Thursday, 26 March 2015

ELECTIONS 2015: Voters Who Stay Behind At Polling Centres After Voting Risk Prosecution – IGP

The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, has advised voters in the forthcoming general elections to leave the polling centres after casting their votes to avoid being prosecuted for contravening the electoral law.

The Police IG stated this at a National Stakeholders’ Summit on the 2015 general elections organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission, in Abuja. According to Abba, recent experiences of the police had shown that most violence during elections occurred when the electorate stayed behind at the polling centres after casting their votes.

He also appealed to stakeholders, to allow law enforcement agencies do their jobs. He said: “For quite sometime, the law enforcement and security agencies have been accused of partiality, of partisanship and for exhibiting high handedness among others, which results in violence in some cases, due to huge presence of people at poling centres after voting. “I advise everybody, cast your votes and go home.

This is based on what I observed in section 129 (1) of the Electoral Act. There are nine different types of offences that are listed there. “If you stay back after casting your votes, there is the likelihood of you committing any of the offences within a distance of 300 meters from poling unit are, canvass for votes; solicit for the votes of anybody; persuade any voter against voting for a particular candidate; or persuade any voter not to vote at all.

“Others are, shout slogans concerning the election; be in possession of any offensive weapon or anything that could intimidate voters; tender any any material relating to the election; use any vehicle bearing the colour or symbol of any political party; loiter without lawful excuse after voting or after being refused to vote; snatch or destroy any election material and finally, blaring siren.”

“I don’t think there will be smooth conduct in any of the polling units. I am not even sure that the electorate will like to go out and cast their votes, without the law enforcement agents at polling centres. “Traditionally, a political office holder or a contestant should cast his vote and leave. So long as they are not agents, they are expected to cast their votes and go home.

“As leadership of the political parties, we want you to convey my message to your members, supporters and the contestants, when they cast their votes, they should go home. Their continued stay would divide the electorate.” In addition, Abba said the force had carried out sensitization of its officers on their role during the general elections.

He called on INEC to ensure materials are delivered on time, because people often gets agitated when materials do not arrive on time, which he said leads to violence. Abba also urged politicians to desist from recruiting and arming thugs. He said some thugs had already been arrested by the police, and their arms seized from them.

 Abba said the deployment of soldiers to support the Police during the election was in order since they would not play any role in the electoral process. He said, “The soldiers are not being deployed in polling units. The use of the military to support civil authorities is contained in section 207 of the Nigerian constitution. The whole aim of deploying soldiers is to have a credible, free and fair election.”

He explained that adequate arrangements had been perfected to ensure that there are enough security personnel in each of the 150, 000 polling centres, 900 INEC offices, and the 9,000 collation centres, across the country. Similarly, the Chairmman of INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega, told the stakeholders that the commission had distributed 82 percent of all the Permanent Voter Cards. He also clarified rumors that the card readers was manufactured by a Chinese company. He said a Nigerian company produced 10 million copies of the card readers from China.


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