elections innocent voters had lost their lives while ballot boxes were being snatched by armed thugs.
“Snatching ballot boxes often entails putting the lives of innocent Nigerians at risk.
“About 10 years ago, evidence was brought before an election tribunal from one of the states in North Central of the gruesome killing of 26 prospective voters by ballot box snatchers.
“Their modus operandi is well known. They storm election venues in commando style, overwhelm the law-enforcement agents and seize ballot boxes leaving a trail of death and injury.
“Anyone who dares to put the lives of innocent citizens at risk in their desperation to rig elections, must be prepared for the possibility of losing their own lives because our security agents will certainly not stand by, clap for them and watch them kill and maim,” Shehu said
He failed to understand the outrage over Buhari’s order, adding that “this sounds like members of the opposition, specifically the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP who have perfected plans to rig the elections and to snatch ballot boxes. They can tell that President Buhari is not prepared to tolerate their antics this time around, and they are afraid. They have shown their intent.”
Contrary to the views expressed by the presidency, the primary duty of a president is to uphold the law at all times, in accordance with the oath of his office.
Section 129 (4) of the Electoral Act states, “Any person who snatches or destroys any election material commits an offence and is liable on conviction to 24 months imprisonment.”
This remains the law as at the time of filing this report.