By David Ajaba; a lawyer in Abuja.
Yesterday at the national caucus meeting of the APC in Abuja, the President of Nigeria somewhat directed the brutalisation and perhaps killing of ballot paper snatcher. His words,
“Anybody who decides to snatch ballot boxes or leads thugs to disturb the process, maybe that will be the last unlawful action you will take.
We have directed the military and other security agents to be ruthless…….
Anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch ballot boxes or disturbs the voting system will do so at the expense of his own life”
While this may appease the feeling of some like those clapping during the speech, it does not accord with law. First it has to be stated that besides the possibility of anarchy, the electoral process in Nigeria is not at the whims and caprices of the President. This is adequately captured in the INEC’s twitter video post of February 11, 2019 wherein the INEC clearly listed 15 electoral offences and stated emphatically thus:
“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the Electoral Act 2010, as amended & the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Rules and Regulations constitute the legal framework which regulates our electoral process.”
Sections 33 and 34 of the Constitution provides for the rights to life and dignity of the human person and their derogations. I dare say none of those derogations include the preparation to take inflict injury or take life as directed by Mr President.
Again of the electoral offences provided in the various sections of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) none carries a sentence of death. Moreover punishment (of imprisonment or fine) is upon “conviction” by a court of competent jurisdiction or not presidential directive.
While we most passionately advocate a free and fair election, we cannot undermine the priority of life and the importance of fair hearing. The security operatives must concentrate on and possibly confine themselves to protecting the citizens and not brutalising “offenders” which has no place in our law.
Mr President must also not vent his frustration on the Nigerian people who gave him the powers he exercise. He must prepare himself adequately for the result of the presidential election, so that should he lose he will not increase the heat we already are in or indirectly ignite a second civil war.
This definitely is neither patriotic nor sportsmanly.