President Muhammadu Buhari has come under criticisms over his order to the security agencies to shoot-at-sight anyone caught snatching ballot boxes during the coming elections.
The President was equally slammed for his threat to make the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) account for the postponement of Presidential and National Assembly elections originally scheduled for Saturday February 16 to February 23 over logistics and operational reasons.
President Buhari had issued the order and threat to INEC during the All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus meeting on Monday, stressing that (INEC) has questions to answer over the postponement of the general election. He said that INEC had all the resources it needed to carry out its duties but failed. “I have to leave my constituency and come to Abuja immediately because I was told of the decision of INEC about 4:30 in the morning.
“I told them in my statement at the airport that INEC had all the time and all the resources they wanted and then they have to wait for only six hours to cast the votes to tell us that it is not possible. Definitely, the reasons why such incompetence manifest itself has to be explained to the nation,” Buhari said.
Reacting to the Buhari declaration on Monday, main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) accused the President and his ruling APC of plots to truncate democracy even as the PDP rejected Buhari’s alleged directive to reshuffle the Resident Electoral Commissioners’ (RECs) to achieve favourable results for his party.
The PDP in a statement issued on Monday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, called the shoot-at-sight order as a direct call for jungle justice and attempt to divert public attention from the APC closed session where details of their dastardly plot to truncate Nigeria’s democratic process will be perfected.
“We do hope that this call by President Buhari is not a camouflage for the fake soldiers mobilized by the APC to shoot at innocent Nigerians, snatch ballot boxes and execute their rigging plans on the Election Day. It is indeed a license to kill, which should not come from any leader of any civilized nation.
“The underlining fact to the above is that President Buhari and APC leaders, upon getting to their voting constituencies last Saturday, realized that there is a nationwide rejection of Buhari’s re-election bid, and this has thrown them into a panic mode.
“President Buhari must however bear in mind that his resort to threats and scaremongering will not deter Nigerians from coming out en-masse to vote him out of office on February 23.
“We are aware that President Buhari, who had earlier boasted that nobody can ‘unseat’ him, is bent on using every dictatorial and tyrannical act to truncate the process of a free, fair and credible election,” the PDP said.
The opposition party noted that intelligence available to it shows that the Buhari Presidency has
directed the leadership of INEC to immediately reshuffle the RECs in order to deploy compromised officials to manipulate the electoral process in President Buhari’s favour, as they did with the police shortly before February 16.
“Our party is also aware of the pressure being mounted by the Buhari Presidency on INEC to cancel elections in some states and make others inconclusive so as to achieve President Buhari’s objectives of a staggered election not minding the crisis such will trigger across the
“We want Nigerians and the international community to hold President Buhari personally responsible for any electoral crisis, otherwise he will as usual, claim that he was not aware of the plots and transfer the blame to Adams Oshiomhole and Rotimi Amaechi.
“It is already known that President Buhari has been unrelenting in his attempts to subdue our democracy by trying to subjugate the legislature, emasculate the judiciary and seize control of the electoral umpire,” the PDP said.
Also reacting to the President’s threat to the INEC, the Lead Director of the Center for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, noted that there is a procedure for calling either the chairman or members of INEC to account or to discipline them. He added that if the President is not happy with what has been done, he should wait until after the elections to invoke the process. “The President should not be seen to be threatening INEC on the eve of elections,” he said.
On what the President’s threat to the electoral body portends for democracy, Onyekpere said “It is not proper for such a threat to be coming at this stage of election preparation so as not to put the commission under undue pressure. It is wrong and should be withdrawn. Creating fear and panic in the minds of key officials of the electoral umpire would not augur well for the exercise of independence and impartiality in the forthcoming elections,” he said.
On the shoot-at-sight order Buhari gave to security operatives to unleash ballot box snatchers during the election, Onyekpere said the President by his statement has directed law enforcement agencies to take laws into their hands by arbitrarily executing anyone suspected of ballot snatching or violence.
“This directive clearly violates the constitutional guarantee of the right to life. The deprivation of life can only be carried out in obedience to the order of a court of competent jurisdiction or in circumstances recognized as the legitimate use of force in self- defence or defence of property. The scenario painted by the President is not one of such exceptions to the general rule.
“Evidently, the President is out of touch with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 which he swore to uphold and this shows that the military mindset is till dominant in his acts and omissions. The President should immediately withdraw this statement and apologise to Nigerians and give the proper directive of arresting and prosecuting persons who are suspected of committing a crime.
“It is imperative to remind members of the security forces that obedience to an unlawful order is not a defence to the crime of murder or any other violation of human rights or the criminal laws of Nigeria. Any security man who obeys such misguided order obeys it at his peril,” the lawyer warned.
A member of the ruling APC also told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that the President spoke in anger over the disappointment of the postponement of last Saturday’s election. He noted however, that the shoot-at-sight order for ballot snatching appears “dictatorial” adding that even the threat to sanction INEC was not in order especially at this critical time of elections.
Innocent Odoh, Owede Agbajileke and Harrison Edeh, Abuja