The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC Prof. Attahiru Jega on Friday said that there is no law that says voters must leave the polling area after voting. This is contrary to the warning issued by the Inspector General of Police, IGP Suleiman Abba on Thursday that voters must leave once they cast their votes.
While addressing accredited observers for the forthcoming elections advised voters to leave the voting stations once they cast their votes because hanging around the voting unit could lead to violence. The IGP, who assured Nigerians that the police are capable of ensuring peace and security at the polling units, said each of the polling units will have between two to three police men.
In a reaction to the IGP warning, the chairman of INEC said that voters could stay to watch how the election is going as there is no law that prohibits that. He however, said that the law prohibits loitering as it is an electoral offence. Jega said anyone who wants to monitor the electoral process could stay at least some metres away from the ballot boxes and agents after casting their votes. He further said that all registered voters have business with the process and can therefore, not be classified as people who do not have business at the polling units. ‘Therefore, the IGP has no constitutional right or powers under the constitution or Police Act to rewrite electoral laws. The role of the police is to maintain law and order or such other assistance as may be sought from the police by INEC’.
He said waiting to watch how the votes are counted helped to give credibility to the 2011 elections. It is the issue of what now constitute loitering that is the source of controversy between the INEC Chairman and the IGP. The spokesman for the INEC chairman, Kayode Idowu said that there was no disagreement as to what constitutes loitering. That once a voter has cast his vote and decides to stay, the voter must not constitute a threat to other voters as security agents will apprehend anyone who constitute a threat to others.
‘It is disingenuous to accuse everyone who calls for restructuring as trying to break up the county. History tells us that that kind of cheap blackmail will not work as long as the underlying reasons for the agitations persist.’
‘The biggest challenge seems to be that we seem to be allowing moderate voices on this issue to be drowned out by the reckless utterances of a few rabble rousers on all sides who may be tools in the hands of those who do not wish this country well. These are some of the people who arrogate to themselves the toga of spokespersons of our diverse groups.’
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