President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday while speaking at the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Caucus meeting in Abuja said that ballot box snatchers would pay with their lives at security agencies had been ordered to be ruthless with election offenders.
“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.”
Buhari noted that he is popular enough to win election and would not need anyone to cause violence on his behalf.
“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.”
Mr. President also expressed disappointment over the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission to postpone the elections just 6 hours to the commencement of the polls.
Buhari noted that everything was provided for INEC, and the electoral body had enough time to plan for the polls. Therefore the postponement was totally 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.”
“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.”
How PDP reacted
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in its reaction to President Buhari’s statement berated him, saying that his desperation to cling on to power has given orders to the military and the police to help APC to oppress voters.
According to the Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, the president’s statement is a declaration of war on the Nigerian voters.
He further expressed shock that a Commander-in-Chief who had been out of action in numerous security challenges in Nigeria, especially the “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.”
“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.”
“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,” the PDP National Chairman said.
Dogara describes Buhari’s statement as a call for extrajudicial killings
Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the National House of Representatives, in his reaction to Buhari’s statement said that Buhari’s order is a call for extrajudicial killings.
The Speaker who spoke at a press conference in Abuja 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.”
He also noted that according to Buhari’s statement, the military had been given a central role in the elections despite the fact that they have 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.