INEC boss disagrees with Buhari on ruthless actions against ballot box snatchers
Says no staff in DSS custody
National chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has faulted the pronouncement of President Muhammadu Buhari that party thugs with the motive to snatch ballot boxes would pay with their lives.
Speaking on Monday at the expanded national caucus of the All Progressives Congress, President Buhari who incidentally is the presidential candidate of his party ordered security men to shoot at sight, anyone sighted to be involved in sinister motive to undermine the process.
He said: “I am not afraid of that. I went round the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) and I think I have enough support across the country to look out 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.”
But speaking with newsmen on Tuesday, Professor Yakubu said the declaration of President Buhari did not conform with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
He said: “You asked if ballot box snatchers can be shot at sight. The position of the Commission is that all violators of the Electoral Act should be punished according to the provisions of the electoral act.”
Tribune Online checks revealed that Section 129 (4) of the Electoral Act states that “any person who snatches or destroys any election material commits an offence and is liable on conviction to 24 months imprisonment.”
Section 131(1) of the Act prescribes a fine of N1,000, 000 or imprisonment for a term of three years for individuals involved in an organised plot to instigate violence on election day.
It states: “A person who – Threatening directly or indirectly, by himself or by another person on his behalf, makes use of or threatens to make use of any force, violence or restrain; (b) inflicts or threatens to inflict by himself or by any other person, any minor or serious injury, damage, harm or loss on or against a person in order to induce or compel that person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of such person having voted or refrained from voting; or (c) by abduction, duress, or a fraudulent device or contrivance, impedes or prevents the free use of the vote by a voter or thereby compels, induces, or prevails on a voter to give or refrain from giving his vote, (d) by preventing any political aspirants from free use of the media, designated vehicles, mobilisation of political support and campaign at an election, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N1,000, 000 or imprisonment for a term of three years.”
On speculation that one of his National Commissioners, Professor Okey Ibeanu was in the custody of the Department of Security Services, DSS, Professor Yakubu dismissed the report as unfounded.
“No commissioner of the Commission was picked up, by any security agency. No house of any Commissioner of INEÇ was raided. No Commissioner of INEC has been picked up by any security agency. The particular Commissioner that you are referring to whose name was mentioned in the social media is, as we speak, in his office in the Commission. Similarly, no director (s)were picked up by any security agency.”
While he admitted security situation as a big challenge for his Commission in the North east zone, particularly Borno State, the INEC chairman said his Commission was determined to conduct elections in 8 local councils where Internally Displaced Persons, (IDPs) are accommodated.
“We have identified 8 local government areas where citizens reside in IDPs camp. It isn’t only in Borno but also in other states of the federation. And the Commission, just as we did in 2015 will afford citizens to vote in the IDP’s camp, based on the same procedure and the same protocol adopted in 2015.
“But if there is any security situation that might have to arise, for which the Commission hasn’t taken into consideration, that is a new thing different from what we are planning for 2019. But all I know is that election will take place in Borno State in the substantial part of the state in the normal way, just like Nigerians will vote in all the states of the federation but in states where we have IDPs, the protocol that we apply for IDP’s will apply in the 8 local governments in Borno.”
Professor Yakubu assured the nation that the new dates for the elections were sacrosanct as he noted that all issues pertaining to logistics were being addressed.
“We are working to ensure that the rescheduled election hold and it is fair and credible. All issues relating to distributions of sensitive and non-sensitive materials have been addressed. Stakeholders are visiting CBN to asses state of materials.”
He further revealed that accreditation and voting would commence nationwide by 8 am on Saturday while “all the 180,000 Smart Card Readers would have been reconfigured by Wednesday ( today) for Saturday exercise.”
“I assure you that we are committed to this process. Voting will start as scheduled.”
In an apparent reference to his removal over alleged connivance with certain leaders of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) to rig the election, Professor Yakubu warned against inciting pronouncements that could undermine the process and ultimately, endanger democracy as he declared that “we shall continuously guide our independence.”