Outrage as Buhari says death awaits ballot box snatchers
Politicians, human rights activists, lawyers and prominent Nigerians on Monday attacked President Muhammadu Buhari for declaring that death awaited ballot box snatchers during the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Buhari had early on Monday while speaking at a national caucus meeting of the All Progressives Congress in Abuja, said ballot box snatchers would pay with their lives as security agencies had been given the go ahead to be ruthless with them.
The President said this at the meeting, which was convened by the APC to review the poll delay and discuss other plans by the party ahead of the elections on Saturday.
Buhari stated, “I do not expect anybody to cause any disturbance. The security agencies have identified hot spots and flashpoints and should be prepared to move. We have made as much arrangement as possible for them as much as the country can afford.
“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. We are not going to be blamed that we want to rig elections.”
The President noted that he did not need anyone to cause violence on his behalf as he was popular enough to win the presidential election without ballot boxes being snatched for him.
The President added, “I want Nigerians to be respected and let them vote whoever they want across the parties. I am not afraid of that. I went round the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory and I think I have enough support across the country to vote for me.
“So, I want to warn anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch ballot boxes or disturb the voting system, he will do it at the expense of his own life.”
Buhari expresses disappointment over INEC’s decision to shift Polls
Buhari further expressed his displeasure over the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission to postpone the polls barely six hours to the start of voting on February 16.
He recalled that INEC had all the resources and time to plan for the polls, hence the postponement was altogether unnecessary.
“Definitely, the reason why such incompetence manifested has to be explained to the nation. After the elections, we have to know exactly what happened and who is responsible.
“Otherwise, our efforts to make sure that this system is acceptable would have been eroded. The constitution and the law protected INEC. But they must not take us for granted,” Buhari said.
Speaking further on efforts made to ensure that INEC succeeded, Buhari recalled that even the National Assembly had to make necessary approvals for the umpire.
He added, “If for example, the National Assembly refused to approve what they wanted, INEC would have had moral reasons why they couldn’t perform. If the time of four years of election was not constitutionally obeyed, the government and INEC would have a case.
“But we don’t understand the reason for this inefficiency and we have to go into details after the election to find out who is responsible.”
Buhari, however, praised the leadership of the APC for being focused so far.
PDP National Chairman Secondus said Buhari is trying to oppress voters
However, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus, has said President Buhari in his alleged desperation to cling on to power has given marching orders to the military and the police to help leaders of the APC to oppress voters.
He said the President’s remarks amounted to what he called a declaration of war on the Nigerian voters and a direct incitement against them.
Secondus in a statement in Abuja on Monday said , “The President’s confirmation that he has directed the service chiefs to kill Nigerians is nothing but a pre-determined script hatched by the ruling party to create voter apathy and implement their result replacement plans using thugs protected by the military.”
He expressed shock that a Commander-in-Chief who, he claimed, had been out of action in numerous security challenges in the country particularly “needless killings in Benue, Plateau, Zamfara etc and whose regime has recorded unprecedented bloodletting in the country would suddenly wake up threatening voters with fire and brimstone.”
He added, “In all democracies the world over, elections are civil matters that are usually handled by civil security like police and wondered why the involvement of our military in this matter when they have enough security challenges to tackle.”
CUPP says President Buhari statement is the most callous ever
Also, the Coalition of United Political Parties has asked Nigerians and the international community to hold the President responsible for any loss of lives during the elections.
It said the President’s statement was the most callous public statement ever made by a Nigerian President.
The coalition said this in a statement by its national spokesman, Imo Ugochinyere.
Ugochinyere asked all well-meaning Nigerians to condemn the President for the statement.
He said, “The President was unambiguous in his call that citizens should be shot dead extra judicially if they ever tried to snatch ballot boxes during the elections.
“That is the most callous public statement ever by a Nigerian President. It must be condemned by all well-meaning citizens and the international community.
“President Buhari must be held personally responsible for the loss of any lives due to the instructions he has given to the security forces.”
Speaker of House of Reps, Yakaubu Dogara says Buhari’s order is call for extra judicial killings
Also, some civil rights groups and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, have described Buhari’s order as a call for extrajudicial killings.
Dogara, at a press conference in Abuja on Monday, in his reaction, said, “The President said, ‘anybody who decides to snatch boxes or lead thugs to disturb the elections, maybe that would be the last unlawful action you would take. 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 Oshiomhole also claims that the PDP was given prior notice of the postponement of the elections.
“In this context, we categorically deny these false claims and unnecessary blackmail and regard the President’s statement as a call for extrajudicial killings, considering the fact that there are adequate provisions in our laws to address electoral offences.
“These statements clearly indicate that our democracy has become the victim of a full-blown dictatorship, when one considers that a democratically-elected President would give a directive that is in clear violation of the laws of the land which by his oath of office he is to defend and protect.”
Dogara said in view of this statement made by the President, it was obvious that the military had been given a central role and co-opted into the conduct of the elections, despite the fact that they had no constitutional role in the electoral process.
“In reality, we support a genuine and transparent probe into why the presidential and National Assembly elections could not hold. We also hope that the President’s inflammatory statement is not a threat aimed at intimidating the electoral commission,” he said.