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Guardian Newspaper Headlines (20th February,2019)

Buhari’s shooting order

  • PDP cautions security agencies against Buhari’s shooting order

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rose from its 84th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting yesterday, warning the security agencies against carrying out the shoot-on-sight order issued by President Muhammadu Buhari against ballot box snatchers.

The party’s national chairman, Uche Secondus, declared that “the agenda of that directive is to scare away voters and agents that we have directed to defend their votes, so as to give way to military-protected political thugs to come into the polling booths and implement their result replacement strategy.”

He cautioned that any security officer who decides to engage in killings in obedience to the president’s order would be doing so at his own risk as the law would surely take care of the situation.

The House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, in his remarks, said the law was clear that soldiers could only execute lawful orders, no matter where such orders emanated from.

He said that military officers knew the constitution and the law, and also knew that unlawful orders of the president could not be obeyed. He lamented that Buhari allegedly bothered more about his ambition and not Nigerians.

But the Presidency urged Nigerians to firmly stand behind President Buhari’s directive to the security agencies.

The Presidency which accused the PDP of being jittery over the orders yesterday warned that anyone who dared to snatch ballot boxes during the polls would be doing so for the last time, saying it should be seen as a strong message against the long history of savagery associated with elections in the country.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, who spoke to State House correspondents, recalled some past elections in parts of Nigeria, during which, he said, innocent voters lost their lives while ballot boxes were snatched by armed thugs.

He said the president had the safety and security of Nigerians uppermost in mind when he made the comment, and should be praised rather than criticized for issuing the warning to potential ballot box snatchers.

“Let’s just have free and fair elections and no one need worry about anything. 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.”

And Barely 24 hours after President Buhari gave the directive, the army and police are set to implement it.

The Nigerian Army yesterday warned those planning to disrupt the general elections to desist from their plot, vowing to deal decisively with any thug caught causing confusion at any polling unit.

In a statement, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, said the armed forces would not show mercy to any political thug.

“Credible intelligence available to Headquarters 6 Division, Nigerian Army (NA), Port Harcourt, has uncovered an unholy plan by some political actors within its Area of Responsibility (AOR) to arm and sponsor miscreants, in addition to using military-like fatigue dress for deception, to cause pandemonium at polling stations for their political gain.

“While covert efforts are ongoing to track the source of the weapons and the agents involved, in conjunction with sister security agencies, authorities of 6 Division NA unequivocally state that anyone found to be disrupting the electoral process under any guise will be decisively dealt with in accordance with the laws, no matter how highly placed he or she is,” the statement read in part.

The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division and Land Component Commander (LCC) OPDS, Maj-Gen. Jamil Sarham, reassured Nigeria that the personnel would be providing adequate security in conjunction with other security agencies before, during and after the general elections.

The army reiterated its pledge that none of its personnel will be involved in electioneering campaigns and escort of very important personalities for political missions.

The Spokesman of the army, Col. Musa Sagir, in a statement issued in Abuja, said: “Our rules of engagement and code of conduct have not assigned any political role to the army in 2019 general elections.”

He said that army’s involvement “commences and ends” with the provision of a peaceful and secure environment to conduct the 2019 general elections. According to him, any insinuation or assertion against this position is mischievous and politically motivated.

According to him, the army, under the command of Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai has severally warned officers and soldiers against involvement in partisan politics.

Also yesterday, the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, warned that men of the security agency would not watch any thug disrupt the rescheduled elections across the country.

“Anybody that is planning to snatch ballot boxes or planning to be used as a tout, whatever happens to you, you will take it.”

He gave the warning at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, while addressing State House Correspondents after members of the security and intelligence community briefed President Buhari on the security situation in the country.

The IGP, who encouraged “every Nigerian to come out on the election day and cast his or her vote without any fear of molestation,” said:
“The security personnel are ready and prepared to protect everybody. Anybody that feels that he can come out and disrupt the process should have a rethink because that situation will not be allowed. If you plan and allow yourself to be used as touts, whatever happens to you, you will take it.

“Ballot snatching, ballot buying, thuggery will never be allowed, anybody that is planning to snatch ballot boxes or planning to be used as a tout will have his or herself to blame. So, you better don’t allow yourself to be used.”

Adamu said the heads of the security agencies deliberated on the consequences and came up with the resolve to further provide adequate security within the country so that the electorate will come out and cast their votes without any fear of molestation.

Buhari had, at the national caucus’ meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held at the party secretariat in Abuja on Monday said he had ordered the security agents to deal ruthlessly with anyone who snatches ballot boxes or attempts to undermine the integrity of the polls even at the cost of his own life.

He also said any politician portraying himself to be popular in his domain and hoping to exploit such popularity to hire thugs to snatch ballot boxes during the elections would do so at the expense of his own life.

The president’s comment, however, elicited condemnation by many, who reminded him that the punishment for ballot box snatching is imprisonment for a period of time and not instant death as threatened by him.